Considering that the Greater Toronto Area presents a significant source of talent for collegiate recruiters, graduation for several tends to signify a return home and the opportunity to tap into their hockey roots, whether as coaches, officials or players. For many of them, the chance to extend their careers in the CWHL, especially with the opportunity to extend their careers with a pair of GTA-based teams represents a dream come true.
Selected in the fifth round by the Furies, the chance to play in front of friends and families is a strong point of pride for Jenna Dingeldein, ecstatic to see her career come full circle while her love of the game only grows stronger. With her CWHL debut taking place on home ice against the Boston Blades at Mastercard Centre, it was also the culmination of a lifelong dream,
“The thing I enjoyed most about my CWHL debut with the Furies was just the overall experience. Being able to continue playing hockey at such an elite level is amazing. There are so many good players in this league and being able to be a part of it is something that I have wanted since I was little.”
Part of a Furies rookie class that includes Michela Cava, Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast, who won a Frozen Four title at Clarkson, along with Victoria MacKenzie (who played for Karen Nystrom at the CIS level) and Buckeyes alum Danielle Gagne, Dingeldein is excited at the chance to call so many accomplished players as teammates for the first time. On a roster that also includes CWHL co-founder Sami Jo Small, there are two other teammates with Hockey Canada roots that stand out for Dingeldein,
“As for my new teammates, I am very excited to be able to play with every single one of them. There is so much talent in this group of girls which is going to make for an exciting season. Anyone would feel excited to be able to play with Team Canada girls and with the talent level of Natalie Spooner and Jenelle Kohanchuk one can learn so much from them. So being able to see those two in practices and games and learn from what they do and how they play is a great learning experience.”
Turning 24 years young merely 12 days before the Furies season opener, Dingeldein has seen action in the first four games of the season. One of five players measuring in at 5’10" (the tallest height on the team), she is eager to duplicate the hometown success that she experienced in her youth.
Dingeldein first came to prominence as a competitor for Toronto’s Martingrove High School, recognized twice by the Toronto Star as its athlete of the week (February 6, 2007 and February 10, 2010). A two-sport star with the Martingrove Bears, also starring on the softball team, her star would shine in the twelfth grade with a nine-point output (highlighted by six goals) in an 11-1 triumph over Etobicoke. As a side note, Furies captain Natalie Spooner and former Furies competitor Jennifer Wakefield were both featured in the Star as elite high school players.
In addition to high school MVP honors, Dingeldein also starred with the PWHL’s Mississauga Jr. Chiefs, leading the team in scoring and gaining the provincial title for the 2010-11 season. Such prodigious performances led Dingeldein to the next chapter in her hockey odyssey, bringing her to Erie, Pennsylvania’s Mercyhurst Lakers (located 195 miles from Toronto).
The chance to play for Mercyhurst also included an opportunity to excel under the tutelage of former Brampton Thunder player (and Canadian national team member) Delaney Collins, who served on the Lakers coaching staff. One of the most successful teams in NCAA history, Dingeldein’s first year with the Lakers saw her play with future pro hockey players including Amanda Makela, Shelby Bram and Harrison Browne.
Contributing 139 points, on the strength of 77 assists, over four fantastic seasons, Dingeldein earned All-Conference Rookie Team honors in 2012-13, ranking second in team scoring. Of note, she would achieve an early highlight in her memorable freshman campaign, scoring the game-winning goal against Cornell to qualify for the NCAA Frozen Four, only the third time in program history. Fittingly, she would score another significant game-winning goal as a senior, scoring twice, including the overtime winner against Syracuse in the 2016 conference championship game, gaining tournament MVP honors, respectively.
Taking into account Dingeldein’s transition to professional hockey, it represents an impressive legacy of Lakers that have graced CWHL ice. Not only has the program featured two first overall picks in the draft (Agosta – 2011, Pattenden – 2012), several of its players have played a prominent part of league lore. Agosta holds the league record for most points in one season while Kelley Steadman scored the game-winning goal in the 2013 Clarkson Cup championship game.
Other Lakers alumnae that have skated for the Furies include charter member Michelle Bonello, a member of the Furies 2014 Clarkson Cup championship roster, and Jesse Scanzano (part of the NCAA’s 200-point club), who was selected by the Furies in the first round of the 2011 CWHL Draft.
Of note, all four Canadian-based CWHL teams feature at least one alumnus from the Lakers this season. Bailey Bram can be found with the defending Clarkson Cup champion Calgary Inferno, while Amanda Makela serves as the backup to Charline Labonte with Les Canadiennes de Montreal. In addition, Jess Jones, who represented Brampton in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game remains a core of the Thunder’s offense.
“I am definitely proud to continue the legacy from Mercyhurst to the CWHL. Mercyhurst gave me an opportunity to play Division 1 hockey and I learned so much from my coaches and teammates there so it’s nice to continue playing knowing that some great players have graduated from the same school.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Black and white photo from: https://twitter.com/TorontoCWHL
Mercyhurst action shot (Tim Brule)