At the heartbeat of the Riveters core group of leaders, the thrill of the Isobel Cup stands as one of the greatest legacies in Bray Ketchum’s remarkable career. From the privilege of wearing the Team USA sweater to calling Mandi Schwartz a teammate with the Yale Bulldogs (where she was also a two-sport star, excelling in lacrosse), complemented by the prestige of participating in the Women’s Winter Classic, the elation of the Cup victory grants the amiable Ketchum entry into a sorority of women that have won both the Clarkson and Isobel Cup.
Becoming the first player in Riveters history to achieve this double, it only strengthens her undeniable legacy with the Riveters. Such an historic feat was somewhat shared, resulting in a unique sense of coincidence. North of the border, Devon Skeats captured a Clarkson Cup title with the Markham Thunder. Last season, she was a member of the Buffalo Beauts roster that defeated the Boston Pride in the 2017 Isobel Cup finals. Akin to Ketchum, Skeats also holds a historic first, as she becomes the first Canadian player to have her name engraved on both the Clarkson and Isobel Cups.
Along with Kiira Dosdall, captain Ashley "Stretch" Johnston and Madison Packer, this gathering of inaugural Riveters that enjoyed Cup glory were dubbed by the New York Times’ Seth Berkman as the Riveters "Core Four", a tribute to another memorable foursome in Metropolitan New York sports. New York Yankees players Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera are the original "Core Four", helping lead the Bronx Bombers to four World Series championships in merely five years. For the Riveters Core Four, part of their contributions to New York sporting lore also included extending the legacy of professional ice hockey team in Brooklyn.
Having played with the Riveters since their first face-off, Ketchum has faithfully followed the club from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Taking into account how reaching goals requires a blend of both determination and patience, along with an understanding that some things will not come easy, Ketchum’s remarkable run with the Riveters truly exemplifies such values. With a 2017-18 season that began with Ketchum taking to the ice in the first NWHL regular season game contested in an NHL arena (New Jersey’s Prudential Centre), to hoisting the Isobel Cup, such bookends to a memorable season characterizes such great reward.
“Winning the Isobel Cup could not have been better this year. The Riveters have gone through a lot the past three seasons and to finally see all our hard work pay off was awesome.
I was really proud of this group. We started the year off with an 11 game winning streak and we ended the season with three losses to Buffalo. To come out on top in that final game was a dream come true.”
While the Riveters progression from last place team in the inaugural NWHL season to Isobel Cup champion represents a compelling evolution, Ketchum’s own career has undergone a unique evolution. During the first Riveters season, there was also a sense of full circle. Returning to Yale in an NWHL fundraiser for Mandi Schwartz, whose career came to an abrupt halt by leukemia.
Also participating in an exhibition series in Japan, homeland of then Riveters backstop Nana Fujimoto, Ketchum’s brother Dylan, resided in Asia for a decade, calling Hong Kong home.
By Ketchum’s third season with the Riveters, her brother would play a significant role in her off-ice ambitions. Considering that change has been a constant theme in the growth of professional women’s ice hockey, one that has seen Ketchum grow into an even bigger leadership role as one of the Riveters veterans, along with one of the faces of the franchise, her personal and business growth off the ice has run parallel.
Having juggled so many things professionally, from employment at Chelsea Piers, a facility that one of the NWHL’s Founding Four franchises, the Connecticut Whale, called home, to an admirable occupation as an educator, teamwork took on a new essence for Ketchum. In collaboration with Dylan, whose sporting endeavors involve CrossFit, she is proud to be part of a proud family business. Serving in an executive capacity with Upwild, an enterprise aimed to supply plant-powered protein shakes, their first target market is the Metropolitan New York area.
Employing a considerable work ethic, with an amazing maturity that has been realized in approaching setbacks as opportunities, Ketchum’s devotion towards success and teammates alike, makes her an asset for any team that is on, whether it be on the ice or in the board room. Certainly, her success on the ice speaks for itself. Contributing towards the Riveters gradually improving every season, this past season brought with it dual achievements.
From the outset, the Riveters enjoyed their first winning season in franchise history. Earning a very respectable 11 points in 16 regular season games, Ketchum’s consistent play on offense, definitely made her one of the cornerstones on the Riveters leadership corps. Bestowed the privilege of serving as an assistant captain, it was a fitting reward for Ketchum, emblematic of her value to the Riveters.
With the preseason involving an exhibition tilt against the Russian national women’s team, it rekindled fond memories of when Ketchum wore the USA Hockey sweater with its Under-22 program. Recording her first point of the regular season in a November 4, 2017 neutral site game in Rochester, New York, she logged an assist in a 6-2 win versus the defending Isobel Cup Champion Buffalo Beauts. Such a win helped set the tone towards a franchise record winning streak, shaping the team’s confidence and transforming them into a team that believed a championship was within grasp.
“I have always tried to be a leader on every team I play on. I am definitely not the most vocal, but I try and lead by example. It was a huge honor to be an assistant captain this year.”
Ketchum continued her success against the Beauts, with her first multi-point effort of the season taking place on November 18. Along with her first goal of the season, she emerged as a key contributor in an important 6-3 road win. Worth noting, Ketchum’s first goal of home ice would take place in a December 3 win against the Connecticut Whale, one that saw the Riveters blank their opponents in a 4-0 final.
The Whale would emerge as the squad that Ketchum would record her best offensive play against. Recording at least one point in 60% of the Riveters’ regular season games against them, such success also followed in the postseason. Scoring the fourth goal of the game in a semi-final win versus the Whale, said goal certainly put the game out of reach, as the Riveters enjoyed their first berth in the Isobel Cup finals.
Considering Ketchum’s pioneering spirit and empowering presence in early Riveters lore, the chance to be part of the club’s progression has represented a labor of love. Although the complexion of the team in every successive season altered, a handful of new players donning the iconic jersey, the result in many cases was the germination of friendships that have endured and strengthened. As Ketchum was a constant throughout those early seasons, she not only became a friend, she simultaneously took on the mantle of role model, inspiring younger players and embodying others in what it meant to skate for the revered Riveters.
“I have loved every season. Each team has been very different. I have made friends with some amazing people and I have learned a lot about myself as a person and hockey player.
Never in a million years did I think I would be getting paid to play hockey at age 29. I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity and I cannot thank Chad enough. He put so much time and effort into this organization and we have a lot to thank him for.
Also, the support from our previous teammates has been amazing. We still have our GroupMe (text group) from the first season and they were always sending texts to us. The first year team is just as much a part of this victory as we are.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
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Photo credits: Troy Parla
Yale Photo Credits: Sam Rubin