As the NWHL’s Boston Pride evaluates talent with the goal of establishing its inaugural roster, the dream of making hockey history took on a more profound meaning for Jordan Smelker. Contributing to a unique chapter in American women’s ice hockey history, the native of Anchorage become the first player raised in Alaska to capture the Clarkson Cup.
Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she earned the Cup in her first season of professional women’s hockey. Heading into her second season, Smelker has made the decision to move on to the ambitious NWHL. Having signed with the Boston Pride, Smelker is joined by a dozen former teammates that were part of her historic run to the Clarkson Cup.
Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, Smelker competed at the junior level with the Alaska Firebirds and at the NCAA level with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she majored in Biomedical Engineering and led the team in scoring as a sophomore. Concluding the 2014 season, she was nominated for ECAC Hockey’s Best Defensive Forward Award.
Balancing hockey with a career for Haemonetics, her ability to juggle workouts and work obligations emphasized the assiduous effort that made Smelker an admirable competitor during her inaugural season of professional hockey. She would finish said season with a respectable sixth place in team scoring. Two game-winning goals during the season were complemented by a sterling +17 rating for this alum of the United States Under-22 women’s ice hockey team.
By season’s end, she had tied for 18th overall in league scoring. Her eight goals ranked second among rookies on her team, trailing only Brianna Decker, who would go on to claim the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.
During the second half of her first season, she was part of a “Rookie Line” with Janine Weber, the first European to score a Clarkson Cup winning goal and Corinne Buie. As a side note, Weber signed with the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale franchise. Considering that their team faced frequent lineup changes, Smelker’s line helped bring consistency and much-needed depth in a strong second half.
The 5-8 forward made her pro hockey debut on October 18, 2014, while logging her first career point with an assist on November 16, contributing to a 5-2 win against Toronto. Logging at least one point in seven games, her club enjoyed a sterling 6-1-0 record.
Her first career goal would come in grand fashion as she accompanied several other career milestones. A November 30 contest saw Smelker not only log her first career goal, but she would register a hat trick, including the game-winning tally in a commanding 6-0 triumph against Brampton.
For the season, she would record five multi-point performances, including another three-point night against Brampton. On the strength of two assists, Smelker would also log a goal in a 6-2 road win against them on February 21. During the magical Clarkson Cup postseason, Smelker logged her first career postseason point with an assist on Janine Weber’s game-winning goal against Toronto on March 5.
Considering that her grandfather, Steve Knowlton competed in skiing at the 1948 Winter Games, the chance for her to carve her own history on the rink creates a profound familial sporting connection. Nothing shapes sport as much as its remarkable achievements, and as the first Alaskan to have her name engraved on the Clarkson Cup, Jordan Smelker has contributed to the growing mythology of professional women’s hockey.
Persevering towards extraordinary possibilities, nothing would satisfy Smelker more than the chance to continue and make history by being part of the first-ever Isobel Cup championship team. Smelker’s superlative impact in pro hockey serves as an inspiration for other athletes in Alaska to pursue their own athletic ambitions, while representing the pioneering enthusiasm that defines NWHL hockey.