One of the returning veterans from the US roster that competed at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds, Julia Bronson remained an integral component for the program, experiencing a remarkable upward progression in 2017. Bronson’s scoring brilliance was on display throughout the tournament, providing a consistency that made her one of the most prolific forwards in Pardubice.
Finishing 15th overall in the tournament scoring race, Bronson ranked fourth among her US teammates. Undoubtedly, the chance to return to the ball hockey court following a fourth place finish at Zug 2015 was an opportunity for the team to balm those wounds, while climbing to an unprecedented stature in the world of ball hockey.
With grace and elegance, Bronson, who was raised in Arlington, Virginia, was the person that provided an element of veteran stability on the team. Helping to instill the belief in the younger players that they possessed the same superior talent, in terms of quality and quantity, as the opposing teams was definitely among her hallmarks.
Bronson’s reliability and charismatic poise was cultivated long before she graced the ball hockey court. Graceful and articulate, her career with the Dartmouth Big Green is best exemplified by the fact that she improved on her point total in every successive season.
Invited to try out for USA Hockey’s U22 team during her time in Hanover, New Hampshire, she would earn Honorable mention All-Ivy honors and a nod to the ECAC All-Academic Team. Her Ivy League would finish in grand fashion, as she won ECAC title as senior ECAC All-Tournament.
The excitement of competing for a championship once again came to fruition at the 2017 edition of the ISBHF Worlds in Pardubice as the US qualified for the gold medal game against host country Czech Republic. Among her best performances included a multi-point effort in a 6-0 blanking of Czech Republic, along with an assist on Kelly Foley’s goal in the 3-2 win against Canada. Their rapport would continue in the gold medal game, with Bronson rekindling the Dartmouth magic, gaining another assist on a goal scored by Foley.
In spite of such individual success, Bronson favors to acknowledge an overall team effort, her contributions just part of a much more profound narrative which saw every achievement accomplished with a remarkable sense of synergy and collaboration.
“Being one of the leading scorers for Team USA meant that I was surrounded by teammates that were winning 50/50 battles and finding the open space for both passes and scoring opportunities.
Additionally, our defense and goaltending was phenomenal giving the forwards the ability to try and create some offense. The credit is not mine for the taking, our team had a lot of depth and those points were a full team effort. I just enjoyed being a part of the experience.”
Gaining the unprecedented chance to compete for the gold medal brought with it a tremendous flood of emotion for a jubilant Bronson. From the outset, there was an incredible sense of attainment for the team as a whole. Simultaneously, there was also the personal element of rekindling fond memories of her sojourn as a professional hockey player.
Such a remarkable hockey odyssey that has defined Bronson’s athletic endeavors also involved competing professionally in Europe. During the 2009-10 season, one which also saw the eternal rivalry between Canada and the US extended into the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Bronson brought her own touch of world class competition, part of a growing trend of North American players plying their athletic trade in Europe.
Along with New Hampshire Wildcats alum Stephanie Jones and Carson Duggan, a former conference rival who suited up for St. Lawrence, this titanic trio both played in Czech Republic. Donning the jersey of HC Slavia Praha, Bronson captured the Czech Women’s Extraliga Championship 6-0 win over Kladno on February 21, 2010. Coincidentally, the chance to enjoy another milestone in her career occurred in the same month as the Vancouver Winter Games.
Coincidentally, the Czech Republic served as the backdrop for the continuation of Bronson’s hockey aspirations. To be back in familiar surroundings, getting the chance to see familiar faces among members of the Czech roster accounted for an experience that she could not place a value upon.
"It was an amazing and incredible feeling to play in the gold medal game for many reasons. For starters, we went from just shy of bronze in 2015 to fighting for gold in 2017! As a team, it was a huge accomplishment to make it to the championship game and to bring a medal home for the program.
Personally, this game meant a lot to me as well, because I lived in the Czech Republic in 2009-2010 playing for Slavia Praha Ice Hockey Club. It felt as though hockey came full circle by allowing me to compete against a few of my old Czech teammates and coach while playing with old college teammates in the gold medal game.
Unfortunately, the gold medal game did not turn out the way we would have liked in overtime, but we fought hard and we were all very proud to have made it this far and finish with a silver medal."
Following the bronze medal game in 2015, resulting in a visceral fourth place finish, it immediately sparked the two-year long mission of working towards closing the deal and reaching the elusive summit. With the journey to the podium finish a work in progress which saw all players aligned in focus and vision, Bronson’s good cheer and positive attitude demonstrated the leadership capabilities needed to achieve such goals.
Although Bronson does not pin-point one specific moment in Pardubice as a defining moment where the podium finish became possible, she does look at the bigger picture where a remarkable tenacity and perseverance defined the team’s journey throughout its time in Pardubice. With a remarkable sense of belief in each other, it may serve as the hallmark of such a monumental tournament.
“In 2015, we were just shy of a podium finish. The last two years the program worked on different aspects of the team and created an amazing atmosphere where a great group of women could really come together in a short amount of time. I cannot pick one specific moment in the tournament that lead to the belief in a podium finish.
Despite the tough competition and some losses in the tournament, I think our team always had faith in each other allowing us to believe that a podium finish was always possible. We even adopted the chant that has become popular at United States soccer games, “I believe that we will win!”
One of the greatest features of our team this year was the relentless positive energy. That’s not a common feeling on teams and ultimately I think that is what allowed us to come back at different points in the tournament to make it to the gold medal game and gain a podium finish.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Daniel Soucek, Headshot by ASHI, Image from Slavia Praha obtained from: http://www.ecachockey.com/women/members/dartmouth/20100103_BronsonDugganCzechLeague