Following in the footsteps of goaltenders such as Valerie Charbonneau, Eri Kiribuchi and Tamber Tisdale that have stood between the pipes for the Carleton Ravens, Katleyn Steele is looking to build on their legacies while carving a career just as fulfilling. As a freshman with the Ravens in 2014-15, she led the club in games played, minutes and wins, encouraging signs for a solid sophomore campaign next autumn.
Like so many other goaltenders, Steele’s initial sojourn into the crease began out of necessity rather than want. In reflecting on it, with self-effacing humor, Steele shows she is a good sport, quickly learning to like, and excel, at the position.
“I became a goalie, maybe around six years old. I switched in and out of the net for house league. One time, I caught a puck to the head and told my parents that I wanted to be a goalie (laughs).”
Prior to joining the Ravens, she brought a remarkably strong hockey background which made her a prized recruit for Pierre Alain’s coaching staff. During her PWHL career, she had the opportunity to be a member of both the Barrie Sharks and the Toronto Jr. Aeros roster, one of the league’s elite clubs.
Boasting alumnae such as Erin Ambrose, Emma Korbs, Jillian Saulnier and third-generation hockey player Laura Stacey, the chance to don the Aeros jersey allowed Steele to play for accomplished hockey coach Dave Gwyn. “Dave is a very positive person to tries to get the players to be better.”
In addition to her junior hockey career, Steele also had the chance to star at the high school level. Competing with the Crothers Colts at Bill Crothers High School in Markham, Ontario, she earned York Region All-Star honors as a ninth grader. She was joined on the All-Star team by fellow teammate, Brooke Webster, one of the Colts forwards.
Playing for head coach Jacqui Palm, among the accomplishments in her sterling high school career, one that truly stands out is leading the club to a York Region Championship. Advancing to the provincial playoffs, it was a point of pride for Steele.
Joining the rebuilding Carleton Ravens program in the autumn of 2014 (Steele was one of 11 freshmen), it allowed her the opportunity to share goaltending duties with the aforementioned Tisdale. Entering her fifth and final season with the Ravens, it represented a special opportunity for Tisdale to take on an even bigger leadership role, mentoring the two younger goalies on the squad, including Steele. It was a role that Steele appreciated, allowing her an easier transition to CIS play,
“Tamber Tisdale has been amazing this season. Getting to learn from her style has been great.”
As a freshman, Steele also had the chance to compete in some very special exhibition games. Preseason tilts with the CWHL’s Toronto Furies and Montreal Stars (where Alain was once an assistant coach) were memorable. Of note, Steele had the chance to play against Stars legends (and Winter Games medalists) such as Julie Chu and Caroline Ouellette. During the holiday season, exhibition games against Canada and Switzerland’s U18 teams represented another opportunity for Steele to compete against the world’s finest.
“Playing the Canadian U18 team was surreal. To have that experience of playing against them was very life changing. Getting to play some of the Olympic girls from the Stars was amazing too. Words cannot describe it.”
Despite the disappointment of missing the postseason, Steele managed several great performances in her rookie season. Among them, the highlight included a performance against Concordia, which was also her second career CIS start. The November 19 road contest saw fellow freshman Sidney Weiss tie the game at 1-apiece in the first period.
With tensions rising as neither team was able to score in the second and third periods, overtime would also finish as another scoreless affair. After seeing Steele rack up 45 saves throughout the game, the result was that she would be forced to face her first shootout assignment.
Still razor sharp after 65 minutes of play, Steele blanked all five Stingers shooters as Audrey Ann Botour supplied the heroics for the Ravens, giving Steele her first CIS goaltending win. Said win was accentuated by the fact that the opposing goaltender was Katharine Purchase, who would finish the season as the CIS leader in Goals Against Average.
Steele would have to wait until January 16, 2015 to log her first home win. After registering a season-high 46 saves against nationally ranked McGill on January 10, she maintained that momentum by stopping 30 shots from the Ottawa Gee-Gees, resulting in a 4-2 win in front of the Ravens faithful.
Although the season culminated with a second straight finish out of the playoffs, Steele establishes herself as the front runner for the Ravens starting job next season. Should she be able to build on such encouraging performances this season, she will provide an optimism for the rebuilding Ravens that promises better days lay ahead.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Shaun Michaud