While Michelle Ng may be classified as a “rookie”, the maturity and acumen that she brings to the Boston Blades certainly represents a veteran presence. At 26 years of age, Ng returns to competitive play for the first time since graduating from the St. Lawrence Skating Saints of the ECAC Conference, back in 2013.
Considering that the Black and Gold also feature the presence of Meghan Grieves, Melissa Bizzari, Dru Burns, Kate Leary and Megan Myers, the acumen of Ng has proven to be essential towards the leadership picture. With St. Lawrence, Ng not only won the team’s Rookie of the Year Award, she was recognized as the University’s Outstanding First-Year Student Award. She was also a key contributor towards the Saints’ run to the 2012 ECAC Hockey title, appearing in the NCAA Tournament.
Worth noting, Ng is not the only St. Lawrence alum gracing the ice in the 2017-18 CWHL season. Also part of the league’s rookie class is Brooke Webster, who gained All-America status in her senior season at St. Lawrence. Skating for the expansion Vanke Rays, Webster was also recognized as the CWHL’s Player of the Month in November 2017.
Capturing a Clarkson Cup last spring with Les Canadiennes de Montreal, Karell Emard, who also pulls double duty, serving as a coach with the Concordia University Stingers, called Ng a teammate in the North country.
Although she did not appear in last season’s playoffs, Canadiennes blueliner Melanie Desrochers is another teammate of Ng from St. Lawrence. Having competed in 10 games during the 2016-17 Canadiennes campaign, Desrochers started this season in grand fashion. With an October 14, 2017 contest taking place on home ice versus Boston, Desrochers logged the first goal of her CWHL career. In a unique element of serendipity, that same game also signified Ng’s CWHL debut.
Adding to the sense of serendipity is the fact when when Emard participated in the Women’s Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium, the first-ever professional women’s outdoor game, Ng was among the record crowd in attendance for such a historic event. Displaying a strong sense of team spirit, two of the participants in the contest (Emard and Denna Laing) were not only former teammates of Ng, they would become inextricably linked in hockey history.
It was that same feeling of team spirit which inspired Ng to return to the game. Among the other competitors in that landmark game were Denna Laing, a former teammate of Ng with Assabet Valley. Although Laing’s career came to an unforeseen end with a tragic injury, she never lost her sense of fight, displaying a tremendous bravura that helped to inspire Ng,
“I took a bit of time (four years!) off from playing before returning to the ice this season. I had been coaching in the winter and summer since I graduated from SLU so I’d always stayed in touch with hockey. I became increasingly curious if I’d even be able to compete at the professional level after taking so much time off from training and actively playing.
I do not think she even knows it but an old teammate of mine, Denna Laing inspired me to return. I attended the women’s Winter Classic at Gillette that year and saw so many of my former teammates living out a dream of ours. Denna unfortunately was paralyzed and that really hit me hard. I was able bodied. How could I take for granted an opportunity to play the game I love while others could not? That was my most intense motivating factor.”
Appearing in over 140 games during a stellar four-year career with St. Lawrence, the chance to don the black and gold of the Boston Blades also allows her to call former collegiate rivals teammates. Among them is elite backstop Lauren Dahm, whose collegiate career involved competing for the archrival Clarkson Golden Knights.
Establishing herself as an integral part of the Blades roster, Ng has also found her stride offensively. On a team with 13 rookies, including the first pick overall in the 2017 Draft, Courtney Turner, Ng has provided tremendous inspiration for this incoming crop of new professionals.
Making her CWHL debut on Saturday October 14, 2017 against the defending Clarkson Cup champion Canadiennes de Montreal, Ng quickly made an impression. At the 11:20 mark of the first, she would score the first goal of the game, which was also the Blades’ first goal of the season, with Megan Myers credited on the assist.
Scoring on Emerance Maschmeyer, a former member of Canada’s national women’s team, it was a gratifying moment for Ng, affirming her status as a major league athlete. As a side note, Ng would also be recognized as the Second Star of the Game, heralding her arrival to the professional ranks,
“That goal was a really special moment for me. It was very validating for so many reasons. I was nervous to prove I belonged on a professional team, I wanted to earn the respect of my new teammates, and it sparked a fire in me that I had not felt in a very long time!”
With a skillful display of playmaking, complemented by a fundamentally sound game, Ng emerged as one of the Blades’ scoring leaders. Ranking first in team scoring among rookies, she trails only Meghan Grieves for the lead among all players. Looking upon such achievements with humility, it truly stands as testament to her team-first approach,
“It was so unexpected to be a leader in any aspect this season! I had every intention of flying under the radar, playing in a few games and just being happy to be there. I think I just fell in love with hockey again and my competitiveness has driven me to take the game really seriously, wanting to put pucks in the net every game.
Coming in as a rookie on the older end of the roster I feel I may have an advantage that has allowed me to be an impact player in my first season. I have found myself in leadership roles in some situations this season and it has been an honor to help the Blades succeed in any way I can.
It is always an honor to be recognized in a league filled with fantastic athletes. I don’t really consider myself a "star" but it meant my teammates set me up for success and that’s always a nice feeling!”
Although Ng was absent from competitive play for a handful of seasons, she did not stray far from the game. While she pursued a Master’s Degree, preparing for an admirable career as an educator, Ng entered another facet in her hockey journey. Taking on the role of both coach and instructor, it allowed her the opportunity to appreciate the game from another unique perspective, one which would yield positive dividends, as it made her an even better prepared player for her comeback.
Currently an educator at Dexter Southfield, Ng is not the only member of the Dexter family to star for the Boston Blades. Erin Hall, a member of Dexter’s Class of 2013 and part of the Blades rookie class this season, has enjoyed the chance to call Ng a teammate.
Together, the two were part of the Blades’ first-ever road trip to China. Appearing in a pair of games against the Vanke Rays on December 19 and 20, Ng’s debut in China also resulted in a second period assist on a power play goal by Grieves in a 5-1 loss.
Heading into the New Year, Ng enjoyed another milestone. Skating at Eruzione Center against the Toronto Furies, Ng recorded a first period goal at the 11:12 mark, providing the Blades with a 2-0 lead. Although the Furies would tie the game by the end of the first, Boston scored in the subsequent periods, as Ng proved to be an essential contributor in a 4-2 final, resulting in Boston’s first victory of the season.
“Traveling to China was quite a whirlwind and an absolutely amazing experience! The professional atmosphere and interest in women’s hockey was very inspiring. I remember looking into the crowd during the playing of the anthems and seeing a lot of young fans attending. That was cool. Just traveling in general was something I will not soon forget. I feel so lucky to have stepped outside my comfort zone and become closer with my teammates during the entire journey.
Besides my first goal, I would say it was pretty cool to play against some of my former SLU teammates who are on the Montreal team. I had never been to Montreal or Calgary before this season so experiencing hockey in different cities has been something I don’t take for granted either!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: BDZ Sports. Other images obtained from Boston Blades media gallery and https://www.facebook.com/dextersouthfield/posts/1481616421916290