Over the last few seasons, the Nepean Wildcats have emerged as one of the elite franchises in Ontario’s PWHL. From providing players that have suited up for Canada’s Under-18 program, to podium success at the Canada Winter Games and the Canadian U18 National Championships (with Team Ontario Blue and Red), such success translates into keen interest from NCAA programs.
This season has proven to be no exception as these Wildcats alums eagerly prepare for the next stage of their promising hockey careers. The following players have signed National Letters of Intent to compete at the NCAA level: Kira Bombay (RPI), Alyssa Baker (Dartmouth), Sam Cogan (Wisconsin), Lindsay Eastwood and Karleigh Scully (Syracuse University), plus Josianne Pozzebon (Clarkson University). As a side note, Cynthia St. Cyr shall join York University in Canadian Interuniversity Sport play.
The past two NCAA seasons have seen a number of former Wildcats players enjoy successful transitions. Having established herself as a dependable member of the Vermont Catamounts roster, Cassidy Campeau brings a fundamentally sound game and good leadership to Burlington.
Suiting up for the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers, Taylor Thurston has experienced three special milestones in her first two seasons. From competing in the first outdoor game in program history, Thurston has enjoyed a College Hockey America postseason title, along with an appearance in the 2015 NCAA Div I Women’s Hockey Tournament.
Considering that RIT and Syracuse are both part of the College Hockey America conferences, Thurston shall see a pair of familiar faces this autumn. As Eastwood (28 points for Nepean in 2014-15) and the Montreal-raised Scully (17 points) have committed to the Syracuse Orange program, friends become rivals in conference play.
Scully, who was also a team MVP with the CIH Voyageurs is among a group of four incoming recruits that shall work towards helping Syracuse attempt to qualify for its first NCAA tournament in 2016. In discussing her decision to attend Syracuse, Eastwood reveals how she felt the University included several creature comforts,
“Having everything on the campus right in front of you was something that I liked. It has a big school atmosphere.”
Of note, Eastwood, who is one of the top-five scoring blueliners in PWHL history, is not the only Wildcats player that shall be playing at the NCAA level in New York State. Also home to a vast number of teams in the ECAC Conference, Kira Bombay shall stand between the pipes for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers. In recent years, one of their most notable alums was Jordan Smelker. In addition to playing for the United States U22 team, Smelker became the first resident of Alaska to win the Clarkson Cup.
Following the aftermath of the 2013-14 PWHL season, Bombay led the league with a sparkling 0.82 GAA. She would also tie the league record for most wins in one season with 20, sharing the record with Taylor Hough and Victoria Vigilanti.
As a side note, Wildcats fans shall certainly have November 7 circled on their calendars as RPI faces off against Pozzebon and her new teammates from Clarkson. Over the past few seasons, Pozzebon has contributed offensively towards Bombay tying the PWHL record for most wins in a season. Suddenly, she will be looking to score against her former teammate as the two become ECAC rivals.
In addition, Bombay will get the opportunity to play against Alyssa Baker as RPI competes against Dartmouth on November 13. The 5’6” forward registered 30 points during the 2014-15 PWHL season, establishing a career high, while leading all Wildcats in scoring.
Josianne Pozzebon, who played alongside Eastwood (and Sam Cogan) at the 2015 U18 Worlds and the Canada Winter Games is bringing her game to the community of Potsdam. Home to the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four champion Clarkson Golden Knights, they are one of the most dominant teams in ECAC play for the last half-decade.
The program has recruited other alums from Canada’s U18 program, including Jamie Lee Rattray (the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Award winner), and Erin Ambrose, who shall be entering her senior season.
With a coaching staff that features former CWHL rivals Meghan Duggan (captain of the 2014 US Winter Games team) and Britni Smith, who will be eternally remembered by Toronto Furies fans for scoring the Clarkson Cup winning goal in 2014, it comprises a remarkable pair of hockey heroes for Pozzebon to learn from. Working to maintain the high standard of hockey that Clarkson is known for, Pozzebon is jubilant about the opportunity to suit up for the green and gold,
“I am pretty excited. Duggan is a great hockey player. She knows a lot and she helps a lot. I have seen how she talks to the girls on the team and she is really helpful. Clarkson is a small school and I will not feel alone from home. The size is nice and they have a very good hockey team. It is everything that I am looking for.”
Having finished her final season with the Wildcats as its leading scorer, Samantha Cogan shall be headed for the national powerhouse Wisconsin Badgers. Having appeared in the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four, Cogan has the opportunity to be part of a team that is constantly in the national championship conversation. Complemented by a feeling of comfort that defined her initial visit to campus, it has all the ingredients for a very promising career,
“I remember my first visit. When I stepped on campus, everything felt right about it. Just something felt right. The arch buildings are beautiful and it felt homey. There is a great hockey team there with good academics, making it a great balance.”
Having scored one of the goals for Canada in the gold medal game of the 2015 U18 Women’s Worlds, the chance for Cogan to compete in the WCHA conference allows her the opportunity to renew rivalries with blueliner Jincy Dunne. Not only did Dunne score the gold-medal winning goal for the United States in that hotly contested game, she has committed to join her sister at Ohio State.
Considering that Winter Games gold medalist Jenny Potter is the new head coach for Ohio State, the potential for the Badgers and Buckeyes to become one of the top rivalries in conference play for the next four years is very exciting. Of note, the Badgers have their own gold medalist at the coaching helm, Mark Johnson, a famed member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice. The chance for Cogan to play for the living legend may help her reach her promise of remaining a world-class talent,
“It was amazing to meet him. He has a lot of experience behind him and he knows what he is doing. To know he will pass a lot of his knowledge will help me develop as a player.”
Although this remarkable class of Wildcats players shall continue their hockey careers in many different directions, they have proudly and admirably contributed to a remarkable era in franchise history. While the thought of teammates becoming rivals shall present an adjustment, the mutual respect and feeling of sisterhood that came with being called Wildcats is one that shall last beyond the final games of their promising NCAA careers.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”