Serving as the offensive catalyst for the OUIT Ridgebacks, Mikaeli Cavell is an exceptional individual whose contributions on and off the ice make her an inspiring student-athlete. Recognizing on multiple occasions as OUIT’s Athlete of the Week, her career is one defined by consistency, a familiar name on the list of top scorers in OUA conference play.
Raised in Edmonton, Cavell is not the only Albertan on the Ridgebacks roster. Joining her is sophomore Nicole Gorda, who has enjoyed the opportunity to call Cavell a teammate before, resulting in a growing sense of prairie pride for the program.
Of note, their hockey lineage includes a common thread as members of the Edmonton Thunder, a highly accomplished club that enjoyed four straight appearances at the Esso Cup. Other notable Thunder alumnae that have played at the university level include the likes of Amy Boucher, Brittany Esposito, Jessica Healey and Stephanie Zvonkovic.
As Cavell reflects on calling her a teammate once again, the privilege of sharing the Ridgebacks experience also extends a very strong friendship and a shared hockey history,
“It’s awesome playing with her. I’ve been teammates and friends with Gorda for a pretty long time now, playing together as kids and all through high school. It’s pretty cool to live just a couple blocks away from someone back at home and then also get the chance play hockey together on the other side of the country.”
Inheriting the captaincy from Zoe Battie, while following in the legacy of Jill Morillo, the chance to proudly adorn her sweater with the captain’s C is a tremendous milestone. Representing a new chapter in her Ridgebacks’ career, it is a fitting tribute for Cavell, who also served as captain with the Thunder, as she was recognized with a remarkable triumvirate of hockey honors in the aftermath of the 2015-16 season.
The recipient of the Ridgebacks 2016 ETS Captain’s Award, she was also honored as Team MVP and the recipient of the team’s Leadership Award. Adding to such an amazing list of achievements was the fact that she earned UOIT Athlete of the Week honors for the week of January 25, 2016, after a performance that resulted in goals in back-to-back games against Waterloo and Laurier.
“It is a huge honour. This is an awesome program to be a part of and taking a leadership role when we have such a great team makes me very proud. I have been very lucky to play for some amazing captains over my past few years at UOIT, and being given the chance to follow in their footsteps is an amazing opportunity.”For the proud Cavell, the essence of leadership takes on a much deeper meaning. It has proven to be a positive learning experience due to the presence of a mentor who has also experienced the honor of becoming a captain during the 2016-17 season.
Serving in the capacity of Player Mentor on the staff of head coach Justin Caruana, Natalie Spooner was named captain of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies this season, replacing the recently retired Michelle Bonello. As a side note, two Ridgebacks players were selected by the Furies in the 2016 CWHL Draft, Victoria MacKenzie and Jaclyn Gibson.
During her Furies career, Spooner became the first player to capture a Winter Games gold medal and a Clarkson Cup in the same season. As the Ridgebacks represents her first major coaching experience, working as a skills coach, helping to teach key physical and mental preparations to excel on the ice, such an exceptional benefit to the Ridgebacks is not lost on Cavell, who sees Spooner as a tremendous influence,
“Natalie has so many experiences as both a player and a person that many of us will never get the chance to do so she is definitely someone to look up to and turn to for advice. we are fortunate to have her take time to come out and spend time with us at the rink. she’s always willing to help with anything, she’s really an amazing person to have around the team.”
Through the first weekend of December 2016, Cavell ranked tied for third in the OUA conference scoring with 8 assists and 10 points, tied with Annie Berg of Brock University. Helping to set the offensive tone for the Ridgebacks, the club is 5-2-0 when she logs at least one point.
During the first half of the season, one of Cavell’s most productive performances involved a two-assist output on Remembrance Day in a 3-1 road final against the Queen’s Golden Gaels. Starting with a second period assist on a goal by Kassidy Nauboris, she would assist on a third period power play goal, which also stood as the game-winning tally.
Having assembled a pair of three game scoring streaks, her finest statistical effort involved three points in a hard-fought 5-4 home loss to the Windsor Lancers. From the outset, Cavell gained an assist on the opening goal of the game.
Following it up by scoring early in the second period for a 2-0 advantage, the Lancers replied with three unanswered goals. Although Cavell helped turn the tide in the Ridgebacks favor, assisting on Samantha Forcielli’s game-tying goal, Windsor’s Erinn Noseworthy would supply the overtime heroics.
While the experience of postsecondary hockey combines both athletics and academics, a time of perpetual growth and enlightenment as leaders, such a role encompasses a more profound sense of responsibility, simultaneously contributing to a feeling of belonging. With the Ridgebacks skaters graciously giving their time to the Grandview Children’s Centre children’s centre, the focus as student-athletes is enhanced by a sense of fulfillment.
Having also staged a “Stick it to Cancer” fundraiser in support of Whitby’s Emma Kenyon, a very brave child struggling with Ewing sarcoma, whose courageous battle included an astounding nine cycles of chemotherapy, it is testament to Cavell and the Ridgebacks inspiring dedication to the community as hockey humanitarians. Through it all, it provides an enriching experience, a feeling of friendship and belonging, with a sense of happiness that is reciprocated.
”Visiting Grandview is probably more fun for all of us than it is for the kids. It’s awesome going there and getting to play with them and listen to them talk about school and themselves, just knowing they’re excited to have us stop by is a great feeling on its own.
Being a varsity athlete in such a tight knit community like we have here gives you a lot of opportunities to connect with some amazing people so I’m very grateful to be invited to spend time at Grandview and around Oshawa.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo Credit: Al Fournier