Currently in her debut season with the Minnesota Whitecaps, Rachael Bona is continuing a proud legacy of elite women’s play in the State of Hockey. Raised in Coon Rapids, where her number 7 jersey was retired by her high school, Bona also experienced the thrill of donning the USA Hockey jersey, capturing a silver medal at the 2010 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds. Following it up with three NCAA Frozen Four championships, Bona’s presence ensures that a proud future lay ahead for the Whitecaps.
Having risen to prominence with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Bona was part of a magical era for the program that culminated in an astounding 147 wins from 2011-15, compared to only 10 losses and 7 ties. In addition, Bona appeared in four consecutive NCAA Frozen Four championship games, capturing three titles. With 164 appearances for the Gophers, Bona stands as the program’s record holder, highlighted by an exceptional 62-game win streak.
Also a two-time WCHA Scholar Athlete, the 62-game win streak consisted of another exceptional milestone. It was part of a season in 2012-13 that saw the Golden Gophers become the first team in NCAA history to experience an undefeated season, going 41-0-0, while capturing the Frozen Four crown. In reflecting on this exceptional chapter in her hockey career, it still provides Bona with a tremendous sense of pride,
“I think going undefeated in the 2012-2013 is something that no one expected. We knew that we had a very solid team, but to go 41-0 was never a thought in anyone’s mind. It is such an amazing accomplishment, and looking back, it is remarkable that we were able to do it. Hockey is such a back and forth game and to, not once, have a game where a bounce went the other team’s way is pretty remarkable. It is definitely a season that I will never forget.”
This season, the Whitecaps featured several players from the undefeated Gophers team, including the likes of Bethany Brausen, Katie Frischmann, Mira Jalosuo, Becky Kortum, Meghan Lorence and Noora Raty. With Bona following in the footsteps of so many legendary skaters, the chance to contribute towards a new chapter in franchise history with several cherished friends and teammates from the Gophers is only part of the excitement that comes with skating for the Whitecaps.
As a first-year player for the club, Bona has also shown a willingness to learn, which is among one of her most admirable qualities, a respect for the game. Taking into account the proud legacy of the Whitecaps, which included a Clarkson Cup championship in 2010, the players that have laced up their skates for the club involves a who’s who of women’s hockey, including 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Angela Ruggiero. For Bona to be able to skate with several legendary players that have helped establish such a fine standard has proven to be enjoyable, as she discusses one of the players that she has looked up to,
“Obviously, Winny Brodt is a huge part of the Whitecaps program and has been a part of the team since its very beginning. It’s really neat to see her continue to play at such a high level, especially being a mother of two! It’s fun to see how involved and committed she is to the team while also balancing the demands of a family!”
During this newest chapter of her hockey odyssey, Bona’s playing career has truly come full circle. Part of the Whitecaps experience includes exhibition games against programs from the WCHA, including the Golden Gophers.
On September 25, 2015, the Whitecaps engaged in an exhibition match at Ridder Arena against the Golden Gophers. The result was an exciting return to the site of so many glorious events in Bona’s proud time with the Gophers. In the second period, Bona would register an assist on the second goal scored by Allie Thunstrom as the Gophers prevailing by a 5-4 mark. As a side note, 11 Gophers alumnae suited up for the Whitecaps in the contest.
While Bona hopes to create new and exciting memories with the Whitecaps, the chance to play the Gophers was one not filled with anxiety or nervousness. Instead, it was a joyful reunion as Ridder represented residual warmth, a place of carefree innocence where a love of the game was enhanced by a series of seminal moments.
“Going back to Ridder to play against the Gophers was so much fun! I never thought that I would have the opportunity to play at Ridder again after last season. So, to be able to go back there and then, on top of that, play against all of my old teammates and friends was really special.
I think Ridder is such a great venue for women’s hockey, so holding the Boston Pride games there was perfect and made it very convenient for people all over the metro area to come watch the first professional women’s hockey games in Minnesota.”
For Bona, the beauty of skating for the Whitecaps goes beyond the opportunity to share the ice with some of the greatest female players in the history of the state. It is also one defined by empowerment, as the opportunity to extend her playing career is one that other players can aspire to. Proving that the game does not need to stop after graduating from college, the Whitecaps have extended Bona a special privilege, one that she cherishes every time that she graces the ice.
“I think what I have enjoyed most about my first season as a Whitecap has just been the opportunity to keep playing at a high level. I didn’t know what my hockey playing career after college would look like, but being able to continue to play so close to home and still at a very high level has been great.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/WhitecapsHockey/?fref=ts, Photo credit: Brent Cizek