Forging a legacy that began on the lush terrains of Hanover, New Hampshire, a terrific trio of talented women brought the proud values of hometown hockey to the prestigious Dartmouth College, etching their names in program lore. Whether it was through strong leadership, brilliant playmaking or keen instinct, the memorable moments of on-ice glories in Ivy League hockey proved to be prologue for the likes of Jenna Cunningham, Reagan Fischer and Margaux Sharp.
Their collaborative careers with the Big Green represented an effervescent body of work, fusing a love of the game with a competitive spirit. Sharp, who was raised in Canada’s Capital Region, while Cunningham and Fischer, a pair of sensational Western Canadian women, proved to be a strong influence, enhancing a growing Canadian legacy in Big Green lore, one that included the likes of Gillian Apps, Cherie Piper and Katie Weatherston prior to their arrival. Afterwards, sensational Canadians in program colors included Emma Korbs and Laura Stacey, among others.
Undoubtedly, Cunningham and Fischer were destined to come full circle and return to their home province of Alberta, the place where their fundamentally sound approach was first cultivated. Along with Sharp, who was part of a formative time for the rise of elite competitors developed in the Ottawa Valley, all three were drafted by the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno—each enjoying the opportunity to graduate to professional hockey.
Mirroring their on-ice aspirations with the Inferno involved the appeal of the ball hockey courts. Competing with Calgary United at the 2018 CBHA Nationals, there was certainly strong provincial pride for all three during this journey, extending their competitive legacies, simultaneously contributing towards a new one, which has resulted in Western Canadian dominance in CBHA circles. Cunningham, a two-time ECAC Second Team All-Star and All-Academic honoree with the Big Green, amassing 125 points over four seasons, was euphoric at the chance to share a national championship with a pair of Dartmouth alumnae,
“Winning a National Championship with former Dartmouth teammates was a great feeling. Dartmouth is a really unique and special place, and the bond you build with your Dartmouth teammates, holds strong post graduation. So to be able to win with two of my closest friends was a great experience. It is always fun to compete with them.”
For Fischer, the pride of Irma, Alberta, the CBHA National Championship adds to an already impressive sporting resume that includes receiving Most Valuable Player honors in the AMMFHL, along with a gold medal at Alberta’s Honda Hit, Run and Throw Fastball competition for girls.
Certainly, there was an amazing sense of achievement for Fischer as she was bestowed with recognition as the Most Valuable Player of the CBHA Nationals. Contributing towards Calgary United’s run to greatness; Fischer finished the preliminary round tied with two other United players (Rhianna Kurio, Chelsea Karpenko) for third in scoring, while tying teammate Kendra Dunlop for first in goals scored.
Worth noting, Karpenko’s presence definitely brought another facet to the feeling of coming full circle. By tournament’s end, Karpenko enjoyed her own haul of hockey hardware, recognized as the Offensive MVP. Coincidentally, Fischer and Karpenko also shared the 2012 ECAC Best Defensive Forward Award, as Karpenko skated for rival Cornell.
Fischer’s offensive brilliance was also reminiscent of a proud milestone attained in the Dartmouth jersey. One of Fischer’s greatest moments in the Big Green jersey took place at Boston’s iconic Fenway Park, where an outdoor game versus Genevieve Lacasse and the Providence Friars, dubbed “Frozen Fenway” shall forever stand as a revered hallmark. Along with Sharp, both recorded assists in the contest, as the Big Green emerged victorious in a 3-2 tally. Sharing in the jubilation of a CBHA national championship among two treasured friends holds similar impact.
“It’s extremely special! We have a fantastic Dartmouth hockey community here in Calgary so when a few of us get together to compete for something meaningful again, it’s a lot of fun. This one was also special because it was a repeat of Vancouver 2016. We felt we faced a little more adversity this time around, so it was extremely helpful to have teammates you battled four years of Div 1 adversity with to rely on.”
Never missing a game in her first three seasons at Dartmouth, Sharp laced her skates for the PWHL’s Ottawa Lady Senators. The daughter of a pair of varsity athletes from Mount Allison University, she competed in six sports at Carleton Place High School. Enjoying a gold medal at the PWHL level with the Lady Senators, Sharp enjoyed a life changing experience skating for the Big Green.
Finding tremendous friendship while competing at an elite level of play, a sense of kinship developed, one that followed Sharp past graduation. As she recounts, building on such strong friendships made at Dartmouth, following the on-ice odyssey and extending into other sporting endeavors is one that has not only enriched her quality of life, it has brought new meaning to the feeling of unity and team spirit.
“I have enjoyed most that Jenna and Reagan are my teammates beyond hockey. Hockey and Dartmouth brought us together and fostered friendships that have extended into our post-collegiate years. We are still teammates on the ice, but also now in biking, hiking, golfing, ball hockey and navigating life in Calgary.
The Dartmouth alumni community is tight-knit. There are six former Dartmouth Women’s Ice Hockey players in Calgary currently; we all enjoy spending time together when we can and supporting each other as our lives move forward.”
Cunningham, who called Medicine Hat her home town, holds the rare distinction of having competed for Calgary’s franchise when it donned the memorable navy blue and gold jerseys of Team Alberta. Transitioning to the current red and black colors of the franchise, under the sobriquet “Inferno”, Cunningham is also the first woman from Medicine Hat to play for the franchise, having accumulated over 60 points.
Capturing a Clarkson Cup with the Inferno in 2016, which was also the first-ever Cup finals contested on NHL ice (at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre), the CBHA national championship only affirms Cunningham’s status as an integral part of the city’s female hockey lore. In addition, the jubilation of the CBHA title also complements another prized milestone in 2018. On May 17, Cunningham and figure skater Gay Dubeau were inducted into Medicine Hat’s Sports Wall of Fame, testament to her talent and team first approach.
“I think the Clarkson Cup will always be the highlight of my career. Yet, winning a National Championship, never gets old. Especially when you win with such a great group of people.”
Although all three crossed through the portal where players eventually hang up their skates, their love of competition never wavered, ensuring a rather brief interval. Such collective drive made them crucial components on the road towards a national championship in another facet of the game, encompassing the newest chapter of their sporting endeavors. As ball hockey community continues to grow in relevance in the sporting mad city of Calgary, Fischer is proud to be part of such a renaissance,
“I was only introduced to the sport about four years ago, so it’s been very fun to grow with sport as it continues to gain popularity in Calgary. Though it is very similar to ice hockey, the strategy also pulls from both soccer and basketball. This combined with removing the skating aspect of the game, makes it a game that many people can relate to and pick up and learn. Perhaps winning the national championship again will help create the exposure this sport deserves!”
With so many talented competitors, both male and female, making the successful transition from the ice to the hardcourts, Cunningham, Fischer and Sharp defined such a switch, retaining the strong leadership that made them such valued teammates at Dartmouth. Suiting up for Calgary United at the 2018 CBHA Nationals in Winnipeg, their backgrounds not only made them significant assets, it helped to positively shape the team’s culture, one where a firm belief was instilled in both teammates and the prospect of winning. Such an approach is one that Sharp proudly subscribed to,
“I believe a large part of Calgary United’s success at CBHA Nationals was how well we worked together as a team. It was an honour to play with such a cohesive group, but it’s undeniable that it was particularly special to win with Jenna and Reagan and build off of our previous experiences together in sport to achieve success.”
What made the experience so enjoyable was the chance for all three to win a championship together. Although Frozen Fenway and the Clarkson Cup represent proud pinnacles, timing and circumstance meant that it was not shared milestones. Elated over the privilege of partaking in this collective achievement together, it has allowed Cunningham the treasured chance to reach new summits alongside such precious people as Fischer and Sharp,
“I never really thought about playing hockey post-Dartmouth with Reagan and Margaux. There is always the uncertainty of what post graduation will look like. We are just fortunate that we all ended up in Calgary, which has allowed for us to continue playing hockey together.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Big Green headshots from Dartmouth Athletics
All other images obtained from Facebook