Having participated in the past two Clarkson Cup championship games, the Boston Blades made a strong statement that they are primed for a third consecutive appearance. Their first three picks at the 2014 CWHL Draft bring a combined seven Winter Games medals (one gold, five silver, one bronze), the most of any trio drafted in the CWHL Draft’s nascent history.
With the selection of Jenny Potter, Monique Lamoureux and Brianna Decker in the first three rounds, Boston has firmly established itself as one of the league powers in the upcoming campaign. While the aforementioned are three hockey heroes from the Midwest, making the sojourn eastwards to continue their careers, New England hockey fans are ecstatic at seeing these accomplished women donning the proud black and gold colors of the Blades.
The list of past US national team members that have suited up for the Blades reads as a who’s who of women’s hockey. From Angela Ruggiero (who played alongside Potter in four Winter Games) to Caitlin Cahow (part of President Obama’s delegation to the 2014 Sochi Winter Games), Potter, Lamoureux and Decker proudly follow in their legacies, while hoping to create new ones.
Acquired in the first round, Jenny Potter becomes the oldest first-round pick in CWHL Draft history. Having made her debut at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games as an 18-year old player, Jenny Potter (nee Schmidgall) has crafted a career worthy of entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Next to Cammi Granato, Potter may easily be the most accomplished player in the history of women’s hockey in the United States. The only American-born player to have won Winter Games gold, IIHF gold, the Clarkson Cup and the NCAA Frozen Four, Potter spent 14 glorious years with the US national team.
After a one-year absence from the game, this saw Potter move into the coaching world while juggling motherhood, her return to hockey is of great benefit for CWHL fans. The Blades are hoping that she can recapture the form which saw her capture the 2010 Clarkson Cup. Weaving through defenses with swift skating, Potter helped the Minnesota Whitecaps become the first US-based team capture the Cup.
Should Potter contribute to another Cup victory in 2015, which would result in Potter having her name engraved on the Cup for a second time, she would become only the second member of that historic Whitecaps team win the Cup with a CWHL team. Of note, Julie Chu became the first to do, winning with the Montreal Stars in 2011 and 2012.
Joining Potter shall be Monique Lamoureux, one half of the world’s greatest hockey playing sisters. Taking into account that only two pairs of sisters have won the Clarkson Cup (Chelsey and Winny Brodt in 2010, along with Kristy and Kelly Zamora in 2014), the absence of her sister Jocelyne is a visceral one. Having played alongside her sister at the NCAA level with Minnesota and North Dakota, along with two Winter Games appearances and three IIHF World Championships, the two were inseparable.
The thought of Monique playing without her sister would be akin to apple pie without ice cream. While the absence of her sister will likely present an adjustment, it also presents a unique opportunity. The chance to break out of one’s comfort zone and branch out on one’s own is a remarkable sign of growth and maturity.
As a side note, the sisters have begun their own venture, Lamoureux Hockey, holding skills camps in North Dakota for aspiring players. During one of the camps, Monique also participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Leaving her home state of North Dakota, where she compiled 190 points for the Fighting Sioux (and 265 NCAA points overall), the Blades are hoping she can light the lamp often. Her world-class talent will certainly spoil New England hockey fans.
One of two Patty Kazmaier Award winners selected in the 2014 CWHL Draft (the other being Jamie Lee Rattray of Clarkson), Brianna Decker is part of a bright future for USA Hockey. Despite the outcome of Sochi, 2014 was certainly a coming-out party for her. From being featured in a glamorous photo shoot with several teammates in People Magazine to throwing out the first pitch at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game with Jessie Vetter (who was also in People), the sporting world has caught up to her.
Coincidentally, Vetter was part of the other CWHL Draft class that featured two Kazmaier Award winners selected in the same year. In 2011, the Blades selected Vetter along with Meghan Duggan.
Adding to the coincidence is the fact that Vetter and Duggan also played alongside Decker with the Wisconsin Badgers. While Vetter would never play a game for the Blades, Duggan would suit up for the squad, claiming the 2013 Clarkson Cup title. Along with Angela Ruggiero, the Blades have selected four Kazmaier Award winners in their franchise history.
Among the three picks, Decker brings a remarkable familiarity as she played with current Blades superstars Duggan and Hilary Knight for the Badgers. During the Badgers run to the national title in 2011, the three combined for an astounding 248 points as the program lost only one game during the entire season.
Should Decker, Duggan and Knight manage to reignite their sensational scoring chemistry, it will cause nightmares for opposing CWHL teams. Perhaps more importantly, this titanic trio could create a new chapter in CWHL history.
While Knight became the first US born player to capture the CWHL’s Most Outstanding Player Award (in 2013), the Angela James Bowl, awarded to the league’s scoring champion remains an elusive prize. Decker, on a line with Knight and Duggan could quickly correct that. Considering that the top four leading scorers in the 2013-14 CWHL campaign all suited up for the Montreal Stars (Boston’s biggest rival), the thought of the Blades possibly occupying those same four spots in the aftermath of the 2014-15 campaign is all too possible.
There is no question that the Blades have established themselves as one of the favorites heading into the CWHL’s eighth campaign. Taking into account that Alex Carpenter, Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein, three other members of the US Winter Games squad, are all eligible for the 2015 CWHL Draft, it may signal the birth of a very long and prosperous women’s hockey dynasty in Boston. For now, the prospect of three highly accomplished women such as Potter, Lamoureux and Decker only adds to the relevance and importance of women’s hockey in New England, one that should make for many exciting times to come.