In the aftermath of the Winter Games and the 10th Clarkson Cup, the Triple Gold Club for Women welcomed eight wondrous women into its ranks. Recognizing the recipients of Winter Games Gold, IIHF World Gold and the Clarkson Cup, the players in this special sorority represent the peak of elite performance.
Of all the women to gain Triple Gold honors in 2018, this year’s achievers represent a record number, as a total of eight (six Americans and two Canadians) add this achievement to their hockey resumes.
Following an emotional shootout victory at the Winter Games that resulted in the US capturing its first gold medal since Nagano 1998, six women from the victorious roster gained such acclaimed status. Coincidentally, the first American to achieve Triple Gold honors was part of the golden roster at Nagano.
Jenny Schmidgall-Potter’s road to hockey immortality involved three historic wins. From the outset, Nagano was the backdrop for the first women’s ice hockey tournament at the Games. Seven years later, she was part of the victorious roster that handed Canada its first silver medal at the IIHF Worlds.
Just months after participating in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Schmidgall-Potter was part of the Minnesota Whitecaps roster that captured the Clarkson Cup, the first American-based team to do so. Taking into account that she also won the first-ever NCAA Frozen Four (playing for Canadian head coach Shannon Miller), it represents a grand slam that will define her in perpetuity as a champion.
Considering that Schmidgall-Potter had been the only member of said Club for nearly a decade (as the first Clarkson Cup was contested in 2009), she is now joined by a spectacular six. As a side note, had the US managed to hold on to its lead and capture the gold in Sochi 2014, that number would have been much more considerable.
In alphabetical order, the list of the spectacular six includes defensive gem Kacey Bellamy, super sniper Brianna Decker, Team USA captain Meghan Duggan, the highly popular Hilary Knight, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, one half of the greatest sisters in hockey history, along with the versatile Gigi Marvin.
Equally impressive is the fact that all six have skated for the US in the Winter Games during this decade (Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, Pyeongchang 2018). In addition, Decker, Duggan, Knight and Marvin have also attained grand slam status, each having captured an NCAA Frozen Four title. Marvin’s title came with the Minnesota Golden Gopher while the other three were teammates with the Wisconsin Badgers.
Complementing this run is the fact that the US dominated this most recent Olympic cycle. Ranging from 2015-18, the US gained three consecutive gold medals at the IIHF Women’s Worlds, including its first on home soil, a highly emotional victory last year in Plymouth, Michigan, plus Winter Games gold earlier this year. The last time that a nation swept the cycle was Canada, who emerged with three straight IIHF golds from 1999-2001, plus gold against their eternal rivals at Salt Lake 2002.
Part of the 2013 Clarkson Cup roster, Bellamy, Duggan, Knight and Marvin helped the Boston Blades become the second American team to hoist the coveted prize. As a side note, Caitlin Cahow, their teammate from Vancouver 2010 served as team captain.
During that season (2012-13), Knight also became the first American-born player to capture the CWHL’s MVP honors. Serendipitously, this season saw Kelli Stack, a teammate from Vancouver and Sochi become the first American to capture the Angela James Bowl, awarded to the CWHL’s leading scorer.
Decker and Lamoureux-Morando were part of the Blades’ second championship team, key contributors to a 2015 triumph that included Canadian Olympian Tara Watchorn on their roster. Prior to the Cup victory, Decker became the first American to capture CWHL Rookie of the Year honors, while her 2.67 points per game paced all players in the league.
Worth noting, Decker and Lamoreux-Morando were both named to the CWHL All-Rookie Team, quite possibly the greatest in league history. Said team included goaltender Erica Howe and forward Jamie Lee Rattray, both members of Clarkson’s NCAA Frozen Four championship team in 2014, Laura Fortino, the first pick overall in the 2014 CWHL Draft, along with Jessica Campbell, an eventual winner of the league’s Humanitarian of the Year Award.
In spite of Canada’s silver medal outcome, there was still an opportunity in 2018 for proud Canadian content to reach Triple Gold legend. With the Markham Thunder qualifying for the Clarkson Cup finals, including a semi-final sweep of Les Canadiennes de Montreal, which featured Knight on their roster, it was a treasured chance for two members of the club to gain hockey immortality.
Both part of Canada’s golden outcome at Sochi 2014, Laura Fortino and Jocelyne Larocque earned their IIHF glory at the 2012 Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. Professionally, the two have also called each other teammates since 2014, both joining the Thunder franchise, then based in Brampton, Ontario. Worth noting, Fortino joins Tessa Bonhomme and Meghan Agosta as Triple Gold club members who were selected first overall in the CWHL Draft.
Larocque’s journey to the Clarkson Cup entailed a much different path. As a teenaged phenom, she suited up for the Calgary Oval X-Treme in the now defunct Western Women’s Hockey League. Competing for the CWHL’s Team Alberta franchise in 2012-13, she would sandwich her time with a pair of Frozen Four titles at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD). Coincidentally, Jessica Wong, who competed with the Kunlun Red Star in the 2018 Clarkson Cup finals, scored UMD’s Frozen Four clinching goal in 2010.
Adding to the unique sense of coincidence was the fact that the gold medal-winning goal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds was scored by Caroline Ouellette. Not only did Ouellette gain multiple Frozen Four titles as a member of UMD in the early 2000s, Larocque joins her as the only Canadian women to enjoy a grand slam.
Serendipitously, the overtime goal that provided the Thunder with its first Clarkson Cup was scored by a teammate of Fortino and Larocque at the 2018 Winter Games. Third generation star Laura Stacey, who made her Winter Games debut in Pyeongchang, scored on Red Star goaltender Noora Raty, who also led Finland to a bronze medal at the 2010 and 2018 Games.
While the Cup victory helps to alleviate the visceral result of a silver medal for the terrific trio of Fortino, Larocque and Stacey, their strong character and unrelenting spirit served as an ideal denouement to a historic 2017-18 season that demonstrated the game’s relevance. Although the rivalry between American and Canadian players has resulted in eight players inextricably linked in an amazing achievement, their careers are now monuments to the game, accomplishments that truly demonstrate the potential for women in the game to continue reaching new heights.
Photo credits: Getty Images, Jess Bazal