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Dear Sami Jo... A look at CWHL draft-eligible goalies

The 2018 CWHL Draft is coming up and Annie has some recruiting suggestions for the Furies and Thunder GMs

Shea Tiley in goal for the Clarkson Golden Knights
Shea Tiley
Clarkson University Athletics

The 2018 CWHL Draft takes place in Toronto on Sunday, August 26. Sign-ups opened just two weeks ago, so the official prospect list is pretty short right now. Closer to the draft, we’ll have a look at the players who have actually signed up and are likely to land in the GTA. In the meantime, it’s time for some window shopping.

There are plenty of players who call Ontario home and have just finished their college careers, be it NCAA or USports, making them eligible for the draft. We’re hoping to provide some inspiration for them to sign up, or inspiration for the Furies and Thunder GMs to do some recruiting. In that vein, please re-tweet this series widely. The team you save could be your own!

First off, goalies. While the other two installments of this series are going to be of interest to both Markham Thunder and Toronto Furies fans, the Thunder have one of the most solid goalie platoons in the league with Erica Howe and Liz Knox, so this particular article is aimed specifically at the Furies. So, *looks into the camera* Dear Sami Jo, can we talk?

Although we here at Pension Plan Puppets are very happy about Sami Jo Small’s hiring as Toronto Furies GM (no, really—there was squealing, both online and out loud), nafio’s very early reaction was “my team has no goalies”. This is an exaggeration, but the fact remains that with Small’s retirement and Sonja van der Bliek’s departure for Sweden, the Furies currently have one (1) rostered goaltender remaining from last season. Amanda Makela’s performance last season was better than her numbers (3.72 GAA, .889 sv%) make it sound — she won CWHL Goalie of the Week honors more than once and they were much deserved — but assuming she returns next season, she’s still going to need someone to share her crease.

Here are a few goalies that our new general manager should be looking at to help out her lone veteran.

Shea Tiley, Clarkson Golden Knights

Shea Tiley raises the 2018 NCAA Women’s Hockey Trophy Clarkson University Athletics

The best Ontarian-born goaltender graduating this year by a mile, Shea Tiley had as good of a collegiate career as anyone could want. A starter for all four of her seasons with Clarkson University, Tiley won both ECAC Goaltender of the Year and Rookie of the Year as a freshman, and then won Goaltender of the Year a second time this past year as a senior. In between those two awards, she won two national championships, was named a Patty Kazmaier Top-10 Finalist and won Most Outstanding Player at the 2018 Frozen Four, and wrapped up her time at Clarkson as their all-time winningest goaltender. She played the most minutes of any goalie in Division I last year, and also led in victories, save percentage, and tied for first in shutouts. Tiley is exceptional.

Her 41-save shutout in the national championship game in 2017 is a great example of what she’s capable of—she went into a game against Wisconsin, a juggernaut of a team with Patty Kazmaier winner Ann-Renée Desbiens between the pipes at the other end of the ice, and not only held her own against an offense featuring marquee names like Emily Clark, Sarah Nurse, and Annie Pankowski, but held them scoreless. It was not the first time I’d considered how much I want to see her in Furies blue, but it was the moment that I went from “considering” to “do you think it would help if I showed up at her window with a boombox, Lloyd Dobler style?”*

Tiley also has a history with Hockey Canada—she won gold at U18s in 2014 (where she also posted the best GAA and sv% in the tournament, because naturally), and was on Team Canada’s development team in 2016-17 for the summer series against Team USA. She was also invited to the goaltending development camp that year, and was an invitee to Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase that year and the year after. She’s clearly on Hockey Canada’s radar, and joining the CWHL would maximize her chances of staying there.

*Note: I would not actually do this, it’s creepy, but the idea of this piece is to provide Sami Jo some tips. When you have two Olympic gold medals, you can try unorthodox recruitment tactics.

Stephanie Sluys, University of Waterloo Warriors

Stephanie Sluys makes a diving save Waterloo Warriors Athletics

Switching leagues from the NCAA to USports, our next goalie doesn’t have Tiley’s hardware (but then, few do) but has her own international and collegiate success. Stephanie Sluys has spent the past four years starring in goal at the University of Waterloo. In 2015, she won OUA Rookie of the Year, and was therefore one of the four nominees for CIS (now USports) Rookie of the Year as well.

Sluys was named Waterloo’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2017, and on top of teaching us all how to pronounce her name (useful!) this highlight video is a nice look at her skills. Her numbers with Waterloo are both impressive and consistent, and are bolstered by a playoff appearance this year in which she shone with a .955 sv% and 1.35 GAA.

She’s also played internationally. Sluys won a silver medal with Canada at the 2017 Universiade, playing two games and winning shutouts in both of them. She was also on the CIS All-Stars Team at Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase in 2016-17 (where she, amusingly enough, played against Shea Tiley), and while the CIS All-Stars did not win a game, Team Red only beat them by a goal and they forced Sweden to a shoot-out.

Slightly closer to home, Rachel Flanagan, wife of current Furies head coach Jeff Flanagan, was Sluys’ coach on that Universiade team. She and Sluys have also coached together at a hockey camp. It’s a bit tenuous, but it is a connection to a current member of the Furies’ staff—hockey is a small world.

A possible concern is that while Sluys is graduating, she has one more year left on her USports eligibility (while NCAA eligibility is 4 years, USports is 5, which is why it seemed like Mélodie Daoust was at school forever). If Sluys chooses to play out her fifth year, this entire section might prove pointless.

Elijah Milne-Price, Robert Morris Colonials

Flipping back to the NCAA, we turn our focus to Robert Morris University, and their starting goaltender this year, Elijah Milne-Price. While Milne-Price only became RMU’s starter as a senior, she spent her first three years at RMU with Jessica Dodds, who was the winningest goaltender in RMU history*. After Dodds’ graduation, Milne-Price took the crown of starter and ran with it. She won CHA Goaltender of the Month honors twice, set a new RMU single-season shutout record with six, and was the first goalie in school history to post back-to-back shutouts twice. For someone who only played four games over her first three years of college, Milne-Price made it very clear over her senior season that she was perfectly capable of the workload of a NCAA starting goalie. She ended the season with 20 wins, the second-most in a season by a goalie in program history, which was good enough to lead the CHA.

Milne-Price doesn’t have the Hockey Canada pedigree of a player like Tiley, but she definitely has stronger GTA connections. Hailing from Mississauga, she played her junior hockey in the PWHL with the Burlington Barracudas and the Mississauga Chiefs, both teams I have literally stumbled over while attending Furies games. I would love to see if she can continue her senior-season success on the Furies, possibly in a platoon situation to take the stress off Makela.

*Side note: London, Ontario native Dodds isn’t on this list because she graduated last year, but if she felt like coming back to high-level hockey after a year off, we would also be very okay with that.

Alysia DaSilva, Princeton Tigers

Another goalie who ended up stuck behind a star, Alysia DaSilva has been always-the-bridesmaid-ing at Princeton University for the past four years; first backing up Kimberly Newell (who is newly signed by the CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star), and then spending her junior and senior seasons sharing the crease with six-foot-tall wonder child Steph Neatby. Considering how good Neatby is in particular, I’m not inclined to hold this against DaSilva, who acquitted herself well when she played.

Like Milne-Price, DaSilva is from the GTA, in her case Oakville. Amusingly, she played on the Mississauga Chiefs for three years before Milne-Price did (again, hockey is a small world). In the PWHL, DaSilva was a legitimate star, and ranks fourth in league history in wins. She also spent time playing for the Mississauga Braves, a GTHL boys’ team. While it’s harder to evaluate her performance considering her Princeton career consisted of 31 games spread over four years, DaSilva is another player I’d be inclined to try as part of a tandem.

Alysia DaSilva, Princeton Tigers backup goalie Beverly Schaefer

Hopefully, one or more of these women will decide to continue her hockey career in the CWHL, and the Toronto Furies will have goalies, plural, on their roster next year. Even if none of them sign up, however, goaltending is unpredictable and there have been some notable late bloomers in the CWHL, so I look forward to these carefully researched suggestions getting blown up by some upstart from somewhere totally off my radar.

Stay tuned for the next article, where I’ll talk about defenders of note, and why Furies fans should want to draft Lauren Wildfang for reasons other than putting “Wildfang” on a jersey.