Girl power

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

Just one of the guys. For a day, Angela Ruggiero blended in and got a taste of the pro hockey ranks.

Ruggiero, a 25-year-old from Harper Woods, Mich., made history last month as the first non-goalie female to play pro hockey in North America when she laced up for the Tulsa Oilers.

Not only that but she became part of the first brother-sister duo to play a pro hockey game anywhere in the world.

Her sibling, Bill, tends net for the Central Hockey League squad.

"My brother has always been so supportive, so it was a chance of a lifetime," said Ruggiero, who is playing for the U.S. Selects this weekend in a tri-set against the Calgary Olympic Oval X-Treme.

"It was his idea in the first place. I practised with the Oilers over Christmas and the coach said he'd love to have me for a game."

Ruggiero, a 2002 Olympic silver medallist with the U.S., admitted she was a little surprised by the level of media attention.

"I was expecting a little attention but more toward the brother-sister deal," she said. "Then it turned into this Girl Power thing and there was pressure to represent the entire female gender for one game."

She tuned out the distractions and logged an assist in the 7-2 victory over the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. What she remembers most is the speed of the game.

"The men move the puck really fast, so you really have to be on top of your game," she said. "I didn't want to get beat so I was cheating back a little bit, playing in the middle of the ice and not taking any chances."

It sure gave her something to consider ... a pro hockey contract, maybe one just like Hayley Wickenheiser signed with Kirkkonummi Salamat in Finland.

Ruggiero said she may look into it after the Turin Olympics.

"Hayley broke down a lot of barriers, she's a trailblazer for women's hockey," said Ruggerio, who until last month was playing for the East Coast Wizards and working as a full-time broker for a commercial real-estate company in Boston.

"I'm training full time for the Olympics now. After that, I'll be 26, so playing with the guys ... I don't know. I know I can skate with them and move the puck just as fast as them. I know the game good or better than a lot of them.

"But they're a little bit stronger, a little bit faster. If I were to do it, I'd have to really train pretty hard."

The European finesse style would be more to her liking but she knows she would fit in anywhere.

"I felt right at home playing for Tulsa," she said. "I'd just cut my hair a week before so my hair wasn't hanging out and I blended in perfectly. The only thing was I was wearing my red, white and blue gloves, as opposed to the team gloves. People were picking me out by my gloves.

"That's a compliment that I fit right in with the guys."

The Battle of the Border, between the Selects and the X-Treme, kicked off last night in Strathmore. It continues tonight at 7 p.m. at Drumheller arena and tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.


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