Here’s one sure-fire way for all those Olympic experts to make women’s hockey more exciting.
Make sure Amanda Mazzotta guards one of the nets.
Drama has a way of following her to the crease.
The most recent example? Last Thursday, the 20-year-old Londoner backstopped the Canadian women’s national under-22 hockey team to a 6-5 shootout win over the United States in the tightest of a three-game exhibition series against their fierce rivals at Toronto’s Mastercard Centre.
“I don’t know what it is,” the Cornell Big Red goalie and former London Aquinas student said. “We practise shootouts every day. I’ve always liked them. Even in soccer too, but there, I’d be taking them instead of trying to stop them.”
She stopped all three U.S. shooters — Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne, Jocelyn Lamoureaux — while Natalie Spooner scored on Canada’s second try to preserve the country’s six-year unbeaten streak against the Yanks at the under-22 level.
Still, the Canadians needed a goal with 68 seconds left to force overtime. Mazzotta made 28 saves, including four in overtime, for the victory.
There was no shootout last spring when Mazzotta stopped 61 shots for Cornell in the longest championship game in NCAA history — a triple-overtime thriller the Big Red lost to Shannon Miller’s Minnesota-Duluth powerhouse.
Mazzotta played for Canada’s under-18 team, but that NCAA performance really put her on the national radar.
“I think it would’ve helped, not hurt,” she said. “I still think about the winning goal a lot but I spent the summer making friends with the girl who scored on me (Jessie Wong). She was at the under-22 camp too.”
Mazzotta and seven Cornell teammates cracked the Canadian under-22 squad. It was a month-long process including conditioning, selection camps and a series of games aiming toward a tournament at Switzerland in the New Year.
“It would be a great trip but your spot isn’t guaranteed,” said Mazzotta, who spent a month working out at school and another three weeks training at Western Fair. “They’re (national coach Mel Davidson and the Hockey Canada brass) going to continue to watch throughout the fall. You still have to perform. I think the early conditioning we did gave us an edge. But there are a lot of good young goalies on the way.
“It was weird kind of being a veteran this time and not the young one for once.”
This path, she hopes, will eventually lead to the biggest stage — the national women’s team and, perhaps, the Olympics in Russia in 2014.
“That feels like a long way away,” she said, “but I remember what it was like to pull on that Canadian sweater for the first time at u-18s and it’s exciting.”
It always is when Mazzotta’s between the pipes.