Ashley Hodge-Hirschfield and twin sisters Keyara and Keyanna Lea and some of their Shamrocks teammates catch a Red Sox game at Boston’s historic Fenway Park.
By Brian Bowman
The Stonewall Teulon Tribune
Fans that want to watch some of Manitoba’s top women’s hockey talent will have to plan an eastern road trip this winter. A total of 10 girls from Manitoba and Ontario have been recruited to play hockey this season for the Boston Shamrocks in the Junior Women’s Hockey League. The JWHL consists of 10 teams — six U.S. ones and four Canadian — including the Balmoral Hall Blazers in Winnipeg. The Shamrocks have both a U19 and U16 program.
Among those players making the jump south of the border are Stony Mountain’s Ashley Hodge-Hirschfield and twin sisters Keyara and Keyanna Lea, formerly of Riverton. “I am so excited,” said HodgeHirschfield last Friday. “All of the facilities that we have are top notch and the coaching staff is so friendly and so down to earth. They’re easy to talk to and they bond with us very well.
“I’m head-over-heels excited — I just can’t believe it.” Hodge-Hirschfield said having the Lea sisters going to Boston along with her will make the move a whole lot easier. “We all live in the same house together so you have those extra people to have your back to make it easier to break the ice and make new friends quicker,” she explained. “To go to a new city, a new country, by yourself would be really hard.”
Hodge-Hirschfield, 17, will be going into Grade 12 next month. She is excited to be studying at a U.S. prep school and is hopeful to play university hockey the following year.
Hodge-Hirschfield visited Boston back in July and played in the Beantown Classic, an elite college hockey showcase. She has played for Balmoral Hall the last couple of seasons, so the speed of the game — and quality of play — was no surprise to her. “Balmoral Hall plays in the same league as the Boston Shamrocks,” she noted. “So the level of the play was the same, but I think it’s going to be a better experience on the east coast. There are way more schools and (opportunity for) exposure there.”
Away from the rink, HodgeHirschfield had a chance to see what Boston has to offer. And it’s quite a bit different than her hometown. “It’s a beautiful city,” she enthused. “The harbor, the garden centre, and Fenway Park, we went there with some of my teammates and (visited) some other places. It’s just so nice (and) it has the old-fashioned looking buildings. Everything is so nice — it’s such a beautiful city.”
The Shamrocks, meanwhile, are preparing for the 2017-18 season with a new Director of Hockey Operations, Canadian Sean Fisher, at the helm of their Under-19 and Under-16 women’s teams. The Kingston, Ont., product was previously an assistant head coach for the University of Manitoba Bison women’s hockey program. “I feel that Sean’s going to be a really good coach,” Hodge-Hirschfi eld predicted. “He has already gotten a lot of exposure for me so far and I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me. I really think it’s going to be a good year and he’s going to push us … to our limits as much as he can to get us to the next level. “Because he coached the Bisons, he knows a lot of CIS coaches so it’s better than having all American coaches that really don’t know a whole lot about the CIS.”
The Shamrocks’ goal is to get their players ready to play university hockey in either Canada or the U.S. And that’s the goal for Hodge-Hirschfield. “Even if I don’t (get) a Division I scholarship, I would still be pleased with myself playing CIS hockey,” she said.