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‘The girls here in Montreal helped me love the game again’: The fall and rise of Emerance Maschmeyer

After a tough year, Les Canadiennes’ goaltender is looking ahead.

Shanna Martin / CWHL

To understand where Emerance Maschmeyer is now, you need to know where she came from. And I’m not talking about the small town of Bruderheim, a town of just over 1,350 people that Maschmeyer calls “the middle of nowhere in Alberta,” where she had ice time on her outdoor rink.

I’m talking about all of the ups and downs that come with a hockey career at the top level. And while it feels weird to say that about someone who only turned 24 about two months ago, Maschmeyer has dealt with some of the highs and some of the lows that most players never face.

It was in May of 2017 that Maschmeyer found out that she wasn’t named to Canada’s centralization roster for the 2018 Olympics. She had represented Canada at the three previous World Championships, and was considered to be a favourite to win a spot. By August, she was officially a member of Les Canadiennes after Charline Labonté, who probably knew she was retiring, told her to come to Montreal. To get away from Calgary, where the National Team would be centralized.

At the time Maschmeyer didn’t know what to expect, or how long she would stay with the team.

“I think at that point, I just felt like everything was kind of all over the map,” Maschmeyer said. “My life felt a little bit scrambly and I didn’t really know where I would be the next week. And so it was ‘take it one week at a time, one year at a time,’ and not look too far ahead.”

It set off a year that would take her from Montreal to Quebec City, Tampa, and yes, back to Calgary. The road wasn’t always easy.

“It was tough for a bit after getting cut, just wanting to play, and they made it a lot easier to come to the rink and enjoy practicing and playing games,” Maschmeyer said about wanting to play hockey. “It was tough.”

“I think the girls here in Montreal helped me love the game again.”

Maschmeyer wasn’t able to get settled. Shannon Szabados was dealing with injuries throughout the lead-up to the Olympics, so Hockey Canada called Maschmeyer, and the other alternate, Erica Howe, to various trips to be the emergency goaltender. She ended up being the third goaltender in Quebec and in Tampa, and spent a lot of time in Calgary, practising with the team she had dreamt of playing for.

“It was tough to go back and forth and [have it] be a bit of a tease every time I’d go and join Team Canada,” she said. “But I knew that there were possibilities of injuries and different scenarios there. So I had to make sure that I was at the top of my game just in case I got the call, and you kind of stay hopeful, but at the same time just focus on what needs to be done at that moment and move forward every day.”

While she was trying to stay focused, it wasn’t always easy. Getting accustomed to a new team and a new city, while also travelling and having an eye on Team Canada wasn’t always possible.

“Honestly, I [wasn’t always really settled]. It’s kind of a whirlwind last year. When I was in the moment, it was just happening,” Maschmeyer said. “And I was kind of figuring it out as I went and focusing on being here when I was here. And then whenever I was with Team Canada in Calgary, or Tampa, or wherever I may have been, just focusing on doing my job there. And so now looking back, I’m like, no I wasn’t settled at all last year. And I feel the difference now that I’ve been with this team and in Montreal permanently.”

Maschmeyer’s play shows that. She’s been very solid all season, as evidenced by her 1.35 GAA (second in the CWHL) and .939 save percentage (also second). She had three shutouts in a row at one point. Her three shutouts and nine starts lead the league.

It’s not that she was bad last year by any means, with a 1.78 GAA and .920 save percentage, but it is even more impressive given that all the Olympians are back in the league this year.

When Team Canada opened up the 4 Nations Cup in Saskatoon earlier this month, Maschmeyer was on the bench while watching Szabados play Sweden. The day before, she found out that she would be starting against Finland a few days later in the tournament’s final round-robin game.

Maschmeyer had a history playing against Finland.

On April 1, 2017, she got the start against them in the round robin of the World Championship. That start lasted 27:19. She allowed three goals on 11 shots and was pulled. and Canada ended up losing the game 4-3. She didn’t play another game for Canada. She wasn’t even dressed as the backup. It was the last tournament before the centralization roster was named.

“It’s been almost two years since the game against Finland, but it’s one that sticks out in my mind pretty clearly, and it’s one that’s hard to forget,” she said. “But I think that game and all the experience that I had last year helped me evolve as a person, as a player, and learning how to work through that adversity, but not being so focused on it that it’s detrimental to my game.

“So going into this tournament, I obviously knew there’s three other teams that we can play. And one of them is Finland. And I was excited about that. It’s kind of my moment to redeem myself, and I keep saying that, but it really was. And so when they told me I was playing Finland, I was like, ‘Yeah, I got this’. I didn’t feel nervous about it. But I just wanted to play. I found out the day before the tournament; I still had to wait three days to play them. When I went into the game, I felt comfortable with all the work that I put in, whether that was on the ice or off the ice or mentally and I felt ready.”

And ready she was. She made 14 saves in a 3-0 shutout victory.

This year starts a new Olympic cycle, and the sights are now set on 2022. Maschmeyer, only 24, didn’t only have one Olympic Games on her radar. She had to refocus, and now she begins the Olympiad with a different mindset.

“At first, it was extremely hard to grasp. That date — 2018 — was engraved in my brain. And so to get over that, it was hard. But now that we’re months past the Olympics, I’m looking forward. I’m looking forward to the next four years, and the Olympics, but I’m also just trying to live in the moment and play in the moment and enjoy the tournaments and camps and all that in between. Because sometimes when you’re looking too far ahead, you miss those moments, and those are special ones, too.

“I think I just have a different perspective on it now, where I’ve felt the worst pain of getting cut. And so now whenever I go into a camp or a tournament, I don’t have to worry about wondering what that feels like. I already know. So I go in and see the opportunity rather than the bad things that could happen.”

The first time Maschmeyer burst onto the international stage was the 2016 World Championship in Kamloops, British Columbia. She got the start for Canada against the United States in the Gold Medal Game over veteran Labonté. That tournament was the start of the relationship that brought Maschmeyer to Montreal.

Shanna Martin / Eyes On The Prize

“It’s a very memorable tournament for me. First and foremost being in Canada and that Kamloops rink was where my brother [Bronson] used to play, so I already had good memories of that rink. And we won my first 4 Nations that I played there. So that tournament, already going into it, I was so excited just being in Canada and having that atmosphere again.”

The gold medal game was 0-0 going into overtime with some of the best scorers in the world stymied by Maschmeyer and Team USA’s Alex Rigsby.

“The goalies stole the show that game,” said Canadiennes and USA forward Hilary Knight. “We were just happy to be there.”

Eventually Alex Carpenter scored the winner for Team USA to win the game 1-0.

“It was a tight game, very tight game,” said Maschmeyer. “It came down to one bouncy goal. And that’s kind of the way that our games against the US seem to go.”

“It was a big moment for me. It’s something that I was working towards for a very long time and getting that Gold Medal Game at home.... It’s a very significant moment, even though we lost I think a lot of great things came out of it.”

Maschmeyer is the fourth of five siblings and they all played hockey. She started playing hockey at three years old and was a forward when she first started playing in leagues.

“I remember I played a game at novice with just shin pads and player gear and I was in net and I told my parents after the game that I wanted to be a goalie, and so that Christmas I got goalie equipment and at that age, I thought, ‘Okay, well, I have the equipment I guess I’m a goalie now.’ I didn’t even think there’s another option.”

To think that she would become one of the best in the world wouldn’t have dawned on anyone at first.

“I was awful at first. I think I had my pads on backwards and it was ugly, but I turned it around quickly,” she said. “I got a goalie coach at a young age, so seven years old, and that helped a lot and I started to love the game as soon as I met up with him, and I didn’t really look back.”

Four of the five Maschmeyer siblings have played professionally. Two of her brothers are playing or played hockey in Germany, and her sister Brittaney, played one year in Switzerland and briefly in the CWHL.

“I never really thought about it growing up, but now looking back she was a huge role model and had a huge impact in the choices that I made growing up, whether that was playing hockey at age three, or going to the NCAA because she went to the NCAA, but I think as a kid I never really saw the gender thing,” Maschmeyer said about her sister. “My brothers never really saw me as a girl. You know, they put me in net and took slapshots, it didn’t matter. And even to this day, my siblings are one of the biggest reasons, alongside my parents, to why I’m at the level I’m at. They continue to support me and after every game we all have the family texts, and we send each other texts after each other’s hockey games. And you just feel the love and support no matter where we are around the world.”

A hockey playing family from a small town an hour Northeast of Edmonton produced a pack of travelling hockey players, and the Karol Maschmeyer Arena in their hometown is named after the matriarch. Bruderheim is also known for being the site of the largest meteorite fall in Canadian history. And while Maschmeyer may have felt the fall, her star is back on the rise.