Amelia’s journey to the top

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by Robert Matheson
Special to the North Grenville Times

Who knew, when Amelia Van Vliet first strapped on the goalie pads for the Kemptville Storm, that she was embarking on a hockey journey that one day may lead to a coroner’s office?

Photo: Courtesy of Syracuse University Athletics

Since leaving Kemptville in pursuit of better competition, Amelia’s journey has taken her across Ontario and now to upstate New York. She is starting her sophomore season at Syracuse University, where she is one of three goaltenders on the women’s hockey team. Amelia had scholarship offers from other U.S. universities, but Syracuse allowed her to pursue her post-hockey professional aspirations.

“I really want to go to med school. I was always really interested in doing forensics. I know a lot of the other small schools don’t have forensics. So I was very lucky that Syracuse does,” Amelia said this past summer. “I want to be a coroner. Anatomy is so cool! When you watch Forensic Files or other crime shows and see the science of it – it’s fascinating to me.”

Amelia is majoring in biology and forensics science and her first year in the classroom was extremely successful. She was one of 11 Syracuse players named All-American Scholars by the American Hockey Coaches Association for carrying a 3.8 grade point average during both semesters, proving that a doctor’s lab coat is in her future.

For now, Amelia has hockey goals she wants to pursue. She wants to play more this season after only getting into four regular season games as a rookie. Before going to Syracuse, Amelia spent three seasons in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League and she always split time evenly with her goaltending partners, so last year was difficult.

When she did hit the ice for Syracuse last year, Amelia performed well. She was named College Hockey America’s Rookie of the Week last February after going 2-0 with a shutout in a pair of games. Syracuse’s head coach, Paul Flanagan, expects Amelia to fight for more playing time during the upcoming 32-game schedule.

“We expect Amelia to continue trending upward with her play and make our game-day decisions regarding who is starting – difficult decisions,” he said.

No matter what happens on her hockey journey, Amelia can count on the support of her family. Her parents, Larry and Catherine, have been with her every step of the way. Her father chauffeured her to her workouts and ice time this summer. During her seasons in the PWHL, Larry and Catherine travelled everywhere to watch her play. Amelia appreciates the support. It played a role in her choosing Syracuse instead of somewhere like the University of Wisconsin. The former Holy Cross student turned down a scholarship offer from that school because she did not want her parents making 15-hour road trips regularly.

“I wanted to be close to the place where I first strapped on the goalie pads and played for the Kemptville Storm and the Panthers,” she said. “And above all else, I wanted to be close to my greatest supporters – my family. My dad and my mom have dropped everything to help me to pursue my hockey career. Letting me move away from home, coming to watch me play, them driving that far. My dad helping me design my pads, coming on the ice with me, driving me to workouts in Manotick every single day. They have sacrificed a lot.”

While her parents’ support has been unwavering in recent years, it didn’t exactly start that way. Larry, who is a goaltender too, was concerned when Amelia first donned the pads for Kemptville.

“We were trying to dissuade her from it,” admitted Larry, who played a bit at McGill University. “It’s a unique position and is not for everybody. You are on your own little island. But she has taken it and run with it. She is certainly a better goalie than I am.”

From playing with the Storm, she joined the boys on the Kemptville Panthers. Then she played higher level girls’ hockey for the Rideau St. Lawrence Thunder, Nepean Wildcats, Toronto Aeros, and Kingston Ice Wolves. Each step of the journey was done to seek better competition and to improve. It worked, because not only did Syracuse offer her a scholarship, so did 12 other programs. Ultimately, she knew her parents would follow her on the road, so the Syracuse offer was very attractive.

“It is comforting to know that I am so close to the border and home,” she added. “Since both my parents played huge roles in helping me achieve this milestone, it is nice that they can be close to me at games and scholastic events.”

Larry and Catherine look forward to that opportunity. They plan to follow Amelia’s journey in the crease and the classroom, wherever it may lead.

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