Brooke Loranger could not have asked for a better Christmas gift.
The 16-year-old, Grade 11 student at Ridley College found out about a week before Christmas she had been accepted to play hockey on a full scholarship at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
Loranger is thrilled with the opportunity to tend goal at a NCAA Division 1 school.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m really lucky and so happy to have this opportunity. It’s obviously something that I’ve dreamt about, and a lot of other girls have too.
“It’s an amazing feeling to finally get there and have that accomplishment.”
Loranger says she started playing hockey when she was five. She was living in Edmonton, and with an older brother who is also a goalie, thought it was something she’d like to try.
“We’ve always been a big hockey family,” she says.
The family moved to a home on Lakeshore Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake when she was 11, and she wanted to continue playing hockey, but her only choice was on a boys’ team with the NOTL Minor Hockey League. She was in the peewee BB division, “and I was the only girl. There might have been one or two on other teams, but on mine, there were no other girls, just me,” she says.
She played in NOTL for two years, development years for her, she says. “I loved it, loved playing on the team. It was a lot of fun, and a really great experience.”
But she was becoming a more competitive player, and girls on boys’ teams don’t get scouted. If she wanted to get better, she knew she had to move on.
Her second year playing for NOTL was a “very busy year” for her, she says. She also tended goal for the Brock Badgers women’s team, playing up an age category at the bantam level. She had attended Ridley since she arrived in NOTL, and that year also traveled with the school’s girls’ hockey team to the U.S., playing her first game with them.
“I was sort of bouncing around that year, with three different teams. I was pretty much playing hockey seven days a week.”
Ridley, she says, has “a really amazing girls’ hockey program,” and that is where she has played since.
“Brooke is a dedicated student-athlete who began with the Prep Girls Hockey program at Ridley in Grade 7,” said Jason Barron, head of goalie development at Ridley. “She has shown great growth both on and off of the ice during that time and has become a leader within our program and the Ridley school community.
“Brooke is a student-athlete who takes great pride in her work and that is something that I am confident will continue during her time at Holy Cross. Brooke is a competitor who leaves no stone unturned in her development,” he said. “She is always looking for ways to continue to grow her game. That competitive nature is something that has always been instinctive for her from a young age.”
Loranger feels her time at Ridley has been a key component in her development.
“I think it’s helped tremendously. It’s the largest reason I am where I am now with my coaches, they’ve been a really big part of that, being so supportive and helpful,” she said. “They really push you to be your best constantly. I really owe a lot of thanks to Amanda (Wark) and Celeste (Doucet). I really don’t think I would be where I am if they hadn’t given me the chance to play on their team.”
She will begin attending the Massachusetts school in the fall of 2022.
“It was actually a really big stress relief off my shoulders,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for that opportunity for such a long time, since I started at Ridley. It’s been a long trek, but I’m glad I finally got there.”
Holy Cross was high on her list, after visiting a friend there a couple of years ago.
“It was a really gorgeous campus. My friend had such amazing things to say about the school’s academics, and really good things to say about their women’s team and that their program was heading in an amazing direction with the new coaches they have there now.
“It was a mixture of things. Since the classes are so small, you get to know your professors really well which helps with academics and the connections you make are really helpful beyond school.”
Loranger, who plans to major in business management, is looking forward to the challenge of playing at the NCAA level.
“The hockey is going to be really great. I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for the team, and for me to prove myself once I get there,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a really big transition, but I think if you really keep working hard and really try to project further and aim higher, you are somewhat prepared for it, and it won’t be a big shock.”
Meanwhile, she is doing her best to keep as active as possible during the lockdown.
“I’m working out a couple of times a day trying to keep active and be prepared for when we finally do go back,” she said. “It’s definitely hard. It’s been your life, it’s all you do for such a long time and then for it just to be taken away so quickly, it has been difficult. It’s an outlet for myself and a lot of other people to let go of some stress and just have a little bit of fun and take your mind away from school and everything else.”
Bill Potrecz spent 32 years as a sportswriter for Niagara dailies, covering almost every sport imaginable from high school, to junior hockey, to a World Series and Stanley Cup final. By his estimation he has covered more than 1,500 junior hockey games. He now provides regional sports coverage through BP Sports Niagara.