Emma Penner is following in her twin sister’s footsteps.
Avery Penner graduated from Ridley College in 2020, after committing to the University of Prince Edward Island to study kinesiology and play on the women’s hockey team.
Emma graduated from Ridley last year as well, but only recently decided she would also head to the East Coast, committing to Dalhousie University in Halifax, where she will play on the women’s hockey team and major in, you guessed it, kinesiology.
She grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where she attended St. Michael Catholic Elementary School, and participated in a wide variety of sports — lacrosse, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, track and field and cross country.
“It’s such a small town, pretty much everyone you are playing hockey with you are also playing other sports with,” she said. “Not many girls play sports in Niagara-on-the-Lake, so I was constantly playing with the guys.
“They can sometimes be a lot stronger, faster and more competitive, but it gave me a little bit more drive.”
Emma leaned on her sister for advice when making her final decision about her future.
“Avery loves it out there, and I’ve been a few times as well so knew the East Coast was where I wanted to be,” Emma said.
“She went first and got her freshman year out of the way, so she could show me the ropes about what university hockey is like.
“She has nothing but great things to say about her program and what it’s like to be on the East Coast. It made the decision a lot easier for me.”
Emma did her due diligence as she sorted her way through various schools.
“I reached out to a number of schools in the last three years,” she said. “In September, I contacted the coach at Dalhousie and got the ball rolling. We had a few meetings and instantly I knew that’s where I wanted to go.
“I’m so excited. I’ve known for a while now that I’ve wanted to go away for school and play hockey at the next level, so Dalhousie was an easy choice for me.”
Dalhousie Tigers women’s hockey head coach, Troy Ryan, is excited to have the 18-year-old forward on board.
“She was highly recommended from her coach at Ridley, and I have been very impressed with her professionalism, values and character throughout the recruiting process,” Ryan said in a story posted on the school’s web site. “Emma wants to win, and is eager to get started.”
Ridley coach Amanda Wark feels Penner will excel at the next level.
“Emma is a talented player with great leadership skills, and a willingness to compete that is second to none. She will continue to grow and develop in a great program surrounded by premier coaches,” Wark said.
“We will miss Emma on campus and on our team. She has left her footprint on our program, and made our team better. That’s exactly what we were looking for, and all we can ask for.”
Penner, who earned the most improved player award at Ridley College for her efforts in the 2019-20 season, attended Holy Cross Secondary School for two years before switching to Ridley in Grade 11.
“It’s an amazing program. I would not have the opportunities I have today were it not for Ridley,” she said.
Penner is taking post-graduate courses at Ridley this year, and working out with the hockey team in lieu of games due to the pandemic.
“I’ve just kept a positive mindset,” she said. “I was looking to play this year, but we’re still fortunate at Ridley to be able to practise and train everyday with the team, because I know most teams aren’t doing that. I’m pretty lucky.”
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.