Since the inception of the Minnesota Whitecaps, some of its most notable players spent their collegiate seasons with the WCHA’s Golden Gophers program. Among them were the Brodt sisters, Chelsea and Winny, key contributors to the club’s early mythology, highlighted by their historic run towards the 2010 Clarkson Cup title.
Part of that 2010 roster included a proud alumnus of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, one of the Golden Gophers biggest rivals. Of note, Potter is the only American woman in hockey history to have won Winter Games gold, IIHF World Gold and the coveted Cup.
Continuing the proud Bullodgs tradition for a new generation of the Whitecaps is Kacy Ambroz. Donning number 11 for the Whitecaps, Ambroz grew up in a prominent hockey family in New Prague, Minnesota. Starring at the high school level, capturing All-State Honorable Mention all four years, she graduated to the Bulldogs, skating for the program from 2008-12, while setting a new program record by playing in 141 straight games, establishing herself as the Bulldogs’ Iron Woman.
Just a few days following the Whitecaps historic win in 2010, Ambroz also contributed to another proud achievement in Minnesota hockey. Of note, Ambroz enjoyed an NCAA Frozen Four title, one that saw Jessica Wong score the overtime winner against an upstart Cornell Big Red squad.
During her years with the Bulldogs, Ambroz enjoyed the opportunity to play for one of the most accomplished coaches in the modern history of women’s hockey. Having coached the Canadian national team at the inaugural women’s ice hockey tournament at the Winter Games (Nagano 1998), head coach Shannon Miller transformed the Bulldogs into the first dynasty in NCAA women’s hockey.
Earning the honor of serving as one of the Bullodgs’ captains in her senior season, Ambroz reflects proudly on the opportunity of having sharpened her skills and seen her game excel under the tutelage of Miller. Her influence is one that made Ambroz an in-demand summer camp head coach, along assisting multiple teams at the youth AAA and high school level.
Complemented by the 2010 national championship, along with a Swiss League championship that she won during a brief European pro career that saw her suit up with teams in Prague, Czech Republic and Lugano, Switzerland, they are accomplishments that shall supply her with a myriad of cherished memories, bringing the attitude of a winner to a dynamic Whitecaps squad,
“Coach Miller held high expectations for every one of her athletes. She was a very motivating coach and always prepared us for every battle.
Winning a national championship was one of the best days of my life. That was a very special year and a very special group of girls. I am so thankful to have those memories forever.”
With programs having won five NCAA Frozen Four women’s titles each, the rivalry between the two is one of the most prominent in collegiate hockey. Both part of the WCHA conference, they are consistently among the elite teams, always in the conversation for a national championship. For Ambroz, the chance to continue her playing career with the Whitecaps has also involved like to calling former rivals from the Golden Gophers as teammates, representing a unique chapter in her storied career in the State of Hockey.
“I played with many of these college rivals growing up, so it has been really nice to reconnect. It has also been awesome getting to know some people that I have only played against in the past and see what they are like off the ice.”
Adding to a modest sense of irony is the fact that the Whitecaps home rink is Ridder Arena, the home of the Golden Gophers. As a side note, it was also a rink that her brother Seth called home for four years before embarking on a pro career with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. An older brother, Matt, played with the Alaska Aces.
While Ambroz may not have foreseen a future where Ridder would actually be her home ice, the chance to go on the road and play other WCHA teams is a powerful connection to her formative years while enjoying a future where professional women’s ice hockey in Minnesota is no longer a dream, but a serious reality.
“It is really fun to go back to WCHA arenas. Every arena brings back different feelings and memories.”
Currently balancing playing and instructing (primarily with AP Awesome Hockey) with a career as a certified strength and conditioning coach, the site of Kacy Ambroz back on ice in her home state is one of the true feel-good stories for the Whitecaps in 2015-16. As hockey has represented an essential aspect throughout the years, representing a pivotal connection to her earliest roots in the rink, coalescing with the hopes of a more prosperous future for the female game, Ambroz is part of an exciting group of elite hockey players on the Whitecaps. Helping provide empowering opportunities for women to keep gracing the ice, these realities intertwine, resulting in an illuminating experience for Ambroz, proud to call herself a Whitecap,
“I have enjoyed being around great women and playing fast-paced hockey again. It's fun to play with former rivals and woman who have coached me in the past. Another huge bonus is the idea of giving back to women's hockey.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Bulldogs image obtained from Twitter: @APawesomeHockey
Whitecaps head shot obtained from: www.mnwhitecaps.com