Golden Homecoming for Maryland’s Haley Skarupa

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Haley Skarupa/ Photo by Jen Conway (@NHLHistorygirl)

The US Women’s National Team has been on a non-stop media tour since winning the country’s first gold medal in 20 years. For defender Haley Skarupa, she says that it started to hit her of this accomplishment on the flight back to the US.

“I was thinking about it from our flight back from Korea,” Skarupa remembered during media availability Saturday night in Annapolis. “It was the first time it started to sink in that, ‘Wow, we’re going back to the United States bringing our country a gold medal.’ You can’t put words to that experience. You’re kinda going non-stop, but it’s good.”

The Rockville, Maryland native played in all five games for the US, though she did not register a point during the tournament, helped the defense for the US keep a co-tournament low of five goals against during the Olympics. Saturday night at the NHL Stadium Series game in Annapolis was a sort of homecoming for Skarupa, who was a Capitals fan when she was growing up.

“It’s awesome to come back here,” said Skarupa. “I was going to come back and watch this game regardless with my family and friends, but it’s awesome to come back here with my teammates and bring home a gold medal and show it to my family and friends.”

One of the last moments of the celebration of the gold medal was the fact that two flags were on the ice were the USA flag and the flag of Maryland. It was brought on the ice by Skarupa’s former teammates from the Washington Pride.

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Kelly Sherman, Haley Skarupa, and Kat Mackey/ Photo by Kush Sidhu

“Two of my best friends (Kelly Sherman and Kat Mackey) literally flew in the day before the game,” Skarupa said. “I didn’t know they brought the flag– it was so dang cool to see that. I brought it down, took a picture with it and it was so crazy to bring a piece of home out there with me. I love the flag it’s great. It’s so much cooler than all the other ones.”

While Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic is without a professional women’s team, the game has been growing in the girls’ ranks. Ranging from U12 to U19, the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (AKA the DMV) area has been starting to grow with the influx of girls picking up the sport– something that may rise from the USA winning gold.

“The sport has come a long way in this area,” explained Skarupa. “It used to be you play boys’ hockey until you’re in high school. Nowadays, there’s so many girls’ teams in the area. At the clinic, there was over 200 girls register from the DMV area. It’s awesome and really exciting. To see how far it’s come since I’ve been playing has been really incredible.”

Despite not playing on a girls’ team until she was in her teens, Skarupa relished the challenge of playing on the boys’ roster. It’s something she said that was fairly invaluable to her development to where she is today.

“I loved playing against the boys,” remember Skarupa. “They challenge you, they’re aggressive, and they’re ruthless. I played until I was 12 against the boys and then my brother and his friends out in the driveway. Getting beat up by the boys really helps you in the long run. Getting to prove the boys wrong is a good feelings.”

The Rockville native doesn’t forget her roots. She said she had numerous people coming up to here this week from people who went to pre-school with her to old teachers from Wooten High School. She also credits former Capital Jeff Halpern (and to an extent his Astro Donuts store) for helping her on her way to development.

“Jeff Halpern helped me throughout my career,” mentioned Skarupa. “We both skated through the same power-skating coach, Wendy Marco and Cold Rush and he became a coach there. Skating with him helped push me, too. He’s a great role model for this area with his success and how he gives back to the community.”

While she is riding high now, Skarupa is also taking the future into account with a clearer head. She said that she’s taking it one day at a time and while there’s not a team there and Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis hasn’t talked to her about one coming through– she believes the area should be rewarded with a professional team sooner rather than later.

“In the future, women’s pro hockey should expand to this area,” according to Skarupa. “With all the girls that play here and all the interest, there’s a huge opportunity for women’s hockey in this area.”

On the Topic Of Marylanders in College, Junior, and Pro Hockey

If you have followed along in my life, Maryland is a huge part of it. After living in Glen Burnie for 21 years, obviously there’s a sort of pride there. But recently, I’ve seen an influx of Marylanders getting into the pro hockey ranks, as well as Division I NCAA and Major Juniors. With it being a dormant landscape for hockey, it’s always a fine sight to see a kid from Maryland get noticed on a big stage.

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One of the bigger ones recently has been Nick Ellis of the Bakersfield Condors. The Millersville native was signed by the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent after three years at Providence College where he posted a 30-9-5 record with a 1.90 GAA. Earlier this year, Ellis got AHL Player of the Week honors and has been put into a bigger role for the Edmonton affiliate.

Another player to possible get buzz this year or next is 16-year-old Adam Varga. After playing for the Washington Little Capitals U15 team, Varga took an unorthodox step by jumping to Major Juniors and signing with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL. While there are territorial disputes of who’s a Marylander and who’s not (more on that in a second), but my count he is the fifth Maryland-born player to play in Major Junior after Jeff Brubaker (Hagerstown), Jeremy Duchense (Silver Spring), Charlie Pens (Perryville), and Campbell Elynuik (Silver Spring) to be stated as Marylanders in Major Junior. It’s a big step for hockey in Maryland and how the development is, as most Maryland kids go the NCAA route or even the Division III route for their higher-level hockey.

However, there is a bit of a conflict when dealing with player bios because some players will put somewhere else outside of Maryland, while other sites will post Maryland as their hometown. Elynuik is a perfect example as he is listed on HockeyDB as being from Silver Spring, but Elite Prospects will have him listed as being from Calgary, Alberta. Jarred Tinordi is another example, as he was born in Burnsville, Minnesota; but made his hay in Severna Park, Maryland– playing for Severna Park High School in his first year before going to join the US National Developmental Team. A guy like Michigan State’s Jared Rosburg is a whole other can of worms. Rosburg is listed as being from Clarksville, Maryland, but grew up in Strongsville, Ohio. Since he played for River Hill in Howard County, I’ll chalk Rosburg up to one of Maryland’s own.

(Elynuik, Tinordi, and Duchense bring about another example of guys listed as being from Maryland thanks to their father’s playing with the Washington Capitals when they were born. While Tinordi did play within the area, the others didn’t make that big an impact, especially with Duchense living in Quebec City for the majority of his youth.)

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Rosburg is one of many players who have touched NCAA Division I ice while being listed as a Marylander. The Michigan State defenseman has dealt with injuries, but has been a big presence on the blue-line and has come up with some big goals in his short career. Rosburg is following in the footsteps of Sam Anas, who is recently the most successful Maryland player, as he’s been in the Minnesota Wild organization for two years after a successful NCAA career at Quinnipiac after a solid high school career at the Landon School in Bethesda. Of course, Anas goes in that disputed Maryland/Washington DC zone where both sides want to claim him. Colgate’s Bruce Racine is in the disputed zone of Maryland/DC, as he was born in DC, but went to school in Bethesda at Georgetown Prep. Other NCAA players for the 2017-18 season are Matt McArdle (Annapolis/Lake Superior State), Colin O’Neill (Odenton/UMass-Lowell), Jason O’Neill (Odenton/Providence), and Graham McPhee (Bethesda/Boston College).

In the minor leagues, outside of Ellis and Anas; there are several others playing in the lower minor league ranks. Jack Burton was born in Reisterstown and went to Baltimore-area St. Paul’s school before heading to Colby College and then joining the Indy Fuel last season, where he is today. Another Maryland ECHLer is Nick Sorkin of the Wheeling Nailers, who played for Team Maryland and the Washington Little Caps before going to University of New Hampshire, then to the Nailers. Former Glenelg High School player and Woodbine native Eric Sweetman is in the ECHL, as well, playing in Idaho after four years at St. Lawrence University. Mike Chen played for Team Maryland growing up before heading to Division III at Salem State and is currently rostered on the Knoxville Ice Bears of the SPHL.

Women’s hockey has also grown in Maryland, especially with the likes of Haley Skarupa being from Rockville and playing on the US Women’s National team, as well as in the NWHL with the Connecticut Whale and Boston Pride after four successful seasons at Boston College. Beth Hanrahan of Poolesville played four years at Providence College for four years, being the team’s MVP in her junior and senior season, then playing for the New York Riveters before being name associate coach of Lindenwood University. Finally, Lindsay Berman of Odenton starts her third season as head coach of UMass-Boston’s Women’s team after her years in the CWHL with the Boston Blades, including a Clarkson Cup championship to her resume. Berman went to Arundel High School and played for the Washington Pride to garner attention leading her career at Northeastern University.

I’ve said before about how Maryland and the mid-Atlantic has been underserved as a market, especially with no NCAA program in the state. However, there’s a new wave coming through, especially with Varga in the OHL and young Patrick Giles (Chevy Chase) joining the US National Program; there’s a lot of shoot for in the youth programs in the Maryland (and sure, DC) area, though the high school systems does have a variety of teams. Also, the club hockey scene does have a lot of talent, but still not the top-tier talent other areas have. The area is still in need of more success stories, but I know I didn’t think in a million years there would be this much Maryland content across the NCAA and minor pro landscape as there is today.