(photo: Columbus Cottonmouths)
The Columbus Cottonmouths, part of the South Professional Hockey League (SPHL) announced Friday morning that they will start goaltender and two-time Olympic gold medalist Shannon Szabados in Saturday’s matchup against the Knoxville Ice Bears at the Columbus Civic Center.
The 27-year-old won a gold medal as a member of the Canadian women’s hockey team in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia last month.
Szabados was the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League and becomes the first in the Southern Professional Hockey League’s ten year history. She played college hockey at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology with current Cottonmouths players Jordan Draper, Andy Willigar and Kyle Johnson.
“Shannon has looked phenomenal in practice in her short time with us. She hasn’t missed a beat since the Olympics wrapped three weeks ago,” said assistant head coach Brad Prefontaine. “We would love to see a full arena to support our newest Snake as she makes her professional debut.”
The goaltender arrived at Columbus headquarters on Wednesday and signed a contract with the Cottonmouths on Thursday. Later that day, she took in a short practice, but did not play in the Snakes’ 5-0 loss to Pensacola on Thursday night.
In the Olympic final, Szabados made 27 saves in Canada’s 3-2 overtime victory over the United States. She also posted a 28-save shutout over the Americans in the 2010 Olympic final.
Szabados also made headlines last week when she stepped in at practice for the Edmonton Oilers while the NHL team waited for Viktor Fasth to arrive after a trade with Anaheim.
Her practice with the Oilers was her first time on ice since the gold-medal match on Feb. 20.
Szabados joins a short list of female hockey stars who have laced up their skates with men’s professional teams. Most notably, Manon Rheaume, becoming the only woman to appear in an NHL exhibition game with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. Noora Raty also just announced that she has joined a team in the Finnish Elite League.