Maple Ridge goalie is New Hampshire bound
It’s a long way from Maple Ridge to Durham, New Hampshire, and no one knows that better than Jennifer Gilligan.
The 17-year-old goaltender recently signed a lucrative full-ride scholarship to play for the NCAA Division I University of New Hampshire Wildcats.
“I’m pretty excited,” she says. “NCAA scouts don’t look to B.C. for girls, so I feel pretty special.”
Gilligan’s journey to the East Coast had a pit stop in Kitchener, Ont., where she moved last year to play for the Kitchener-Waterloo Rangers of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.
The move has been critical to her development as a player, she says.
“My fitness level is up, my focus is up. I’ve had to work a lot harder to get that edge,” she says.
The skill level has also taken some getting used to.
“I reached an age where I was playing at the highest level in B.C., and I thought I was the best,” she says. “My ego was the size of Russia! But you can’t let it get to your head. There are hundreds of girls who are just as good or better, so you have to try your hardest if you want to be competitive with them.”
Prior to moving to Ontario, Gilligan played for the Pacific Steelers, B.C.’s only elite junior girls’ team. As a result, the team has to travel to tournaments out of province for the majority of their games.
“I was getting maybe 15 games in a season,” says Gilligan.
The PWHL features 19 teams all within a few hours drive of each other, and Gilligan is playing twice the amount of games she played last year as result.
In 25 games with the Rangers so far this season, Gilligan compiled a record of 13 wins, eight losses and two ties, with a 1.96 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.
“I think B.C. is really missing that one league,” she says. “I think if we could get something like the PWHL in B.C., it would be great for girls who want to play competitively.
Gilligan will be joining an illustrious hockey program at UNH. The Wildcats are the winningest women’s hockey team in NCAA history, and the school was one of the first schools to offer sports scholarships for women’s hockey.
Jamie Wood is the Wildcats co-coach, and personally scouted Gilligan as the team’s next starting goaltender.
“We had her rated as the top goalie in her age group in Canada,” he says. “She’s had success with every team she’s played with, but she’s also a really nice person.
“We think she’s a great fit.”
Although Gilligan had initially made a verbal commitment to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, she says she jumped at the chance to become a Wildcat after touring the UNH campus.
The campus is located a little more than hour from Boston, and Wildcats hockey
“I fell in love with the campus right away,” she says. “I was a little bit intimidated going to a school with a huge campus, but UNH is perfect.”