Ready for Takeoff

Annelies Bergmann becomes first woman to play in a USA Hockey Tier I or II junior game
By: 
Greg Bates

Annelies Bergmann was greeted by a mob of young hockey players waiting to catch a glimpse of their newfound hero when she stepped out of the locker room inside Janesville Ice Arena.

Bergmann—still in her full goalie attire—tried to weave through traffic to meet media obligations. The 17-year-old was stopped for photos and autographs while being congratulated for just making history.

Bergmann was fresh off the ice after starting in goal for the Janesville Jets Tier II junior hockey team in which she became the first female to ever play in a USA Hockey Tier I or II junior game. 

“It’s incredible,” Bergmann said. “This is what I’ve really been dreaming about since I was little. To go out there and be able to do this, (is) just indescribable.” 

The magnitude of the moment wasn’t too big for the teenager. She embraced her shot at cementing her legacy in the annals of hockey. 

Bergmann didn’t just play in the Jets’ game against the Springfield (Ill.) Jr. Blues in a North American Hockey League showdown on April 7, she held her own.

She allowed two short-handed goals in the opening period and then settled in. However, Bergmann and the Jets fell 2-1 in front of a standing-room-only crowd. 

“It’s tough to even talk about the magnitude of it. I don’t think you realize how big it is for the sport of hockey,” Joe Dibble, Jets head coach/general manager said. “With Annelies coming in, it definitely [showed]—especially after her performance tonight—if you’re capable, and you earn it, and you put the time in, and you get that opportunity, then you run with it. That’s what she did. It’s pretty special for her and the Jets and for our community to see the performance she put out there.” 

Bergmann’s teammates were excited to be on the ice to be part of the historic event. Once the puck dropped, the Jets were just playing another game. 

“You don’t even think about whether we have a girl or boy in net, we just knew we had a good goalie in net,” Jets captain Jimmy Doyle said. “Honestly, just feel bad we couldn’t get the W for her, because she deserved it. She really showcased herself in a really positive way. 

“We were excited to play for her. It was obviously a cool opportunity just for the game of hockey. It was tough, we had two mistakes by us leaving her out to dry. Other than those two breakaways we gave up, she played phenomenal and gave us a chance to win that game, so all credit to her.”

After the hoopla of getting announced as the starting goaltender and the ensuing roar of the amped crowd, Bergmann treated it like any other game. 

However, it wasn’t just another game. 

“Obviously, I knew it was something bigger than myself,” Bergmann said. “It felt like I was accomplishing something great. But I would say it was just a hockey game out there and I wasn’t a girl on the ice—I was just another hockey goalie.” 

The stands were filled with young onlookers aspiring to grow up just like Bergmann. 

“I took it all in when I was going out there,” Bergmann said. “Once the puck dropped, I focused in. But going out there, I just looked around and it was incredible.” 

Bergmann stopped all 15 shots she faced in the final two periods. In total, she stopped all 22 shots she saw at even strength in the game.

That glaring statistic speaks volumes to Bergmann’s evening.

“It says all you need to say,” Jets backup goalie Selby Warren said. “The fact that she kept us in that game, especially after going down two early, she made a couple big saves, especially in the second period—one or two on tight breakaways. Even though we ended up on the losing side, she kept us in it the whole way and gave us a chance to win, which especially surrounding today and all the pressure and everything on her, it speaks to her abilities and just the athlete that she is.” 

Bergmann feels there were a couple reasons she played so well during 5-on-5 action.

“My speed allows me to do this, that’s always been one of my strengths,” said Bergmann. “I’m not as big as some of the guys out there, but I’m pretty big for a girl, and so to be able to just stop 22 out of the 24 is pretty good.”

Bergmann will play collegiately at Cornell this fall and she recently was one of 24 American goaltenders invited to the 2023 USA Hockey National Goaltending Camp last month. 

 

‘Just one of the guys’

Prior to Bergmann’s regular-season appearance with the Jets, she had had a busy season on the ice.

The Detroit native played for the Oakland Grizzlies 18U boys’ team where she posted a record of 16-9 with a goals-against average of 2.08 and a .945 save percentage.

Bergmann also represented Team USA in the International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship in January. The U.S. took home hardware as Bergmann—who had a .932 save percentage in the tournament—notched a shutout in the bronze-medal game.

Bergmann’s one game in net for the Jets wasn’t an isolated case. In July 2022, she competed in the Jets’ main camp and battled about 20 goalies. She was one of four netminders that made the camp’s all-star game, and she earned an affiliate tag with the Jets. 

After competing for her U18 team this season, Bergmann found out she would be making her juniors debut one week prior to the game. She flew to Wisconsin five days before the contest and got in five practices before the main event.

Bergmann was accepted by the team immediately upon arrival.

“She fit right in,” Warren said. “Right when she got here Sunday night, we had yoga Monday morning, and right off the bat she was interacting, cracking jokes. Just one of the guys in the room. We treated her no differently than anyone else, and she made that very easy.”

Dibble was impressed all week with how Bergmann handled herself on and off the ice. 

“When we picked her up at the airport, just the type of athlete and human being she is, that was the most impressive part,” Dibble said. “There was no timidness. There was no nerves and things like that. It was just another day for her. I told the guys after the game, she’s taught every one of us something here in regards to if you put your mindset to something and you put the work in, it’s pretty special how it happened.” 

To get the opportunity to be part of the gender-altering moment in hockey is something that Doyle doesn’t take lightly. He gives a lot of credit to Bergmann as a trailblazer in the sport.

“It’s really an inspirational thing that she’s doing, and I think that’s her motivation that she wants to inspire other girls,” Doyle said. “That’s awesome just breaking that gender barrier. She deserves it.” 

For all the young players in the crowd and those who waited for her outside the locker room following the game, Bergmann hopes they took away some valuable lessons from the historic game.

“Boundaries will continue to get broken,” Bergmann concluded. “If you’re good enough, you can do it. You’ve just got to work as hard, or harder, and you can accomplish anything.”

Issue: 
2023-06

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