PHOTO BY MICHAEL HETZEL
The invitation Hayley Scamurra worked so hard for came earlier this month. The presence of the NWHL’s leading scorer was requested at the 2018 USA Hockey Women’s Winter Training Camp held last week in Plymouth, Mich.
“It was an amazing feeling,” said Scamurra.
When Scamurra stepped on the ice of USA Hockey Arena with more than 40 other elite Americans on Dec. 17, it was a milestone for the Northeastern grad, the Buffalo Beauts organization and the NWHL. This was the first time in the NWHL’s young history that a player whose development has been enhanced over her time in the league received her first invitation to the national program’s senior camp. (The Riveters’ Katie Fitzgerald also took a giant step for the NWHL in May when she participated in USA Hockey’s National Team Goaltending Development Camp).
Of the many players whose progress has soared since joining the league, Scamurra has been Exhibit 1-A. After her senior season at Northeastern ended in March of 2017, Scamurra – drafted tenth overall by Buffalo a year earlier – turned pro and helped the Beauts capture the Isobel Cup. Just in the last year, she was co-MVP (with Kelsey Koelzer) of the All-Star Game in Minnesota, was a member of Team NWHL for its games in Florida against the U.S. Olympic Team, voted the 2017-18 NWHL Rookie of the Year, and honored by the fans as one of the league’s Three Stars of the Season.
To cap off an extraordinary year, Scamurra and fellow USNT camp attendees Emily Pfalzer, Dani Cameranesi, Nicole Hensley, Savannah Harmon and the Beauts will face the equally star-laden Minnesota Whitecaps this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Key Bank Center – the home of the Buffalo Sabres.
Although Scamurra earned the camp invite on her own, she was quick to credit her pro team and the NWHL.
PHOTO BY MATTHEW RANEY
PHOTO BY MICHAEL HETZEL
“Being able to compete after college at a high level in the NWHL has helped me continue to grow as a player,” said Scamurra. “Being with the Beauts, and thanks to all of the support we get from PSE, I’ve been given the resources – like extra ice time – to focus on my skills, improve the different aspects of my game. Getting the opportunity to attend this camp almost two years after college doesn’t happen without the Beauts and NWHL.”
National Team head coach Bob Corkum got an in-person look at Scamurra’s talents and tenacity when he watched a mid-November game between the Beauts and Pride at Warrior Ice Rink in Boston.
Impressed by what he saw in Scamurra and heard from her many advocates in hockey circles, Corkum left a voicemail message asking her to give him a call. Scamurra called Corkum and learned her dream had been realized.
“Shocked,” she said.
Scamurra explained her approach to the possibility of National Team recognition over the last two years.
“It’s something I’d always wanted since college,” she said. “I believed that if I worked hard for the Beauts to help us win games, and continued to do everything I could to keep on improving a player, that’s all I could control. If it was meant to be, it would happen.”
Scamurra laughed when asked if she immediately accepted Corkum’s invitation. She did so with grace and gratitude, thinking of all the friends and respected rivals that have recently represented this country on the biggest stages, and how proud she was to be in their company for at least one week.
But the reality of women’s hockey is that it’s often not as simple as dropping everything and jumping on a plane from Buffalo to Michigan. In the brief time between invitation and opening of camp, Scamurra – while getting in as many extra skates and workouts as possible – had projects to complete. She studies speech pathology at the University of Buffalo.
Her five days at the camp went by in a blur. The hockey was non-stop, with practices and scrimmages every day – sometimes on the same day. Some of the workouts were at the venue’s pro rink, while others were on the larger, Olympic sheet. It was the first time Scamurra had competed on the international-sized surface in years.
“It was tiring, a lot on the body, but it also felt great,” she said.
Her biggest takeaway in the memorable week before Christmas was the generosity of the other players at camp, from the inexperienced ones like herself to the veterans of multiple Olympiads.
“My goal was to soak it all in and enjoy every experience – the breakfasts, the practices and games, the skills sessions, the cool-downs, and everything else – and all of the women made it easier by being welcoming, supportive,” said Scamurra. “They made me feel part of it right from the start, and I felt like I fit in. I could play my game.”
This would be no surprise to anyone who has followed her from the Nichols School in Buffalo to Northeastern to the Beauts. At the 2018 USA Hockey Women’s Winter Training Camp, Hayley Scamurra belonged.