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Lucy Phillips said she tries to model her goaltending style after NHL greats Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury.
But a real-life connection with Canadian women’s hockey goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens has had an even greater influence on the 16-year-old’s hockey journey.
Phillips, a star goalie with the Station Six Fire of the Maritime Major Female Under-18 Hockey League, met Desbiens in Moncton after a Rivalry Series game against the United States in December 2019.
The goalie from La Malbaie, Que., made 19 saves that night in a 2-1 loss to the arch-rival Americans but made time to chat with Phillips after being introduced by goalie coach Joe Johnson. Johnson works with Phillips and is also a goaltending coach with Hockey Canada.
Not only did Phillips get to meet the Canadian star netminder, but she left Moncton with her game-worn pads.
“Joe was telling me about this awesome girl he works with and how hard she works,” said Desbiens. “He knows I try to find kids who need gear once I get my new stuff. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to pay for my equipment.”
After meeting Phillips, Desbiens knew her equipment had found a good home.
“Once I met her, I realized how truly awesome she is and how she loves hockey and how dedicated she is. I was pretty shocked at how mature she was for her age and how she knew what she wanted.”
Phillips is grateful to have a national team player as a sounding board when she needs advice or a little push.
“She’s an awesome person. Ann-Renee has helped me out quite a bit,” said Phillips. “She’s helped me out with many things this past year. She gave me her pads and has sent me sticks and skates. Those are the pads I’m wearing now.
“She’s always there when I need her.”
Once I met her, I realized how truly awesome she is and how she loves hockey and how dedicated she is. I was pretty shocked at how mature she was for her age and how she knew what she wanted.
So it wasn’t a surprise when Phillips reached out to Desbiens for assistance when pursuing the opportunity to play hockey in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Desbiens starred during her four years at the University of Wisconsin and in 2017 was the recipient of the Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s player of the year.
“Ann-Renee helped me a lot with the university process, which was kind of stressful.”
Playing in the NCAA is one of the long-term goals for Phillips and in 2023-24, she will get that opportunity after committing to Quinnipiac University.
“I’m glad to be here for her because I know how difficult it is to go through all that process myself and how it can be very overwhelming and stressful. It’s only a few minutes of my time when she has questions. I’m glad to be that person when she has questions.”
Desbiens, who is in Calgary at Team Canada's training camp, said she offered Phillips a little advice based on her experience.
“I told her it was important to look at the school side of things because as a woman athlete, you don’t always have the opportunity to live off your sport after college. So to get a good degree is very important.
“The campus is important too. You gotta be in love with it. Hockey is important, but the atmosphere is going to make your four or five years way more enjoyable.”
The Sir John A. Macdonald student said she reached out to several universities last summer when NCAA rules allowed schools to talk to Grade 11 students, but only Quinnipiac stood out.
Quinnipiac, located in Hamden, Conn., offers a strong women’s hockey program and is also well known for its University Polling Institute.
“I randomly started looking at some universities and I came across Quinnipiac. I just fell in love with the school straight away,” said Phillips, who one day hopes to be a physiotherapist. “The campus is beautiful, the rink is great.
“I messaged (coaches) Cassie Turner and Amanda Alessi and we started having some Zoom calls. We had lots of Zoom calls. That’s why I liked it so much, they wanted to talk to me and I wanted to talk to them. There was something about it that just clicked and made me want to go there. I was still nervous for every call, but they were awesome calls and something different to talk about each time.”
Once again it was Johnson who was able to assist Phillips. He worked with Alessi at Hockey Canada and shared videos of Phillips with the Quinnipiac coaches.
Phillips is appreciative of Johnson and his role in her development.
“He’s definitely helped me improve so much. Without him, I’m not sure I would have gotten this Quinnipiac offer. He’s been an amazing part of my hockey career.”
Phillips said the Quinnipiac offer is for 2023-24 and she will use a gap year after graduating from high school next year. She said she hopes to play in Ontario’s Provincial Women’s Hockey League to stay sharp for her NCAA gig.
Returning to action
For now, she is excited about the prospect of returning to game action in the Maritime Major Female League. While the league was on COVID-19 shutdown the last several weeks, Phillips was convalescing after minor knee surgery.
“The surgery was when hockey got conveniently stopped for me but not for everyone else. A couple of weeks ago they went back on the ice and started practising. I was dying to join them. I got back on the ice a week ago and it’s been awesome. The knee is feeling really good.”
Phillips was named the league’s top goaltender last year and shared the Station Six crease with Amelia Awad, who was a first-team all-star.
The dynamic duo are back at it this year and Phillips loves the competition
“I think it’s great,” said the 5-foot-9 netminder. “Last year we were goalie partners and it was the first year I had a partner. That pushes me. We compete a lot. We are so alike and have lots of fun.”
Station Six head coach Amanda Boulegon said the tandem push each other every practice.
“They support each other and they challenge each other. It’s a blessing to have two very strong goaltenders and have them be so close. Pushing each other, I think, has led to both of their successes.”
Following in Desbiens' footsteps
Phillips may have big pads to fill on the ice, but she is living up to the example set by Desbiens away from her team. The teenager is more than willing to share her experiences with younger players and has helped out with the Metro West Force Female Hockey Association.
“I’ve always wanted to do some coaching for younger females to help grow the game around here. This year I helped out with a U11 team and I loved it. They were awesome and great. It’s so great to pass down the knowledge that I worked so hard to get and see them grow.”
Boulegon believes the future is bright for Phillips.
“Lucy is very professional in how she approaches the game and the other thing I really love about Lucy is she’s very active in the community. She wants to be out there and she wants to give back to future goaltenders.
“Not only is she an exceptional goalie, but she is an exceptional person. She’s chasing big dreams and has her eyes on the prize.”