There’s always an adjustment period to the professional ranks, no matter how long. For some players, it’s a few games. For others, it’s a few months. Others yet take full seasons. For Victoria Bach, despite her claims otherwise, the adjustment period appears to have been roughly seven minutes.
In her debut game in the CWHL, the 22-year-old Markham Thunder rookie center, who was drafted third overall by the defending Clarkson Cup champions in August, took a pass in the middle of the ice from Jamie Lee Rattray, snaked by one defender, slipped past another and lit the lamp. Six minutes and 54 seconds into the first pro contest of her career, Bach had her first goal. By the time the weekend was over, she had added another and finished with three points in two games.
All of this happened before she really felt settled. “I’m still first year in the league, so every game is a new game, and I’m getting used to playing at this level,” Bach said. “There are national players on every team, so for me it’s bringing it every game, working my hardest and making sure I’m doing the little things right. It comes with time. I even feel myself getting more confidence and getting more comfortable from the beginning of the season until now.”
That’s a frightening prospect considering her production already. Her team-leading 11 goals and 17 points saw Bach enter the CWHL’s holiday break leading the rookie goal-scoring race and tied for first in freshman scoring with Toronto Furies center Sarah Nurse, and only six players in the league had more points than Bach.
Her prolific production shouldn’t come as a surprise, mind you. She’s the highest-scoring player in the history of Boston University’s women’s program, surpassing Canadian legend Marie-Philip Poulin along the way.
This isn’t to say that Bach hasn’t had to adapt to changes from college to the pro game. “When you’re in the NCAA, you’re with your team and you’re practicing four to five times a week, two games, there’s a lot of hockey,” Bach said. “Here, it’s different. All the girls have jobs, we practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, so less hockey. You have to make the most of every opportunity you have on the ice.”
Bach most certainly has, and her play in Markham spurred her on to another rookie opportunity, this time with the Canadian women’s team at the 4 Nations Cup. She got the call to join Team Canada as an injury replacement only days before the tournament began, packing her bags overnight and making the trip to Saskatoon, Sask., on just a few hours of sleep. “Being a younger player and getting the call is a great foot in the door for me,” Bach said. “I learned a lot and saw what the competition was like, and now I know what I need to do and how I need to get my game. Maybe I didn’t play that much while I was away in Saskatoon, but it was definitely a great experience. I was happy to be there and be surrounded by the best in Canada.”
If Bach keeps it up, it’s only going to be a matter of time before she’s considered among that very same group.
CWHL ROOKIES TO WATCH
1. Sarah Nurse, C
Age: 23Team: Toronto
University of Wisconsin standout got first taste of Olympic action in Pyeongchang and is primed for Team Canada starring role in coming years.
2. Shea Tiley, G
Age: 22Team: Toronto
Furies’ first-round pick is among best goaltenders in NCAA history and two-time national champion. Third-stringer at 4 Nations Cup has bright future.
3. Halli Krzyzaniak, D
Age: 23Team: Calgary
Final cut from the 2018 Olympic team is one of the best young defenders in the game and has tools to become foundation of Canada’s blueline.
4. Rebecca Leslie,C/RW
Age: 22Team: Calgary
Bach’s running mate at Boston University hit her stride at the right time. After breakout season in NCAA, she has made instant impact for Inferno.
5. Brittany Howard,C/RW
Age: 23Team: Toronto
Robert Morris University’s all-time goals and points leader was invited to 4 Nations Cup camp and is heating up as CWHL season unfolds.