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Thunder top pick Bach primed to put herself on Olympic radar

After rewriting the record books at Boston University, Markham Thunder center Victoria Bach is ready to turn some heads in her rookie season in the CWHL.

Boston University’s women’s hockey program has produced some notable names. Jennifer Wakefield, for instance, is a player those who’ve caught even a scant few minutes of top-tier international women’s play over the past several seasons will recognize. Then there’s Marie-Philip Poulin, of course, who is not only a Terriers alumnus but is also regarded as one of the best women’s players in the game and captained Team Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

But it’s not Wakefield who holds the coveted all-time marks at her alma mater. It’s not Poulin who sits in top spot on the Terriers’ all-time scoring list, either. No, that title belongs to Victoria Bach.

Over the past season, Bach, 22, basically rewrote the Boston University record book. On the strength of a 39-goal, 67-point campaign — the second- and fifth-best totals in the nation, respectively, and the best single-season marks in Terriers history — Bach vaulted ahead of Poulin, Wakefield and every other women’s player who has pulled on the school’s red and white. When the campaign closed, Bach was the Terriers’ all-time leader in goals (104) and points (198) while ranking third in all-time assists (94) and third in points per game (1.37). That’s mighty impressive for a player who had been told throughout her playing days that she wasn’t going to amount to much.

“A lot of people always told me even before I went to university that I was too small, that I wouldn’t make it anywhere in hockey, that my size would hinder me,” Bach said. “I use that as motivation. Going into my freshman year, I worked hard all summer, made sure I was in the gym getting stronger and I wanted to make sure size wouldn’t be a factor for me and prove people wrong.”

Not only has she done just that, she’s developed her game around her size. At 5-foot-4, Bach doesn’t have the appearance of an imposing on-ice figure. She’s not about to get labeled a power forward. What size allows her, though, is an elusiveness and explosiveness that few other players can match.

“I use my speed and I think I’m a pretty dynamic player,” Bach said. “I like to make plays with the puck, I like to see the ice, so for me, being slippery, size helped me out with that. Being dynamic, too, I think the smaller you are the more people don’t see you making little plays because of your size. I use that to my advantage.”

The proof is in the pudding for Bach, too, who caught the eyes of those scouting the college game for the women’s pro game. In 2017, she was drafted in the second round, seventh overall, by the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters. However, the Milton, Ont., native wanted to be close to home, and when she declared for the 2018 CWHL draft, the Markham Thunder and Toronto Furies came calling. During the CWHL’s pre-draft signing period, though, Bach made the decision to ink a deal with the Thunder for the upcoming season, and Markham made her their top choice, the third-overall pick, at the August draft. So, why the Thunder over the Furies?

“I was talking to both teams, but Markham were hard on me and fast right after the season was done, so they were contacting me and wanting me to sign,” Bach said of joining the defending Clarkson Cup champions. “I know the people there, obviously they’re a great, skilled team, and just come off of a big winning season. I know (coach Jim Jackson), as well, so I think I was really excited to go to Markham, play for him and play with lots of talented girls.”

Returning Olympians Laura Stacey, Jocelyne Larocque and Laura Fortino are among those Bach’s most looking forward to playing alongside, not to mention experienced international players such as Megan Bozek and Jamie Lee Rattray. It’s those Bach will be skating against, however, that bring her as much excitement. When the Thunder skate against the Calgary Inferno, Bach will go head-to-head against Rebecca Leslie, her Terriers linemate from the 2017-18 season. And when Markham line up across from Les Canadiennes de Montreal, Bach will get the chance to ply her trade against Poulin, who she skated with briefly at Boston University before surpassing the Canadian captain in the school’s record books.

In skating against top talents on a bigger stage, Bach’s hope is that she proves to onlookers, particularly those with Hockey Canada, that she’s ready for the next step, ready to take her game to the international stage and represent her country. She’s done so previously, pulling on the maple leaf at the 2014 U18s where she won a gold medal and was named to the team’s top-three list with a four-goal, seven-point performance in five games. But with the 2018 Olympics in the books and the 2022 Beijing Games not all that for off in the distance, Bach wants to use her CWHL experience as a launching pad.

“Ever since I was a little kid, that’s been a dream of mine, a goal of mine,” Bach said. “Now I think this year, being able to play with all these Olympians and talented players, I really need to make sure I bring my game everyday, work hard and compete against all these elite players and hope my game will get to where it needs to be.”


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