1.29.24 Derrenbacher

RALEIGH, NC. - When Mary Derrenbacher first put on a pair of ice skates, girls hockey in Raleigh wasn't a thing yet.

Fast forward 10 years and she's already a gold medalist.

There's both "blame" and credit for that happening, and above all, an exceptionally talented 15-year-old hockey player with a very bright future.

“It’s all her brother Jack's fault,” Mary's father, Chris, said with a laugh when asked how a young girl born in 2008 wanted to get involved in ice hockey in the first place. "When he got into it, she got into it. It was one of those things that whatever he did, she did."

Three years apart in age, Mary agreed that her sibling had initially inspired her love for the sport, even though it meant she had to play with the boys growing up.

"It was nice to be able to compete with him at a young age," Mary shared, reflecting on some of her earliest memories with the game. "He's my big brother and obviously, I wanted to be like him."

2.9.24 Derrenbacher Jr Canes

Mary Derrenbacher during her time in the Hurricanes house league and Jr. Canes

The two grew up going to Canes games, as the Derrenbacher family has had season tickets since the team moved from Greensboro in 1999. Viewing it as something that brought their family together, Mary's passion for the game continued to develop over time.

Playing in the Hurricanes House League and eventually the Jr. Canes, it wasn't until she was about 10 or 11 years old that girls-only teams made their way to the area.

With her desire and talent continuing to grow, former Hurricanes Girls’ and Women’s Youth and Amateur Hockey Specialist and former pro player Alyssa Gagliardi used her connections to get Derrenbacher on more competitive teams.

Although it meant spending summers in the northeast, it was a step that propelled her budding career forward in a major way.

Playing with the boys from August to March, Derrenbacher would then go to Boston to play with the Lady Whalers from May to August just to have an opportunity to play against girls her own age and skill level.

But during each of those years, youth hockey, and girls hockey as a whole, continued to evolve in Raleigh.

"It was so satisfying to see the Canes and Jr. Canes start to put in the investment to women’s hockey," Chris continued. "Mary got to be a part of that early on when the Canes had the girls in for a game and they let them go down the locker room and meet the guys. They wore the girls' names on their jerseys for warmups and Dougie Hamilton wore Mary’s. I know that was a really cool moment for us."

2.10.24 Derrenbacher

The treks to Boston and back opened more doors for Derrenbacher, who next received an opportunity to attend the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota.

After making the move as an 8th grader, she then was encouraged to try out for the U.S. U18 National Team at just 14 years old - a relatively uncommon suggestion.

The lone girl from the country's Southeastern District to be invited to a camp filled with 16 and 17-year-old participants, the thought process from the family was that it would be a good experience for Mary, providing her with a little preview of what was needed to potentially make the team in a year or two.

Instead, catching the attention of decision-makers immediately, she was then selected to the next step of the process at Lake Placid.

Again, an exciting step toward a lofty achievement, she would be competing against girls who had been to camp before and had several more seasons of experience. But the young talent belonged.

Scoring as a part of an audition during the three-game Rivalry Series against Canada, she became the youngest player invited to the team's final camp in Minnesota.

Locking in her roster spot there, at just 15 years old, "Derrenbacher" was going to be on the back of a U.S. National Team sweater for the 2024 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) U18 Women's World Championship in Switzerland.

“It was very surreal that our little girl from North Carolina was going to be representing our country," Chris proudly said. "The odds were not in her favor for that to occur, but we’re very glad that it worked out the way it did.”

Not just making the team, Derrenbacher was a first line forward and a key producer on the road to the ninth gold medal for the United States, totaling eight points in six games.

"It was just unreal. All the hard work that we'd put in from the summer to now and how far our team came was great," Mary shared of her emotions after the final horn. "We built so much on each other. It was so exciting and it made us all so happy."

With the opportunity to play in the same tournament for the next several years, she hopes to not only bring home one or two more at the event, but even more in the future.

"Hopefully there are more, bigger medals to come in my future. The goal is obviously just to keep building, getting better, and bringing them in," she proudly said. "The big goal is to make the Olympic national team. That's a few years away, after college and such. But hopefully, we'll be able to bring the team back to Worlds again next year and win another medal."

2.8.24 Derrenbacher

Derrenbacher celebrates after scoring against Sweden

Continuing to chase her dreams at Shattuck-St. Mary's, the freshman currently ranks in the top 10 in the United States High School (Women's) scoring, with 54 points in 37 games.

Home for spring break, she'll sound the siren at PNC Arena on Sunday, March 10 during the team's game against the Calgary Flames.

To learn more about your child can get started playing hockey, visit CanesYouthHockey.com.