From Raleigh, North Carolina, to Kamloops, British Columbia, Alyssa Gagliardi’s hockey career has taken her from humble beginnings to international competition.
Gagliardi, who grew up in Raleigh, was named to Team USA for the Four Nations Cup, an annual women’s tournament that features national teams from Canada, Sweden, Finland and the United States. The four-game, round-robin tournament took place in Kamloops in early November, and Gagliardi saw game action in Team USA’s 3-0 victory over the Swedes.
“It was a really great experience to play with the top players in the country and the world for two weeks. You practice with them and learn from them,” she said. “Putting on the jersey is a dream come true at that level.”
As a youth hockey player in the Triangle just a few years past the turn of the millennium, Gagliardi and her brother attended the Carolina Hurricanes summer camp.
She was a goaltender then and would later switch to defense, the position she plays today.
“I actually tried out for a boys’ team in the RYHA program. They already had enough goalies, so it was kind of my only option to become a player,” she said. “There was a spot on defense, so I just took to that and really loved it.”
Gagliardi played high school hockey in Minnesota at Shattuck St. Mary’s, a school well-renowned for its prep hockey programs. She won a national championship with the team in 2009 and received the team’s Holsinger Sportsmanship Award as a senior.
“I was there for four years and got to play with girls that were on the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics teams,” she said. “Just the culture at Shattuck, it’s a great tradition of hockey. You get what you work for and put in the work every day.”
From there, Gagliardi attended Cornell University where she played four seasons of collegiate hockey with the Big Red.
She was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Rookie Team as a freshman in 2011, when she established herself on the blue line and helped the team to its second consecutive ECAC title. Gagliardi was named an alternate captain in her junior year, and as a senior, she was one of two team captains, again helping the Big Red to back-to-back ECAC championships. She was named First Team All-Ivy, First Team All-ECAC and Best Co-Defensive Defeseman in 2014 when she tallied 100 blocked shots as a senior. She ranks fifth all-time in Cornell women’s ice hockey plus/minus at plus-96.
“I had a great experience at Cornell. I loved it. It was a great opportunity academically and athletically,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for better coaches and teammates, so I really loved my four years there.”
After graduating in May, Gagliardi returned home this summer and again attended the Hurricanes summer hockey camp – this time, as an instructor.
“That was really cool,” she said. “It was a lot of fun, 10 or 12 years later, to look back and see what the camp is like from the other side of it and give back to the community.
“It’s obviously grown so much, and I think it’s going to continue to grow, hopefully the girls side, especially,” she continued. “Being around the camps this summer, just to hear about all of the different programs and options these kids have is a really great stepping stone.”
Gagliardi was named to the U.S. Women’s Under-22 Select Team in August for a three-game series against Canada in Calgary. Gagliardi posted one assist in the tournament as Team USA outscored Team Canada 11-3, sweeping the series.
Gagliardi now resides in Boston, where she plays professional ice hockey for the Boston Blades of the CWHL.
What’s next? Gagliardi has her eyes set on the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“That’s a very long ways away from now, so I’m just kind of taking it year-by-year,” she said. “Part of the reason I moved to Boston was to be able to continue to train and play with high-level players and set myself up for any opportunity.”
This summer, North Carolina saw its first homegrown talent drafted in the NHL, as the Hurricanes selected Josh Wesley in the fourth round. Now, a North Carolinian is making a name for herself on an international stage.
“You kind of get chills standing on the bench listening to the anthem and looking up at the flag, knowing you’re surrounded by these girls who have represented the national team for years, and now you’ve made that step forward,” she said. “You want to keep working to hear that again.”