Goaltender Shannon Szabados, who helped the Canada women's hockey team win a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, agreed Friday to join to the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Szabados wrote on her Twitter account that she will join the team March 12 and be available for the final five games of the regular season. The Cottonmouths announced a press conference for March 13 to introduce her.
The 27-year-old goaltender allowed three goals (one even-strength) in three games at the Olympics, and led the tournament with an 0.96 goals-against average and .954 save percentage. She stopped 27 of 29 shots in Canada's 3-2 overtime win against the United States in the gold-medal game. It was her second gold medal, having helped Canada win at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
She will be the first woman to play in the SPHL.
"I am very excited to get a world-class athlete that has competed and has faced high-pressured situations," Columbus coach Jerome Bechard said. "Shannon has won at every level she has played, in women's hockey or men's hockey."
The Cottonmouths have two goalies listed on their roster: Adam Loewen and Curtis Martinu. Also on the Columbus roster are three players who played with Szabados on the men's team at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology last season: forwards Andy Willigar, Kyle Johnson and Jordan Draper.
"She won a championship with NAIT last year alongside Andy Willigar and Jordan Draper, so I know she can compete at this level," Bechard said. "We are working on her immigration and we are looking to sign her officially Thursday [March 13], where she will be backing up Loewen. She will play when she feels comfortable and situated."
Szabados became the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League when she got into one game for the Tri-City Americans in 2002-03. She was the first woman to play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, where she spent five seasons.
She skated Wednesday in practice with the Edmonton Oilers when the team was short a goaltender at the NHL Trade Deadline.
Kevin Dineen, who coached Szabados last month at the Olympics, said he believes she can succeed in men's professional hockey.
"I think she's going to do just fine in that environment," he told Yahoo Sports. "I don't think this is one of those gimmicky things, although I'd be naive to think that wasn't on the owner's mind. She can play. She'll be more than up to the task."
The Cottonmouths are seventh in the 10-team SPHL.