Goalie Shannon Szabados made history Saturday night when the two-time Olympic gold medalist led the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League onto the ice for their game against the Knoxville Ice Bears.
Szabados, who helped Canada win the women's ice hockey gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, stopped 27 shots but wound up losing when Knoxville overcame an early two-goal deficit for a 4-3 victory before 4,295 fans in Columbus, Ga.
"It was fun," Szabados told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer after becoming the first female player in the SPHL's 10-year history. "I saw a few Szabados shirts out there. It was definitely a great moment."
The 27-year-old Edmonton native has played with men before, including four years of Junior A hockey in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. She played with men in college, most recently with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Three Cottonmouths players were teammates of Szabados at NAIT.
Szabados last faced live action was in the gold-medal game in Sochi, Russia, a 3-2 win against the United States on Feb. 20. She did take some shots while serving as a fill-in during an Edmonton Oilers practice earlier this month.
Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard was happy with her performance.
"I thought she played well," Bechard told the Ledger-Enquirer. "She made the stops she was supposed to make. We hung her out to dry for about a 10-minute span in the second period."
The Ice Bears scored three times during a span of 4:43 in the second. Szabados allowed a goal at 16:24 of the first period. She faced 31 shots, 13 in the first period, 12 in the second and six in the third. Her teammates took a 2-0 lead on first-period power-play goals by Jason Gray and Matt Gingera.
"The guys came out flying," Szabados said. "They had a little extra in their step tonight."