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She Shoots, She Scores D-1 Invitation

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Compiled by Kylie Penticost, Pittsburgh Youth Hockey Network

Kylie Penticost: Tell me a little bit about yourself. (i.e.: family, hobbies outside of hockey, travel, etc.)
Ashley Vesci, Pittsburgh Penguins Elite Girls
Ashley Vesci: I grew up in the Pittsburgh area and attended a public school in Brentwood right through to the tenth grade. I then transferred to Lawrence Academy in Groton Massachusetts and repeated my sophomore year. I have played sports my entire life and throughout my high school career, I played hockey, basketball, field hockey, and softball. I have a 25-year-old brother and a four-year-old sister, and I am 18 years old.

KP: What are you taking in post-secondary school next year? In addition, what do you hope to do with it once you are finished?
AV: My specific course load is still undecided, but at Robert Morris University, I plan to major in business management and do some pre-law work. After I get my undergrad degree, I hope to go to graduate school to study law.

KP: Why did you choose to get into hockey, and how long have you played?
AV: When I was growing up, my dad played on a dek hockey team and I would always go out to watch his games and bring my own stick with me. In between periods, I would get to go out and shoot on the nets and I always loved it. I tried to carry a stick and ball around with me at all times. Then, when I was seven, my family and I moved from Mount Washington to Brentwood. Some family friends of ours had two boys who played ice hockey and they lived right down the road in Carrick. Since we now lived so close together, I went to their house a lot and every time I was there, all I wanted to do was shoot on their hockey net. I always told the boys how jealous I was that they had the opportunity to play ice hockey. One day they asked if I wanted to play with them. Conveniently enough for me, their dad was the coach of their team and he was more than happy to let me join the team. My parents were a little surprised by this sudden desire but they agreed to let me play. I think they thought it was just a passing phase and that is why they allowed me to play. However, to everyone's surprise I started playing when I was seven, and now at 18 years old, I am still going strong.

KP: What position do you play? In addition, why that position?
AV: I am a forward, but on some rare occasions, I play defense, although that is mostly against my will because I am a terrible defensemen. I chose to play offense because I am a very aggressive player and have never had the patience to play defense. In games, I feel the need to be consistently moving my feet and I am very offensive minded.

KP: What has been one of your most memorable moments?
AV: One of the most memorable moments of my hockey career actually took place this year (2011-12). My school team was playing against Governor's Academy and we were losing 1-0 towards the end of the second period. This game was very monumental for us because if we won we were still in the running for playoffs. But, if we lost, there was no chance we’d be playing past the regular season.

With about two minutes left in the second period, I scored a goal to tie the game. The entire game had been a battle and the third period was not any easier. We were running two lines and had played a game the night before so everyone’s legs were tired. Potentially because of that, towards the end of the period it looked like we were running out of gas. With three minutes left in the third, Governor's scored a goal to go up 2-1 and everyone’s spirits were crushed. The entire team looked as though the game was over and there was no chance for us to win at this point. I was upset but I told myself I could not let our season end this way so I told everyone to pick their heads up because we still had a chance. They looked at me doubtfully but as I went to center ice for the next face off, I knew that things were going to turn our way. As the puck dropped, I won it forward and skated as hard as I could into the offensive zone. I had the puck on my stick and saw my teammate following close behind. I drew both defensemen to me and dished the puck to her. She scored to tie the game! The arena went up in an uproar of cheers at how exciting the game had just become and our entire team became elated. There were about two and a half minutes left in the game at this point and our team battled as hard as we possibly could. With about thirty seconds left, I skated the puck as hard as I could into their zone and got a shot on net. One of my teammates was there to put away the rebound and we scored the game winning goal with 26 seconds left.

This game was so memorable for me because my team pulled through when we had too. It was a collective effort. I felt that this game represented everything we have been working towards all year and I am so happy that I was able to play such an influential role.

KP: Who has been your biggest supporter during your hockey career? How have they shown support?

AV: I would have to say that Kathy Pippy, my coach, has been my biggest supporter of my hockey career. She is the one who first introduced me to girls’ hockey and her daughter Katelyn is the same age as me. Katelyn and I played on a team together from the time we were twelve until now. The Pippy family became a second family to me. Playing on a competitive girl’s hockey team involves a lot of traveling for tournaments and my family was not in a stable enough financial position to make these trips every other weekend. Since my own parents could not come to tournaments, I always went with the Pippy's and Mrs. Pippy treated me as if I was her own daughter. She has supported me throughout my entire hockey career and always cheered me on and encouraged the decisions I choose to make in my life. She helped me make the decision to attend prep school, helped me find Lawrence Academy, and helped me to decide which college was going to be the best choice for me. I would not be where I am today if it was not for her and I will never be able to thank her enough for that.

KP: As a female hockey player, what are some of the pressures you face or limitations you face with the sport?

AV: I played in the PAHL, for the Pittsburgh Predators, until my second year of bantams. I never had a problem with any of the boys because I grew up with the boys I played with; it was always a comfortable and safe environment for me. I began playing girls hockey when I was twelve. I found it hard to make the transition from boys hockey to girls. I continued to play on both teams until I was 15 but I ended my boys career just before midgets, for fear of the boys being a little too big.

The only challenge I really found in playing girls hockey was that the levels of competition were very inconsistent. Some of the teams we played against were extremely talented while others would not be very good at all. I’ve found that in the past few years the level of competition in girls hockey has dramatically increased and there are a lot of very talented young girls and teams.

KP: What piece of advice would you give to girls who are just starting out in hockey?

AV: I would advise girls to never give up in the face of adversity. Although it may seem as though a future in hockey as a female player is unrealistic, that is not accurate. It may not be realistic for girls to play in the NHL but that does not mean that you cannot accomplish something great through the sport. Hockey has opened up a whole new world to me and provided me with opportunities that I never thought I would have. I have made great friends and memories along the way.

KP: What is a hockey dream of yours, and why?
AV: To be completely honest, I feel as though I am already living out my hockey dream. Playing prep school hockey has been great for me and I’m honored to be the captain of my team in my senior year. Also, going on to play division one college hockey has always been a dream of mine and I am so excited that I will be fulfilling that dream at home where my friends and family will be able to witness it. Of course, I share the same dream as many other athletes and would be honored to play for team USA someday, but for right now, I am happy to be where I am today and I look forward to furthering my hockey career.

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