'Doc' Thunstrom living her dream
Two years from now, Allie Thunstrom will have to give up hockey. But her backup plan isn't too bad.
"Medical school will keep me pretty busy," the 22-year-old Maplewood, Minn., native said with a laugh.
Thunstrom's hockey-playing resume will be tough to trump, but becoming a doctor just might do it. She hopes to begin medical school in two years, after finishing some prerequisite courses at the University of Minnesota. For now, though, the 2006 graduate of North St. Paul High School and 2010 graduate of Boston College, is dissecting opponents on the ice for the Minnesota Whitecaps professional hockey team.
Thunstrom had three assists on Sunday as the Whitecaps beat the Strathmore (Alberta) Rockies, 8-1, in a Western Women's Hockey League game before about 400 fans at Graham Arena IV. Thunstrom said that's about 300 more fans than attended games at Boston College, and far better than the crowds that show up to WWHL games in Canada.
"it would definitely be nice to see the league grow and expand," Thunstrom said of the five-team WWHL, of which the Whitecaps are the lone team in the United States. "It would be nice to see some more American teams join the league. In Canada, the (women's pro game) doesn't have the support from youth players like we have here.
"This was a fun environment to play in."
Thunstrom, a 2006 graduate of North St. Paul High School is one of the best to have ever played girls high school hockey in Minnesota. She was all-state honorable mention as an eighth-grader and all-state her final four seasons.
She finished her high school career as the school's all-time leading scorer, with 228 goals and 122 assists, for 350 points. She played in two state tournaments and was named Minnesota's Ms. Hockey in 2006.
"My favorite memory of (high school hockey) is from my sophomore year, playing in the state tournament at Ridder Arena" in Minneapolis, she said. "The stands were full — (students from) our school were great about supporting us."
Thunstrom said she considered attending the University of Minnesota and several other WCHA schools, but late in the recruiting process she decided to visit a couple of schools on the east coast.
"When I walked onto B.C.'s campus, I fell in love with it right away," she said.
It turned out to be another good decision for Thunstrom, who, as a freshman, played on an Eagles team that earned the program's first national tournament berth. B.C. upset No. 3-ranked Dartmouth in the national quarterfinals, to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time. In the national semifinals, held at Lake Placid, N.Y., B.C. lost in a classic game to Minnesota-Duluth, 4-3, in double overtime.
Thunstrom's college career included more individual and team success. She played in all 141 games during her four seasons, averaging nearly a point per game (86-52—138).
"My freshman year, it was an incredible experience," she said. "Going into the season, no one thought that was possible. To go to the Frozen Four that year, it was amazing."
Now, Thunstrom hopes to help the Whitecaps win their second consecutive Clarkson Cup championship. The Clarkson Cup is awarded annually to the winner of the national Canadian women's hockey championship. The tournament is set for Toronto in late March.
Sunday's victory in Rochester locked up a third consecutive WWHL title for the Whitecaps, whose roster is almost entirely filled with Minnesota natives.
Warroad native, and 2010 U.S. Olympic team member Gigi Marvin, led the way with three goals and two assists. Edina's Jenny Potter, who won Olympic gold in 1998 and has since played on three more medal-winning U.S. teams, had a goal and an assist. Sam Nixon also scored twice for the Whitecaps (13-0-0), while Allie Sanchez and Meaghan Pezon had one each.
Thunstrom said players in the WWHL stick with it because they love to play the game and hope to help it grow at the youth level throughout the state.
"We may not get paid like the pros (in the NHL)," she said, "but we love doing it."