With a beleaguered Brampton Thunder squad facing a season with the loss of its biggest leaders to Sochi, Ashley Pendleton’s CWHL comeback could not have come at a better time. Having played with the Vaughan Flames during the CWHL’s inaugural 2007-08 season, Pendleton would soon become a mainstay on Brampton’s defense.
She was on the ice for the historic 2010 Clarkson Cup, in which Brampton appeared in the finals for the first time. Despite losing to the Minnesota Whitecaps, the first American team to win the Clarkson, it was a unique chapter in hockey history that Pendleton was a part of.
Having taken a sabbatical from hockey, Pendleton attended Ontario Fire College in 2012. Of note, she is not the only female hockey player to pursue studies as a fire fighter. Amber Bowman, a former competitor with the Burlington Barracudas and Toronto Furies, is a current fire fighter with Central York Fire Services in York Region, Ontario.
While Bowman would eventually become a world champion in individual combat challenges, Pendleton would proudly follow in her footsteps. She would compete in a series of events at the college in November 2012, earning second in the team event and first in the individual combat challenge.
Her first game back with the Thunder provided positive results. A November 10, 2013 match against the newly christened Calgary Inferno would see the defensive mainstay back on her familiar position on the frozen perimeter. Appropriately, she would earn the first point in her comeback on the first goal of the game. Along with Danielle Skirrow, the two would earn the assist on Andie LeDonne’s goal at 9:08 of the first. Eventually, Brampton would prevail by a 3-2 tally in a shootout win.
Less than a week later, Pendleton would factor in another goal as the Thunder upset the defending Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades by a 3-1 score. Despite Boston grabbing a 1-0 lead after the first period, Brampton would manage to score three unanswered goals. The final goal found Pendleton earning the lone assist on Jana Head’s goal as Brampton outshot the black and gold by an astounding 42-28 mark.
Ironically, she competed for Brampton when they were part of the NWHL in the earlier part of the decade. As a teenage hockey phenom, she would follow her silver medal performance from the 2000 Ontario Winter Games into a run with Brampton that culminated in silver at the 2003 Esso Nationals.
Having honed her skills for head coach Michael Sisti at famed Mercyhurst College (whose alumnus includes Meghan Agosta, Vicki Bendus, Bailey Bram and Kelley Steadman); she would emerge as a fundamentally sound defender with the occasional flair for offense (as her 78 NCAA points would attest). Having earned College Hockey America All-Rookie Team and All-First Team honors, Pendleton would develop strong leadership skills.
It is such skills that make Pendleton’s CWHL comeback one of great impact. On a team that has so many new faces, it is a familiar one in Pendleton that may provide the stability and presence necessary for a postseason push. With the ambition to one day protect her community as a firefighter, Pendleton is a hero on and off the ice which makes CWHL fans glad to see her back on the ice.