After playing in all seven games during the Toronto Six’s inaugural season, Natalie Marcuzzi wasn’t among the group of players that were on the opening night roster to open Season 7 in the newly named PHF. She was still trying to balance her post-collegiate career on and off the ice as an investment banking analyst. When she was ready to return, the Six welcomed her with open arms and it helped offset the (preplanned) departure of Michela Cava.
Marcuzzi finished the season on a bit of a high note, with a goal in one of the two final regular-season games against the Connecticut Whale - giving her three goals and five points in 11 games played this season. The goal, was like her others this season - the result of a battle won in front of the crease by the Robert Morris University product.
“I remember T-Woods, from the point, tried to hit my stick and she made a really great shot-pass. I tried my best to do it justice and hammer it home,” Marcuzzi recalled after Toronto’s 5-4 overtime win in Danbury. “There were a lot of battles in front (of the nets) today and I tried to get myself in there. The more shots we get on the net, it puts our team in a great position.”
So do you enjoy those types of games with lots of car crashes and pileups in front of the net? She laughed and replied, “It’s fun to battle, this team battles hard; that’s what we’re good at.”
With the 2022 Isobel Cup Playoffs quickly approaching we spoke with Marcuzzi after the overtime thriller for five questions in five minutes, and here’s how it went.
The Ice Garden: How much fun was it to play in a game like that where there are multiple momentum swings? Is it tough to keep your emotions in check?
Natalie Marcuzzi: It was a really exciting game. Two top teams, both came ready to compete. I’m really happy that we came out of it with the win. Those are really fun games to play in. I think it really comes down to us believing in each other. So when they go up by one, we start immediately thinking that we need to get it back. We truly believe in one another and I’m so happy to be here with these girls in those situations.
Marcuzzi slides it through the five-hole to put Toronto back in the lead! pic.twitter.com/yu5oFuI4CK— PHF (@PHF) March 19, 2022
TIG: Was this a bit of a ‘measuring stick’ game with the playoffs rapidly approaching?
NM: We have to take it one game at a time and each game is different from the next usually (in this league). But you gain confidence going into the playoffs knowing that you can compete against top teams, and against top teams in overtime. It’s a nice feather in our cap, but we can’t take our foot off the gas at all the rest of the way.
TIG: Are the Six a team now poised for success with late-season additions who are familiar faces, like yourself and Breanne Wilson-Bennett?
NM: It’s great to be on a well-rounded team like this, and the way it’s been built is quite strong. The girls here really all mesh together on and off the ice - which I think is important for a team as far as building chemistry. We’ve had some strong additions, but the core is strong here too. It hasn’t taken away from what they had, it’s enhanced it.
TIG: Have you ever played in front of a goalie like Elaine Chuli on a winning streak like this?
NM: She is unbelievable! She definitely keeps us in games and it’s really nice to know as a player that, if something does go wrong you have an unbelievable goaltender behind you to shut the door. Kudos to her for having some great games and streaking them together.
TIG: I’m always curious to ask players about being drafted by a PHF/NWHL team when I can. So was it something that was a shock or expected when Toronto selected you with the 22nd overall pick (Rd 4) in the 2020 Draft?
NM: It was a best-case scenario honestly. I’d always thought I wanted to play hockey (after college), but I wasn’t sure that I could, and that kind of made me sad about it. But I competed hard in my senior year and turned that into an opportunity to keep playing so I took it. Oftentimes, you have to choose between a career and a hockey career - that’s definitely a choice that we have to make.
Here’s the way I see it now: I can help progress the mission of women’s hockey and have a career in the background. But obviously, we’re hoping as a group, and as players, to continue to push the league forward, and eventually, it will get to the point where this can be our main job and make a good living.