Though she seemed pretty confident when she announced that she’d be playing for the Peoria Rivermen this year, Shannon Szabados was still one of five goalies competing for just two spots on the Peoria Rivermen, one of 10 teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Szabados announced that she would be playing for the Rivermen on September 20 on Instagram, while the team sent out a press release that same day announcing that they had signed the Team Canada goalie to a professional tryout contract.
In the SPHL, teams are allowed to carry just 18 players, and Szabados is now one of two goaltenders who made the cut; the other is Storm Phaneuf, a rookie in the SPHL who looks to be the team’s starter. Fellow camp attendees Troy Passingham and Tyler Green were the first goaltenders cut and goaltender Matt Grogan was released on the SPHL roster deadline.
"Grogan was excellent, and it was a difficult decision with our goaltending," Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel told the Journal Star. "But Phaneuf, a talent like his you just can't cut the kid. He has looked terrific and we project him to be a really good No. 1.”
That means Szabados, now a third-year veteran in the SPHL, could be the backup for Phaneuf. The Rivermen experienced a lot of turnover this year, with just five roster players coming back from last year’s team, so a goaltender who has a couple years of experience in the league backing up the rookie could be a good thing for Peoria.
And despite the fact that Peoria isn’t returning a lot of their players, they definitely want to make a statement: the team earned the best regular season record last year before falling short of a championship.
What’s still not completely clear is how long Szabados will stay with Peoria with the 2018 Olympics just around the corner. The Journal Star wrote that Hockey Canada will start team fitness testing around May, but they want to see Szabados play with the team before they commit to bringing her with, especially with goalies like Genevieve Lacasse, Charline Labonte and up-and-coming Emerance Maschmeyer as potential options in net.
They wanted Szabados to play either during the Four Nations Cup or when Canada faces off against the US in December as a part of the Team USA Winter Champions Series.
It doesn't look like Szabados will be traveling to Finland. Canada released its roster for the Four Nations Cup last week and Szabados wasn’t on it. Now it’s just wait-and-see : will she put on the Team Canada jersey to play in December? Or will she remain with the Rivermen? Only time will tell.
The Peoria Rivermen open up their regular season Friday, October 21 at Carver Arena against the Huntsville Havoc.