Thunder strikes hockey team
If you were to ask a young Erika Thunder where she would be in her university years, she would not have guessed playig as a rookie goaltender on the Wilfrid Laurier University women’s hockey team.
Originally from Buffalo Point, Manitoba, the aspiring goalie had dreams of playing hockey for a university in the United States because of her close connections growing up.
Being so close to the border of Minnesota, her childhood years were spent playing hockey for an American league.
It was just one decision that changed her dreams from playing hockey in the states to playing at a Canadian university.
While in her high school years, Thunder decided to move to London, Ontario, to play for the London Devilettes, a junior women’s team in the PWHL (Provincial Women’s Hockey League).
It was here that she heard about Laurier and their success as a hockey team.
“I knew about the PWHL and I thought that playing for junior hockey would be a good option before I went off to university,” Thunder said.
“[I] heard about Laurier when I came to London last year.”
Her London team played a tournament in Waterloo, which is where the Laurier coaches first had their chance to see Thunder’s skill between the pipes.
“Jim [Rayburn] came and saw me play in the Waterloo tournament.”
That game was the turning point in the rookie goalie’s career. There were a few other schools that had approached her with an interest to play on their team, but the first-year thought that Laurier was the best option.
“There was a few others but Laurier was a great opportunity.” Thunder said. “I had a better opportunity of playing and it was just the best option for me.”
Throughout all of this, Thunder attributes part of her success to her biggest motivator and former goalie coach, her father.
“[My dad] was also a goalie and he loves the sport a lot,” Thunder said. “He was the one to push me and would know how to get the best out of me.”
Looking ahead into the upcoming year, Thunder has some large shoes to fill.
Liz Knox, the former Hawk goalie, was a major component to the team and a very accomplished player.
Not only is Thunder a rookie, but she must deal with the pressures of trying to live up to this standard.
“I want to be able to step up and become the next Liz Knox or the next great goalie on Laurier,” Thunder said.
“I just find that the pressure comes from me I feel; just for me to become the best that I can. I do a lot of mind work. The mental part of the game is a huge part for a goalie.”
Thunder has already starred in multiple games this season, and if her early play is any indication, it promises to be a successful year.