By Mark Staffieri
For more than a decade, Brampton was defined by three franchise players: Lori Dupuis, Jayna Hefford and Vicky Sunohara. The titanic trio reached their pinnacle at the 2008 CWHL Playoffs, when the Brampton Thunder claimed the first ever CWHL league championship.
Although Dupuis and Hefford are still invaluable members of the franchise (along with the presence of Gillian Apps), they are helping to pass the torch. In the aftermath of the 2012 CWHL Draft, the franchise has found the next generation of superstars. After selecting 2010 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Vicki Bendus in the 2011 edition of the draft, Brampton picked up on the momentum of a superb pick by selecting two remarkable forwards in 2012 that form the nucleus of Brampton?۪s future.
Having gained prominence as a member of the Ste. Anne Three (a trio of highly accomplished players that competed in the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four that all hailed from Ste. Anne, Manitoba), Bailey Bram is carving her own niche as an elite scorer. Bram earned gold medals at the 2010 MLP Nations Cup and the 2012 IIHF Women?۪s Worlds. Of note, Bram also played with Bendus at Mercyhurst College. She would finish her career at Mercyhurst with 201 career points.
Establishing herself as a star for the future, Vicki Bendus currently stands first overall in the CWHL scoring race. She is a spitfire that is in the same mold as Jayna Hefford. Appropriately, Bendus is on pace to win the Angela James Bowl (the scoring championship), which would make her the second Brampton player to claim it, behind Hefford.
Although Bendus may not be the biggest player on the ice, her energy and scoring touch are unmatched. Factors that make her a deserving member of the Canadian national team. As a rookie with Brampton, she competed in the championship game of the Clarkson Cup, a game she will compete in many more times in the future.
Rounding out this triumvirate is Laura McIntosh. The 13th overall pick of the 2012 CWHL Draft, McIntosh is the all-time points leader of the Ohio State Buckeyes (with 170 career points). Her tenure at Ohio State was complemented by the sensational Natalie Spooner. Their careers practically ran parallel to each other as both were teammates at the 2007 Canada Winter Games, the 2008 IIHF Under-18 Women?۪s Worlds, and four superlative seasons with the Buckeyes.
With Brampton, McIntosh is proving that her reputation as an elite scorer at Ohio State was well deserved. She is building on said reputation by providing Brampton with a reason to believe that the future will continue to harness the success that the franchise is accustomed to. Her star is shining brightly in the CWHL as she emerges as the steal of the 2012 CWHL Draft. Her continued performance must place her on Hockey Canada?۪s radar for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
At the end of November, McIntosh was third overall in the scoring race, behind Bram and Bendus. Complemented by other young stars like Liz Knox and Charissa Stadnyk, their elite performances have proven that the future is now for Brampton.