VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are facing a massive vacancy in net for the upcoming 2016/2017 season. Goalkeepers Danielle Dube, Samantha Langford, and Laura Taylor have all graduated and won’t be tending the net next season. Fear not, a familiar face has decided to strap on the pads next season and make a return to the ice as the UBC Thunderbirds starting goalie.
Port Alberni native, and Assistant Coach, Dom Di Rocco will fill both a player and coaching role next season. An unprecedented display of double dipping. Di Rocco previously played as a forward for the Thunderbirds back in the day. Her soon to be teammates couldn’t be more thrilled with the addition of an outstanding coach and hopefully an even better goaltender.
Haneet Parhar wasn’t surprised by the news.
“We’ve always talked about how versatile she is and she can always fill in different roles,” explained Parhar. “Even coming into this year she’s filled in a great coaching role for us. She’s always stepping up and always really excited about new opportunities. She’s a great team player and it’s so natural for her to do this. It’s incredible the amount of work she puts in for our team. This is just taking it to a whole other level and it’s just amazing.”
Rebecca Unrau was a little caught off guard when the Di Rocco appointment spread through the Thunderbirds room. An adjustment period is definitely going to have to take place as Di Rocco learns the shooting tendencies of the top players in Canada West. Unrau has her concerns, but is willing to let Di Rocco’s play speak for itself.
“It’s going to be a little bit strange,” Unrau said. “I think she’ll be an assistant coach and goalie, so she’ll be telling us what to do as she’s trying to save a puck. It’s going to be very interesting.”
Throughout the UBC Thunderbirds successful season, Canada West Championship, CIS National Championship, and silver medal win. Coach Di Rocco has been known to provide a lengthy amount of trash talk about her hockey skills during practice sessions. West Vancouver’s Haneet Parhar has known Di Rocco for years and isn’t surprised.
“Yeah I know, it’s a little bit of Dom for you,” Parhar added. “Kind of classic Dom Di Rocco. I’ve known her for so long, I don’t want to say ego, but… that’s classic Dom.”
Captain Stephanie Schaupmeyer agrees. If Di Rocco is going to tend the net for UBC next season, she is going to have to cut back on the chirping and promotion of her hockey talents. Unless of course Di Rocco can back it up with her save percentage.
“Oh, non stop,” an exasperated Shaupmeyer noted. “She’s always talking about how she could outplay any of us.”
One of the contributing factors for 29 year-old Di Rocco’s return to the ice, is the fantastic display of goaltending from 40 year-old Danielle Dube. The UBC puck stopper is also a firefighter in Richmond, B.C. and a Mom with two kids. On top of that, she is a full-time student at UBC. Being around an inspiration like Dube has motivated Di Rocco to enter the crease.
“Yeah, she was really inspired by (Danielle) Dube’s run,” said Unrau, “But I think she’s going to have a tough time saving a little small puck. She can’t go side to side very much, so we’ll see how that goes.”
It won’t be an easy role to step into and there will most likely be some bumps a long the way. Coach Graham Thomas will have to offer some leeway if the occasional soft goal gets past Di Rocco. Parhar believes Dube’s will be a tough goalkeeper to follow.
“She has quite the work cut out for her though, because (Danielle) Dube is very very dedicated to her position and almost everything she does in her life. Dom has her work cut out for sure and we’ll see what she can do.”
Steph Schaupmeyer has the biggest endorsement and encouragement for the newest UBC Thunderbirds goalkeeper.
“I think Dom was inspired a little bit by that and I think maybe she wants to bring her age, wisdom, and experience to the back-end. I think she’ll be okay.”
In the end the UBC Thunderbirds are most likely going to be involved in some high scoring games next season. The biggest thing that Dom Di Rocco is going to have to adjust to, is having a tan on the back of her neck from the red light going off.
The Thunderbirds have clearly shown that they are a team that supports one and other and they come together under pressure and tough situations. Having Di Rocco as goalkeeper could work out as a genius move from Graham Thomas. It will be interesting to monitor.
“I’m a little concerned about that,” said Steph Schaupmeyer.