Canadian star goalkeeper Shannon Szabados made her debut in a men's professional hockey league when she made 27 saves for the Columbus Cottonmouths in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Knoxville Ice Bears in a Southern Professional Hockey League game Saturday night.
Szabados had not played in a game since helping Canada win the gold medal in women's ice hockey at the Sochi Olympics last month, although she did participate in an Edmonton Oilers practice when the NHL team was in need of an extra goalie.
"The guys came out flying," Szabados told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer after the game Saturday. "They had a little extra in their step tonight."
Szabados, 27, is not breaking new ground yet, although she was the first female to play in the SPHL's 10-year history. Canadian star Hayley Wickenheiser played in men's leagues in Finland and Sweden and goaltender Manon Rheaume became the first to woman play in an NHL exhibition game with Tampa Bay in 1992.
Szabados played with men in Junior A hockey and in college in Alberta, Canada. Now she's trying to work her way up the men's pro game.
"I saw a few Szabados shirts out there," she said. "It was fun. It was definitely a great moment."
Szabados was stellar except for a five-minute span in the second period when the Ice Bears scored three times, although her coach said the defense should take most of the blame for the scoring.
"I thought she played well," Cottonmouths Coach Jerome Bechard said. "She made the stops she was supposed to make. We hung her out to dry for about a 10-minute span in the second period."