Chelsea Laden has been involved in quite a few firsts over the past year. In addition to being one of the first three players signed by the Connecticut Whale and joining the first paid professional women's league in North America, she was also involved in the first-ever NWHL trade. Laden joined the Riveters in a trade that sent Shenae Lundberg to the Whale and brought Laden to Brooklyn.
Laden appeared on the radar of women's hockey for most fans during her brilliant career at Quinnipiac, particularly in her junior and senior seasons. While with the Bobcats Laden posted the kind of numbers that goaltenders all over the world dream about.
She finished with a career .923 Sv% and 1.56 GAA with an astounding 26 shutouts in 88 games. Her best season came in 2014-2015 as a senior with a .930 Sv%, a microscopic 1.16 GAA, and 16 shutouts. For her exploits, Laden was named the Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year by the ECAC this past season.
Laden has good size for a goaltender which makes her quickness and athleticism all the more impressive. Her quick legs regularly kick pucks into the corners and out of harm's way and she is very capable while moving the puck with her stick while out of her crease. She has earned a reputation for being a focused and exceptional netminder on the ice, and a model athlete off of it.
In her only start with the Whale Laden shined for Connecticut, but her season was derailed early on when she suffered a nasty injury to her finger during practice. Her injury kept her on the bench or out of the lineup and allowed Jaimie Leonoff and Nicole Stock to earn the confidence of their coaches and team with solid performances. Leonoff and Stock have been outstanding for the Whale this season and, with the playoffs just weeks away, Laden found herself involved in the first trade in NWHL history.
Laden, who plans to attend medical school, made her Riveters debut two weeks ago in a tilt against the Boston Pride. Although the final score was not what she or New York's coaching staff were hoping for, she showed flashes of the excellence that made her so dominant as a Bobcat and so exciting as a member of the Connecticut Whale. There's a good reason why the fans in Connecticut fell in love with Chelsea: she's special on and off the ice and you don't have to be around her very long to realize it.
Let's get to know the newest New York Riveter a little bit better.
: How old were you when you first put your feet into ice skates?
I was only 4 years old when I put on skates. But they were not hockey skates... they were figure skates. I tried hockey when I was about 8 and changed to goalie skates at 10.
MM: What do you think the secret to the Bobcats success was during your time at Quinnipiac?
The secret to our success at Quinnipiac was really no secret at all. Quinnipiac was a growing program that was kind of under the radar for some time. Our program focused heavily on defense first and our team really took a lot of pride in our systems and team beliefs. The combination between the growing talent, history of hard work, and defensive mentality truly helped establish Quinnipiac as one of the top teams in the country and still continues to do that today. I was just lucky enough to be a part of their first big breakthrough of making the national tournament.
MM: Upon hearing that the NWHL would pay for your equipment, how long did it take for you to choose/settle on what pads you were getting?
As far as my equipment goes, I definitely played it safe. I have had the same pattern of Vaughn pads ever since high school, so I have been keeping that design ever since.
MM: Were there or are there any goaltenders in the women's or men's game that have served as inspiration for you? Are there any goalies who's style and approach to the game you have tried to emulate?
As far as NHL goalies I feel like I share some of the same styles that Jonathan Quick expresses. I have always been the type of goalie who relies heavily on athleticism and creativity and Quick definitely has both of those attributes.
MM: What would you consider your greatest strength as an athlete?
My greatest strength as an athlete might sound funny to many people because I can't really use it in my game. I am weirdly good at the vertical jump and I don't know why and I also don't know how I can transfer that into my game... I am still thinking about how to do that. As far as goalie-related athleticism, I am strong moving laterally.
MM: What do you think is the most important or biggest save you have made thus far in your hockey career?
I don't really have one big save that stands out to me... but one time I did lose my glove and bare hand a puck. That was pretty cool!
MM: What has it been like to work with goaltending coach Jon de Castro so far?
From day one, Jon De Castro welcomed me to the team and really made me feel like a professional athlete. He started working with me during the first drill and even stayed on the ice extra after practice was over to work with me. It is so easy to work hard for a coach like him because he genuinely cares about getting his goalies playing to their fullest potential.
MM: How and when did you learn about your being traded to the New York Riveters? What was the first thing that went through your head when you heard the news?
The trade happened quickly. I was first contacted by the CT Whale general manager to let me know about what was going on and then within that same hour I was on a conference call with Dani [Rylan] and Chad Wiseman. I was shortly contacted by both of the other assistant coaches and then that same day I was going to a Riveter practice! The whole transition was handled very well and I felt so welcome by New York right away. I was so nervous and I barely knew anyone on the team. So many emotions were felt that day, but the CT Whale were so supportive and were so happy for me and the NY Riveters couldn't have been more welcoming.
Laden seeing a fan that followed her in Connecticut at the Riveters' final home game of the season.
MM: Chelsea, the last time we talked you shared the story of not being used to paying tolls and the horror of the buzzer going off at the toll booth. So, did you get around to getting that E-Z Pass yet?
I have NOT gotten the E-Z pass thing yet, but I do MAKE sure I have at least $20.00 in cash when I head into Brooklyn... that was such a nightmare when that buzzer went off!! Talk about adding to my stress.
MM: You've only been with the Riveters for a brief time, but which of your new teammates has had you laughing the most?
There are so many funny personalities on the Riveters. The one that made me laugh the most at first was Amber [Moore], but honestly there are so many more goofballs. Amber probably asked me 100 questions on the way to Buffalo for my first game with them.
MM: What is your favorite thing to do during the long bus rides that have become the norm for every NWHL player?
How do I spend my bus rides? Studying for the MCAT (I am secretly a nerd trying to get into med school), listening to music, and answering all of Amber's Questions. Haha.
MM: What goes through your mind when you look up at the stands during warm-ups or a stoppage in play and you see young girls and women who can now aspire to play professional hockey?
When I look up in the stands and see all of the young girls supporting the league I smile every time. It is so great to see this door open for so many young female hockey players where they can now dream to play at the professional level. It's honestly one of the coolest things I have had the opportunity to witness in my life and I am so grateful for all of it.
MM: Anything you want to say to the New York Riveters fans reading this interview?
To the Riveter fans: I would just want to say thank you for being such welcoming and supportive fans! The trade threw you all for a curve ball like it did to me, but I feel like we are a great fit together! I would also like to apologize for the green accents in the pads and the Whale on the helmet... I am feeling a bit awkward about it myself!
A big thank you to the wonderful Chelsea Laden for taking the time to do this interview despite a very busy schedule and a life that is currently made trickier with a longer commute to her weekend job as a professional women's hockey player for the New York Riveters. You can support Chelsea and the rest of the Riveters by watching their games, checking out Riveters merchandise, and learning more about the team and the league on NWHL.co.
The Riveters' final two games of the regular season will be played on the road and this Sunday they will meet the team that they just bested in the shootout. Laden and the Riveters are traveling to Buffalo to see if they can make it two in a row against Pfalzer, Bozek, and the Beauts. After that, they will wrap up their regular season against Laden's former team- the Connecticut Whale in Stamford, Connecticut.
Thanks for reading, let's go Riveters.