By Scott Taylor
Photos by James Carey Lauder
Brandon’s Ashleigh Brykaliuk was a star at the University of Minnesota Duluth and last year, had a tremendous rookie season with China’s Vanke Rays in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
But it now appears as if the 23-year-old Balmoral Hall Blazers graduate and former member of Canada’s U-18 team, will hang up her skates.
Brykaliuk has been hired as an assistant coach by Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell. The four-year former captain of the Bulldogs will begin her first year behind the bench in Duluth this fall.
“She was a phenomenal player and leader as a Bulldog, and will continue to make a positive impact on the program behind the bench,” said Crowell “Her experience with UMD, Hockey Canada, and the CWHL will be invaluable.”
Brykaliuk played at UMD from 2013-17 and scored 62 goals and 145 points in 146 career games. She capped off her time at UMD with back-to-back 40-point seasons in her junior and senior years. She was named to the All-WCHA Second team in her final two seasons. In her senior year, as captain of the Bulldogs, she led her team into the NCAA Tournament.
A two-time team captain, Brykaliuk recorded the second-longest scoring streak in UMD history -- a 19-game, 26 point run that lasted from Oct. 29, 2016 through Feb. 11, 2017. Brykaliuk also earned the 2016-17 UMD Maroon and Gold Team Award, an honor that was voted on by her teammates in her senior year. The award honors the player who the team thinks best combines the team values of work ethic, attitude and commitment to the team and to the game of hockey. Brykaliuk was also a two-time WCHA All-Academic Team selection in both 2016-17 and 2015-16.
Last year, with the Vanke Rays, one of two Chinese-based teams in the CWHL, Brykaliuk had eight goals and 25 points in 28 games.
“Excited is an understatement,” Brykaliuk tweeted. “Thank you all for the kind support, can’t wait to be back in Bulldog Country.”
This will be an important year for the Bulldogs and Brykaliuk’s experience at every level of the game will help immensely. After all, last year was not a good one for UMD women’s hockey. The team lost several players to graduation and centralization and finished 15-16-4 and 10-11-3 in Conference play.