Toronto PWHL team’s goalie situation in good hands with Kristen Campbell

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Toronto PWHL general manager Gina Kingsbury smiles at the notion that there might be some kind of weak spot on her team between the pipes.

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She smiles because she knows that isn’t the reality now and it won’t be for years to come.

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Kingsbury is not just content with her situation in net, she’s elated to have freshly turned 26-year-old Kristen Campbell guarding the net for Toronto in the inaugural season of the PWHL.

The Brandon, Man., native may not be as immediately familiar to the average Canadian hockey fan as, say, either Ann Renee Desbiens or Emerance Maschmeyer who fill the other two goalie spots on Canada’s national team, but that’s only because she’s the youngest and newest to the team of that group.

Kingsbury and Troy Ryan, the head coach of Canada’s senior women’s national team as well as the Toronto entry in the PWHL, have a better understanding than most in what they have in Campbell, who has been with the senior national team since 2021 and was a member of the program dating back to 2014.

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They felt very comfortable using all three foundational picks to load up on forwards and defence while both Montreal and Ottawa grabbed DesBiens and Maschmeyer in the foundational free-agent signing period.

Once the draft started, Campbell was the second goalie chosen at No. 14 overall behind Minnesota’s selection of U.S. national team goalie Nicole Hensley.

For now, Campbell is third on the Canadian national team depth chart, but she’s working her way up and looks at this opportunity as one more avenue towards her eventual goal of being the No. 1 option for her country.

She is thrilled that Kingsbury and Terry see the work she is putting in to make that a reality and the trust they have in her to handle the No. 1 duties for Toronto.

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“Every day I put in the work when I was in that third role and did whatever I could to keep pushing myself and growing my game,” Campbell said following practice this week. “They know my vision as a goaltender and where I want to be and I see myself being a starter for the national team and winning our country gold medals.

“Having the goals I do and the vision I do, they really believe in me so obviously that’s a good feeling. I was really happy to know that they had plans to take me at some point (in the draft).”

Campbell was one of those invited to the draft, so she knew she was going to land somewhere. Being from Manitoba, it’s probably a shorter commute to Minneapolis, but Toronto was her No. 1 choice for obvious reasons.

“Toronto was the place I had hoped to land so I’m really fortunate to be here,” Campbell said. “Just because of the staff they brought in, obviously really familiar with them and even our goalie coach, Brad Kirkwood, he’s been incredible for my development.”

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Kirkwood, who is also the national team goalie coach, and Campbell have known each other since 2014, but have really only been working together full time since 2021. Kingsbury said bringing him onto the staff was a no-brainer for both her and Terry.

Campbell graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2020 and really spent the past three years working towards an opportunity like this one. As a carded national team member, she has had both the good fortune and the ability to focus on her professional career.

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“Honestly I never thought of another job because I knew this would happen one day and luckily with Hockey Canada we are funded well enough to pursue hockey full time but now with this league it opens up so many more opportunities for more girls to keep playing full time,” she said.

Campbell will be backed up by 31-year-old veteran Erica Howe, who was signed as a free agent, as well as one of Carly Jackson or Amanda Makela who were unsigned camp invites.

Howe was the starter for the Brampton Thunder of the old CWHL while Jackson, 26, most recently started for the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL. Makela, 29, is a Thunder Bay native and played for both the Toronto Furies of the CWHL and the Beauts of the NWHL.

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