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She’s already one of the greatest female players ever produced in Manitoba, but the honors continue to pile up for Mallard’s Brigette Lacquette.

The sophomore University of Minnesota Duluth defenseman who also plays for Canada’s national under-22 team has was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Women’s Defensive Player of the Week for January 22. Lacquette led the Bulldogs to a two-game sweep over Bemidji State as Minnesota Duluth stretched their unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2) and their winning streak to four.

Here is the official release from the WCHA:

“University of Minnesota Duluth defenseman Brigette Lacquette, who keyed a stellar defensive effort that propelled the Bulldogs to a two-game sweep over league rival Bemidji State last weekend, has been named the WCHA Women’s Defensive Player of the Week for January 22.

“A sophomore from Mallard, Manitoba, Lacquette was strong at both ends of the ice, producing three points, including assists on both game-winning goals, earning a +5 plus/minus rating and helping blank the Beavers on all 12 of their series power-play chances as Minnesota Duluth stretched their unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2) and their winning streak to four. She set up teammate Brienna Gillenders’ game-winner last Friday (Jan. 18) in UMD’s 3-0 victory and then assisted on Pernilla Winberg’s winner last Saturday (Jan. 19) in the Bulldogs’ 4-2 triumph. Also on Saturday, Lacquette one-timed the puck in the slot to deliver the game-equalizer 14:31 into the first period.

“Seeing action all 22 of her team’s games this season, Lacquette has 12 points on three goals and nine assists.”

Brigette and Olympic hero Marie-Philip Poulin in a game against Sweden

Brigette and Olympic hero Marie-Philip Poulin in a game against Sweden

The amazing thing about Lacquette is that she was defensive player of the week in the WCHA right after hopping off the plane from Germany. Now, although she hasn’t cracked the lineup of Canada’s main women’s Olympic team yet, Lacquette is still one of the top international players in the world and in late December and early January she flew to Fussen, Germany and helped Canada’s national under-22 development team to an 8-3 win over Russia in the gold medal game if the 2013 MECO Cup. She had a goal and an assist in the championship game, a tournament in which Team Canada was the only non-European team invited to attend.

The organizers probably wish they’d let the Canadians stay home. Team Canada went through the event undefeated beating Germany 8-1, Switzerland 4-0, Finland 2-0 and Russia 8-3 in the final.

“Brigette was outstanding this week,” said Team Canada head coach Pierre Alain. “In all, it was a very mature team. They handled everything perfectly. The group was very good and team-building was very good.”

Lacquette has had a tremendous career with the under-18 and under-22 Canadian teams. She won a gold medal with Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team at the 2010 IIHF World Women’s under-18 Championship in Chicago, Ill., and was named top defenseman in the world, She won a silver medal with the under-18 Team at the 2009 IIHF World Women’s under-18 Championship in Füssen. This was her third tournament with the under-22 team and first gold medal.

Of course, as soon as Lacquette got off the plane in Duluth, she led her Bulldogs to a 2-2 tie against highly touted Boston University. Lacquette had a goal and an assist.

Grassroots Sept. 18 Lacquette

Under-22 National Team member Brigette Lacquette

One of the top players in NCAA women’s hockey, Lacquette is living proof that “you can get there from here.” Wherever “here” happens to be.

Born and raised in tiny Mallard, Man., her father Terrence is a Metis, who has lived in Mallard all his life. His wife, Anita, who has treaty status, is from Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan. For years, Terrence drove the school bus while Anita taught school. His children, Tara, the oldest and the goaltender on the women’s team at the University of Calgary, 19-year-old Brigette and 16-year-old son, Taran, who plays in the Manitoba Triple A Midget Hockey League for the Parkland Rangers.

Dad has spent the last 21 years of his life trying to give his children a better chance than he ever had. You can say whatever you want about hockey parents, and believe me, Terrence is a full-out hockey parent, but his tireless effort on behalf of his kids has opened doors and given them all a chance to be successful.

“It can be tough in these small communities,” said Terrence, who moved the family to Dauphin when son Taran started playing Triple A midget and he became head coach Doug Headley’s assistant. “There isn’t a lot to do. Many girls around Mallard and Waterhen who are Tara or Brigette’s age already have babies.

“And remember, Waterhen is where the post office is. The kids grew up in Mallard. It’s 10 kilometres north of Waterhen, right on Lake Waterhen. We were nowhere. Our community had about 80 adults, 40 kids, 20 dogs and 15 cats. I’m down at the end of a gravel road. It’s beautiful. There is nothing more beautiful than sunset over the lake. But you couldn’t find us on a map.

brigette and Taran lacquette on the ODR

Brigette and Taran lacquette on the family’s outdoor rink.

“Anita and I decided that we would do everything we could to give the girls a life, a chance. We figured it was better to spend all our money on them now rather than spend it on bail later. We always believed that by pushing them in school, making them study, and driving them everywhere to play hockey, we were doing the right thing. It’s paid off and we’re very proud of all three of our kids.”

While all three are terrific players, Brigette has achieved the most success. A great skater, she got one tip from her father that set her apart from all the other girls.

“Not many girls my age can move the puck quickly with their head up,” she said back when she was 16. “My dad always told me to learn to handle the puck with my head up. When I played boys midget hockey, I knew it was the most important thing I could do. If I had my head down in boys hockey, I’d get killed.”

Brigette first took to the ice at age 5 and she hasn’t stopped since. In fact, there are scouts in this country who say she might just be the best young player in the history of Canadian women’s hockey.

“Brigette is doing really, really well,” said her father. “She loves Minnesota Duluth and because she went there, she’s still a big part of the national team program. I wouldn’t be surprised that over the next year, she stepped up to the Olympic team.

“I’m just grateful for everything she’s accomplished. She’s proof that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything.”

Brigette's Upper Deck hockey card.

Brigette’s Upper Deck hockey card.

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