THUNDER BAY -- Amanda Makela might not be a household name in Thunder Bay, but she might soon become one.
While NHLers like Eric Staal, Matt Murray and Carter Hutton get the lion’s share of the local headlines, Makela has also reached the pinnacle of her profession, coming off an impressive rookie campaign with the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
The 25-year-old, who helped the Thunder Bay Queens capture the 2010 Esso Cup, got into 10 games with the sixth-place Furies in 2017-18, posting a 4-6-0 record, with one shutout and 3.72 goals against average.
While her team missed the CWHL playoffs, it was a great learning experience, she recently said, while helping teach the next generation of hockey heroes at PRO Kids’ Training with a Pro event.
Makela, who spent four seasons at Mercyhurst College, where she would capture the CHA Conference Goaltender of the Year Award in 2015, graduated to the professional ranks in 2015-16 with the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women’s Hockey League.
Drafted by Montreal with the 39th overall pick in 2016, she jumped to the CWHL the following season with Toronto.
It was an adjustment, she admitted.
“Anytime you move up a level it’s going to be a big jump. It’s a little bit quicker and a little bit better shots,” she said. “Definitely going from (the) Queens to university was a big jump. I thought it would be pretty similar going from university to the CWHL or NWHL, but I was in for a surprise.
“My very first game I felt like I was exhausted after the first period, so I knew I had to do a little more work.”
Makela hit the gym more frequently, and found herself improving night after night getting used to the speed.
“It’s just getting used to the repetition,” she said.
The 5-foot-7 Makela has also been able to rely on a pretty strong goaltending community in Thunder Bay to help get better. In addition to Hutton and Murray, New Jersey draft pick Mackenzie Blackwood and goaltending guru Colin Zulianello have shown her the ropes.
“Especially for women’s athletes, sometimes we don’t have the money to go on the ice every single day. But knowing you can come home and Colin’s home and Carter’s here – all the goaltenders getting together. Everyone’s got a little different point of view, so just getting that feedback from every person is huge.
Makela will be competing for playing time this season with Sonja van der Bliek and former Canadian Olympian Sami Jo Small, who won gold in 2002 and 2006 and silver in 1998.