When Emerance Maschmeyer was just seven years old, she unwrapped a Christmas gift that’s since taken her all over the world and then back home again.
It was her first set of goalie pads.
After a few seasons of playing as a skater, she took a turn in net for her team—using her everyday player equipment—and caught the bug. Well, temporarily, anyway.
"I played pretty well, or I thought I did at least, and I remember enjoying it," she says with a laugh. "After the game, I told my parents, 'Oh, that was fun, I kinda want to be a goalie, that would be a whole lot of fun!' I didn't really think a whole lot of it."
Then came the holiday gift, and some initial tepidness.
"At the time, I was like 'I gotta try this out, I got this gear for Christmas,'" she says, "And I was awful. I hated it from the start because the gear was big so and I was so little, but I stuck with it for a little while."
It's a good thing she did. Now 22, she’s completed with a standout career at Harvard and has medaled for Team Canada in tournaments in Sweden and the Czech Republic. Maschmeyer is now at the dawn of the next step in her career, just four hours from her hometown of Bruderheim, Alberta, as a netminder for the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno.
She's come a long way from her days on the outdoor rink of the family grain farm, though.
"I have four siblings and everyone played hockey growing up," she says. "Just watching them play, I got into hockey pretty early on, I was three years old. We were always on the ice, that's pretty much my whole childhood, those are all my best memories, for sure."
With her siblings and her youth team, Maschmeyer faced her share of pucks in her formative years, and it quickly began to pay off.
"Once I started seeing progress and could start stopping the puck, I really started to enjoy it," she said. "I actually, pretty early on, seven or eight years old, I got a goalie coach, Eric Robertson, who I still work with today. And I think that helped me really want to be a goalie."
Watching her older sister Brittaney skate at the NCAA level from 2006-10, first with St. Lawrence and then with Syracuse, gave Maschmeyer some college aspirations. As part of a spring hockey tournament in Boston with her boys team, she received a tour of Harvard and was immediately hooked on the school.
“I remember telling my mom, ‘I want to go here. this is my school, and I love it.' I was 13, so it was kind of lofty at the time. But she was like, 'If you stick with your schoolwork, work hard and keep performing and improving, it's possible.' I kind of had my eye set on that from 13 years old and on."
"To recognize her passion to be a student athlete was incredible," says Katey Stone, her coach with the Crimson. "She's a very confident but soft-spoken individual and she garners a tremendous amount of respect through her hard work and preparation. She got better and better every year and was willing to be coached and pushed in that position. And she wanted to do everything she could to put her teammates in a position to win games."
In four seasons with Harvard, from 2012-16, she posted a 59-29-10 record to go with a .940 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average and backstopped the team to the NCAA postseason in three consecutive years, including a trip to the Women’s Frozen Four in 2015.
"My junior year, we knew we had a really special group, and I think that was our goal right from the start—with every team it is, but we really believed that we could get to that game, and we believed we could win it,” she says. While Harvard fell to Minnesota in the title game, Maschmeyer still looks back on the run positively. "It was a pretty awesome experience, and it could have gone a little better by just winning."
She finished that season as a backup for Team Canada at the IIHF Women’s World Championship, taking home a silver medal, though it wouldn't be the last hardware she'd get at the tournament.
"I was just glad she had an opportunity to compete for something else after," Stone says. "All these kids, they're pretty fiery competitors and hockey players and when you don't get something you want in one place and have an opportunity to compete for a World Championship is pretty special. We talked about the experience and the things that went really well and the opportunities and the things that she knew she needed to work on. I think she took it as great opportunity to get better and learn."
Following the culmination of her time at Harvard, she took the starter’s reigns at the World Championships in Kamloops, British Columbia, backstopping Canada all the way to the gold medal game against the rival United States squad.
The finale turned into a goaltender’s duel, with a 0-0 score heading into overtime. Maschmeyer matched her American counterpart Alex Rigsby as the two faced end-to-end action throughout the game, though the 33rd shot Maschmeyer saw was also the game’s final: a tipped wrister from the high boards went off the short-side post, off Maschmeyer’s elbow and sat behind her allowing Alex Carpenter to tap it home.
Despite coming so close, it marked a pivotal moment for her career as she earned the title of Best Goaltender at the tourney to go with a silver medal.
"It's been a couple of months now, thinking back to it," she says. "It's just surreal to think about. I was so proud of that moment. I also wish we would have won that game; it's a one-goal game, it's a bounce at the end of the game, but the crowd was amazing—it's great to see those red jerseys and Canada flags in the stands. Coming back home and playing in my first World Championship at home was a really special experience."
There wasn't much time to dwell on things, however, as Maschmeyer had a big choice to make: She was the Boston Pride’s top pick in the 2015 NWHL draft, but had also registered for the 2016 CWHL draft, going in the first round to Calgary.
"I had two really good options, but I just had to pick what felt right in my heart," she says, "Living in Boston those four years, I have a special place for Boston in my heart, but coming back to Calgary, it's close to home."
The Inferno, the 2015-16 Clarkson Cup champions, boast a three-headed goalie monster this season that includes Maschmeyer, 2016 Playoff MVP Delayne Brian and 2013 CWHL Most Outstanding Goaltender Genvieve Lacasse, acquired in an off-season trade.
As the youngest of the trio, Maschmeyer is taking it all in stride.
"From the outside looking in, you'd think there would be some sort of … I guess anxiety or something around it," she says. "But I'm really excited and I'm happy to be here. I'm having a lot of fun and getting used to the schedule. We get to practice on the same ice together almost every day, so that's pretty cool. It will push my game to get stronger and having two goalie partners, we push each other in the best way possible. We compete on the ice, but still support each other. It couldn't really be any better."
Playing with Calgary also allows Maschmeyer to train at Winsport, Hockey Canada’s home base. As she looks forward to her goal of the gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang it's all come full circle, just a quick drive from the farm she started on.
"It just made sense,” she says. "I'm definitely a farm girl at heart. Love the city, but absolutely love the farm."