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In Plain Sight

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The world’s best female hockey player is right here in western Pennsylvania, just over 100 miles north of the building Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin call home. Mercyhurst senior Meghan Agosta has cemented her status at the top.

Pittsburgh sports fans have been very fortunate to have had so many phenomenal hockey players to cheer for over the years; from Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis and other Hall of Famers from the ‘90s, to the current squad led by Sidney Crosby. What hockey fanatics in Pittsburgh may not know is that they can travel just two hours north of the city to watch another number 87 dominate the sport.

This year, two-time Olympian Meghan Agosta is returning to Mercyhurst for her senior year after taking a year off to train with and play for Team Canada. American hockey fans may first remember Agosta after her stellar Olympic debut in 2006. During the tournament the then-teen scored a hatrick against Russia on her 19th birthday.

After winning gold again in Vancouver last winter, the 23-year-old Ruthven, Ontario native is anxious to get back to Erie to complete her education and final season as a Laker.

“I knew for myself I would make the commitment to finish what I started with Mercyhurst,” said Agosta, who is studying criminal justice and hopes to go to the police academy and specialize in the canine unit. “I've been there for three years and there is no way I would not finish my education."

While Agosta has a lot to look forward to after her senior year, both professionally and with hockey, she is concentrating on what she can accomplish on the ice at Mercyhurst this year.

“I want to play and do well and also I want to have fun in my last year,” she said. “Our goal as a team is to make the final eight, make it to the Frozen Four and be NCAA champions. I know this year we are hosting so this is a big year for us.”

Mike Sisti, Agosta’s coach at Mercyhurst, is no less eager for her to come back.

“Overall she’s just strictly the best hockey player with the best weapons and the most strength,” he said of Agosta, thought by many to be the top female hockey player in the world. “Every time she is on the ice she tries to make something happen. I think beyond that ability, even as a freshman to dominate a game, she certainly has strengthened our program and the people around her.”

Agosta has always been known as a speedy, talented forward, but Sisti explained how she has improved over the years, and why she should continue to get better.

“(Meghan) has learned how to train and just become an elite athlete,” he said. “In her younger years she was a great player with a lot of talent but wasn’t an elite athlete. She didn't sink her teeth into training, and over the last three years she's really done that. I think her first Olympics really helped her see the need to dedicate herself to that area and she's really blossomed and turned into a warrior.”

While getting an education is clearly very important to her, Agosta and her coach knew that if she made the Olympic team in 2010, she would spend the year training with team Canada.

“Ever since I was six years old it’s always been my dream to represent my country, and having that opportunity at such a young age was such an amazing experience and honor,” Agosta said of her first Olympics in Torino, where the Canadian women won gold. “But I think that basically winning gold on home soil was an even bigger accomplishment.”

Agosta, who was the MVP of the Women’s Hockey Tournament in Vancouver, cites winning Gold in Canada as her biggest accomplishment. Her individual achievements, however, are too numerous to list completely. Along with being the MVP in Vancouver, Agosta is a three-time All-American and College Hockey America Player of the Year. She was also recently named a finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 2010 Sportswoman of the Year Team Award.

Although female hockey players do not have the same opportunities to play after college as their male counterparts do, Agosta and her coach believe the best way for her to stay fit and improve as a hockey player is to play in a league like the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The CWHL is a five-team league with clubs in Toronto, Montreal and Boston.

“I definitely want to play hockey and continue growing and developing as a hockey player,” Agosta said. “I'm thinking of going back to Toronto or Montreal, one of those two (cities). It is something I want to do, and to play for Team Canada of course. I would love to go to another Olympics.”

Playing for Team Canada again, however, may depend on the success of leagues like the CWHL and increased competitiveness of international women’s hockey. In February, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said that if the women’s hockey tournament does not become more competitive, without all of the lopsided scoring, then women would no longer be allowed to compete in the Games.

At the recent World Hockey Summit, participants discussed the idea that a women’s pro hockey league may help achieve that goal. As Agosta noted, it may depend on collaboration with the NHL.

“I know that a lot of girls are getting into women’s hockey and great hockey players are coming up, it’s just a matter of finances,” she said “I think if somebody takes us under their wing—like the NHL—gives us girls more opportunity… we would be an amazing sport.”

Whether or not Agosta has the opportunity to play in such a league in the near future, she still has left an indelible mark on the sport. According to Sisti, though, her talent and athleticism are just part of what makes her an exceptional person and role model.

“I think one of the neat things and best things about Meghan is just overall she is a wonderful person,” he said. “She’s kind, she’s generous and thoughtful. I think those are the things that are the bonus. Certainly she is a great athlete, but what’s way more important is that she's a great person. I think she’s very centered with everything she's accomplished.” 

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