Niagara-Wheatfield's trailblazing goalie Becker earns some playing time
But while Becker certainly takes pride in being a trailblazer, at the end of the day she sees herself as a goalie just trying to help her team win.
A 16-year-old junior in her first season of varsity with the Niagara-Wheatfield boys hockey team, Becker made Federation history on Jan. 7 when she and Lockport’s Jillian Long became the first two females to oppose each other in a game as starting goalies.
The moment was that much sweeter for Becker, who stopped all 16 shots that she faced as the Falcons soared to a 13-0 win.
“It feels good,” Becker said, “because (it proves) we can play with the boys.”
Becker, Long and fellow netminder Sydney Glynn of West Seneca East have all garnered media attention this season for their work between the pipes on boys teams in the Federation.
But while the attention has certainly been flattering and appreciated, Becker said that at the heart of it she doesn’t want to be thought of as “just a girl” on a boys team. She just wants to earn the respect of her peers based on how she plays on the ice.
“I think it’s just natural because I’ve played with boys before,” she said. “I never really got any notoriety before. It feels like a natural thing.”
Employing the butterfly style, Becker makes the most of her quickness with a slick east-to-west motion, helping her play angles with great efficiency. Whether it’s a game or practice, Becker said her time this season with the Falcons has helped her improve.
“I feel like it’s making me quicker and more focused on the shots because they’re harder,” Becker said.
Falcons coach Rick Wrazin said the Becker’s strong work ethic has been key to her development.
Becker, who played 12 games over her two seasons with the junior varsity, has more than held her own this season.
Appearing in 2.5 varsity games so far, Becker not only blanked Lockport, she saw substantial minutes in a 6-3 win over Grand Island and a 6-2 win over Williamsville South.
“She’s ahead of target for where I would have thought,” Wrazin noted.
Becker’s play has without question earned her more time on the ice, and she would likely be the starter on other teams, but this season, the Falcons have a crowded crease as junior Nate Summers and sophomore Casey Wall have also played outstanding.
While obviously all three want to be the starter, a role that is currently on Summers’ shoulders, Becker said it’s been a healthy competition where they support and push each other to get better.
“As a goalie you always have to be supportive of the other goalies,” Becker said. “But at the same time you want to work harder than them to get that spot.”
Becker knows all she can do is bide her time until Wrazin taps her on the shoulder. But while Becker is obviously keyed up every chance she gets, she also knows she can’t put too much pressure on herself.
“I just think (when I’m out there) it’s just another game,” she said. “I just have to do my best and make sure I play to the best of my ability.”
Becker has certainly been doing that. And her coaches have taken notice.
“I hope to play a lot more next year,” Becker said.