Alexa in top photo wearing her Riveters unform (Photo courtesy of the NWHL) and in the bottom photo playing for the Oswego State Lakers (Photo courtesy of Oswego Athletics)

ALEXA ARAMBURU: Our "New" Jersey Girl

Cetacean Nation recently caught up with our “New” Jersey girl, our first year forward #10 Alexa Aramburu, originally from Glen Rock, NJ. Alexa has joined the Whale after playing a year in Toronto with the Furies in the CWHL, and last season with the Riveters, as you might remember. Alexa was on her way to Elmira, NY as part of her coaching duties with Ironbound Hockey in Newark, NJ when we spoke with her. That being the case, we delved right into that aspect of her hockey career, and asked about her coaching. Alexa explained:

“Right now I coach in high school at IHA (Immaculate Heart Academy in Bergen County) It’s an all girl Catholic school in New Jersey, so I coach there (Co-Head Coach), and I’m also an assistant coach of a couple of different teams, I kind of float around. I coach for a club called Ironbound,  out of Newark, New Jersey (not far from her old digs with the Rivs) This weekend both our 17 major and minor teams and our U14 teams are in upstate New York.”

Alexa continued:
"So last year I did a little with the New Jersey Colonials, with their U16 Tier One team. I only did a little because they were in a league that travels to Boston very often, so it was hard with Riveters games and Riveters practices, which would sometimes get in the way of coaching. So Ironbound is a lot more doable for me. Connecticut does get in the way a little bit for practices, but not so much for games. For games Ironbound is a showcase team, so they go around to showcases and do those games, they’re not in a league. We have a couple of games vs the Titans (NJ Titans Youth Hockey Club) and some other teams here and there but essentially it’s just a showcase team"

 Not everyone is aware of the distinctions between the various youth hockey programs, so we asked Alexa to fill us in a little on that. She explained:

 “The Colonials are in league and that is more of a schedule of games every weekend. And they may be in some of the tournaments that Ironbound is in, and play those games as well. But they also play the Junior Flyers (from Philadelphia, our former #12 Jamie Goldsmith’s youth club) and other teams in their league. So they travel to everybody in the league, probably every weekend. Whereas for Ironbound, it may be a couple of weekends a month maybe of traveling, And if they don’t have a showcase on the weekend, they will be practicing. They have practice slots and that kind of stuff, but as far as games go it’s mostly showcases that we travel to.”

Alexa added:

“Showcases are where a lot of college coaches will go, because there’s a whole bunch of teams piled into one weekend playing. There’s a lot of college coaches who like to go to those showcases, to get to see a whole bunch of different players.. Rather than if there’s just one or two league games a weekend. The college coach, depending on what they need and what they’re looking for, they might travel to those league games, but but it’s a lot of traveling and a lot to ask during their season, to watch one or two games.”

Obviously Alexa can speak with authority on this, having coached in both type of programs. Alexa mentioned the NJ Colonials, and she, along with our other two Jersey Girls #3 Kayla Meneghin and #16 Hanna Beattie, also. played there. So to get to that, we asked Alexa to tell us about her start in hockey, and the hockey culture in the Glen Rock, NJ area. Alexa informed us:

“The hockey culture has grown a lot! When I was really young, my home rink was the Ice House (Hackensack, NJ) I have an older brother who is about 3 1/2 years older than I am and he played hockey. I was a big tomboy as a little kid and wanted to be just like him, I wanted to play hockey too. I know the story that my mom tells me about being up in Vermont on a frozen over lake, and the whole family was out there skating. I was really young and they put me on skates with my bike helmet and elbow pads. She said it was freezing cold, and I refused to get off the ice. So I guess I kind of showed them then, that I really wanted to play. I wanted to be out on the ice and I loved it. So as a young kid in Glen Rock, since Ice House was our home rink, we did a house league there, a Glen Rock team house league with the boys. I didn’t know about any girls teams until I was nine years old.”

Alexa continued:

“There was a U14 Avalanche girls team, and I really don’t remember how I got to know them. I’m sure my dad did some digging and found them. They had a boys hockey team at Glen Rock, and I played during my sophomore year of high school. But I thought club was a better way of showing myself. Also, that sophomore year I would go from school right to high school hockey practice, then straight to club practice, and I wouldn’t get home till late at night. So was a lot during that season, and hockey season is long as it is, so I thought I was better off to get the rest and not continuing playing hockey in high school. New Jersey high school teams are growing, they’re getting there but it’s still new. It’s not at the level of cub hockey yet. There still is no girls program at Glen Rock, and I was the first girl on my high school team at Glen Rock, they weren’t used to that yet.” Getting back to her club career, Alexa further explained:

"I had done a couple of practices with them at nine years old. They let me practice but they wouldn’t let me play since I was only nine.But I remember after a couple of practices, they actually invited me to a couple of games to play with them so that was pretty cool. But I believe after that year the program folded. They ended, so all of those girls were going to the Quarry Cats (youth hockey club playing out of Floyd Hall Arena in Little Falls, NJ) So I was nine years old and I went to the Quarry Cats with them for tryouts, and that’s where I met Kayla Meneghin. So nine years old, the tryouts, met Kayla, we’re on the same team together, kind of just went from there, best friends since!"

Alexa reminisced: "I was pretty much always a forward, but when I went to the quarry cats I was on. U12 that season and they put me on defense Which was very funny to me and some of my teammates, because I was always like the smallest,so is interesting. But I think at U12 they’re all pretty small, so That was OK. I do remember playing defense there, I don’t know if it was for the whole season or what it was. But I was quickly like: No, I’m not a defenseman, I’m a forward, I need to be scoring goals Just put me upfront! So there’s that little moment when I was defense, but that was about it!"

Things really began to take off after that. Alexa explained:

"The Quarry Cats were a Tier II program, and I had my mindset that I want to play hockey in college. So I was looking for a team that would kind of give me more of a name and more competition. The Colonials where always known as one of the good clubs to play for. Our big rivals when we were young were the Rockets (youth hockey club playing out of Bridgewater Sports Arena in Bridgewater Twp, NJ),and the Colonials.So I decided to make the switch. Shelly Looney was the Director of the Colonial’s at the time, and hers was a big name for USA Hockey (she scored the game winning goal for the US in the Gold Medal game at the Nagano Olympics in ‘98) .so that was pretty cool. So I decided to make the jump and go try out for their team. I think I played, I want to say, three years with them.” 

And during those years, both Kayla and Hanna were teammates on the Colonials. Alexa laughed “How crazy is that? Three people from the same team, one even in the NWHL! All on the same team!” But hockey was not the only sport Alexa competed in as a youngster, as she enlightened us:

“I also played volleyball and softball at Glen Rock High School. I was kind of able to play mostly every position in softball but I never played first base or catcher growing up. I used to be a pitcher though. I pitched a little bit in middle school and pitched one game in high school. But mainly I was a third baseman. I got brought up a couple of games into the season my freshman year to varsity, to be the third base starter and I continued at third until senior year actually. But our whole outfield had graduated, so they put me in centerfield, and then I eventually got switched to second base halfway through that season, so yeah, I played a little bit of everything”

Alexa added: “A couple of years ago I played in a little spring/summer league but I have not since. Probably it was a year after I graduated, so 2017 summer I played a little bit, but I really haven’t since.  I wanted to but I also don’t want to risk getting hurt playing another sport in the hockey off-season! And in terms of her multi sport background, Alexa emphasized:

“I definitely think it was a huge advantage. Every sport has people with different personalities, so getting to know everyone in every sport, being just friends with everyone in every different sport, kind of just made social life easier. Knowing how people act. knowing how people are different, just made that part so much easier. And stepping away from the skates for just a little bit, and then being able to put them back on again for a new season. You enjoy it so much more that way, every time you put them on (after a different season) and every time you stepped onto the ice. Looking forward to every softball season, and then when softball season is at the end, then it’s volleyball season and I could look forward to that. And when that was over, the next season was hockey so it was like a huge, new gift every was just awesome! I loved all three of them, so it was a lot of fun playing and just seeing different styles of coaching too, for different sports.”

In her previous remarks, Alexa gave us some interesting insights into showcases, and on a personal level, they played a big role in advancing her career and sending it to the shores of a Lake Ontario, New York. Alexa told us this interesting story about how she became an Oswego State Laker.

 “It was actually a showcase over Thanksgiving weekend in Pittsburgh, playing at Robert Morris University, 2012 I believe. The coach that recruited me to Oswego, she she actually played at RMU, and she was there at the showcase watching. So it’s kind of a little bit of a story, but when I was on the Colonials, a team reached out to our coach saying they needed some extra players for a tournament. They asked if the Colonials would help them out, and that out if anyone was interested. You can let us know and send them over to us, and they can play. So my Dad read it to me, and I was like “Yeah, OK I’ll play!” So my Dad and I went up to Vermont, and I played in a tournament with this team from Rochester"

Alexa connected the dots like this: "Now fast forward, when I’m at the Thanksgiving showcase, the Oswego coach, Coach Chelsea Walkland, (she’s now coaching at RMU) and she knows the coach that coached me in that showcase in Vermont. So they knew each other, so I guess after my game or during my game, she talked to him and mentioned my name to him and he told her some good things about me. So he actually introduced me to her, and we started talking. She said she would be at my next game and she would watch? So she did and we talked after, and she invited me to a visit to Oswego. I went to visit, and I think that next weekend we planned a visit for the following week. it was a Thursday, and on that Friday I committed. Once I stepped on campus and saw their rink, and got to meet their players and hang out with them, it was awesome, I loved it. So it was just me going to play with that random team for one weekend, and because two coaches knew each other! Hockey is kind of a small world, and eventually three of the players that I played with at Oswego we’re also teammates on that team that I played with in Vermont, There was a girl that played at Northwoods School, who they had reached out fo, and one from their own team, and the three of us went to Oswego. And eventually we said, Hey, we all played on that same team together, we’ve done this before!”

Alexa enjoyed a great career on the ice at Oswego, and scored twenty-nine goals and had thirty-two assists for the Lakers. And she won numerous awards, and as a Major in Health and Wellness Management with minors in Health Science and Athletic Coaching, she was also selected to the ECAC West All-Academic Team. But Alexa had no hesitation in identifying her favorite moment at Oswego, and perhaps not surprisingly, the story includes Kayla Meneghin. As Alexa informed us:

 "When I was at Oswego my senior year, it was Oswego’s first time ever beating Plattsburgh. We beat them. We had a pretty rough game the night before, Friday night, I think we actually lost to them 7 to 1. But we came back Saturday and we beat them, I want to say 3 to 2. (Alexa was correct on both counts) So it the first time women’s hockey had ever beaten Plattsburgh (who was ranked #1 at the time) So to be a part of that! I have to check on this, but I believe I had two assists as well in that game!”

Cetacean Nation checked, checked and Alexa is correct, she dished out two assists in that historic win.  But what she did not mention, was that one assist set up the first score for Oswego when they were trailing 2-0. And the second? Well,, that was on the game winning goal!  Thinking back Alexa added “So that was a huge win, a goal we had every season. Every season when we would write our goals up on the board it would have: Points From Platty, PFP,. So that was our goal every year and senior year we finally did it, and it was the best. It was always fun for me playing Plattsburgh. Because Kayla was there, I had met a lot of the girls and I was very friendly with a lot of the girls there. So had a lot of friends on that team too. And our schools aren’t really close, about four hours apart probably, so every time going there or when they came it was nice to see the parents and get to hang out with them for a little bit. But once we stepped on the ice it was all business though!”

Cetacean Nation also asked Alexa about her academics at Oswego, and what her career plans based upon that education might be. She responded:

"So I kind of jumped around with what I wanted to do. When I was first looking at schools I had athletic training in mind, so those options were chosen because a lot of the courses were prerequisites or leading up to athletic training. And then I kind of went back-and-forth my senior year. Throughout college I was taking a few psych electives. i took a sport psychology course and wanted to do something in sports psychology. I’m still very interested in sports psychology, and I am thinking about using that in teaching and looking at Phys Ed teaching. I want to teach either high school or middle school, so that’s why I’m leaning more towards Physical Education & Health. My dad is also a Phys Ed - Health teacher. I grew up with that, so it’s like driven for me. I see him do it every day, he loves what he does. I learned so much from him. Everything that he does, he always comes home and tells us stories. Just so many of his little things, and I try to use them in coaching. And I think it would be awesome if I could use them in teaching as well. I’m looking at alternate routes, studies and apps for education. I work a lot of camps and stuff in the summer so I’m constantly teaching things to kids, so I don’t think it’ll be too much of a shock when I get in the classroom and think: Oh man, I’ve got to teach these kids something” Like I’ve been doing that for years now.”

While that was developing, Alexa also continued her playing career on the ice after graduation from RIT. Alexa played in the CWHL for a season, and played against current Whale teammates Taylor Marchin and Erin Hall, and former Whale Zoe Hickel. We asked Alexa to tell us a about her CWHL experience, and she explained::

 “I actually lived in Buffalo, my dad‘s from Buffalo and we have a lot of family there. So I live with my Grandma that year. Hayley Williams, who had played with the Beauts, and also played on Toronto with me (now she’s over in Russia playing) and she also lived in Buffalo. So we would commute to and from practices. We were the only Americans on the team, so with that being said, it was also the year of the Olympics which team USA won. Fun battles between the rest of the team and us. The season in Toronto playing in the CWHL, honestly my best memory from that was probably getting drafted. Because that was like a dream come true. When I was in college, I knew about the CWHL but I didn’t know too much about it. I thought, I went D3 I’m not sure what my chances are, not sure what the options are. But I kind of set it as my goal that I wanted to play for Toronto. When I was in college I would watch some games and that’s kind of what my next step was. All through high school I was trying to get to college, and then all through college I thought I need another step. I needed another goal, so the CWHL and playing for Toronto was my next goal. The NWHL got created my senior year of college I think, and obviously the Riveters were close to home. But I was like: No, I have my goals set for the Toronto Furies in the CWHL and that’s where I’m going. I have it set, so that’s what I worked towards. And when I got the email that summer, even just getting invited to the draft was incredible, because not everyone was invited. And then just hearing my name being called after the fifth round, that was just incredible. Just pulling on that jersey and putting that hat on for the first time, I was so excited.”

Alexa also gave us this unique insight on the beginnings our her life as a professional hockey player:

“We had our preseason, and it was at least a couple of weeks maybe a month. But after first two weeks we played a couple of exhibition games. And after the second exhibition game, is when the coaches and the general manager had everyone line up and come into the locker room one by one so they could tell you that he made the team or not. So that was very nerve-wracking. When you were told when they told me that there was a chance of not making the team I was like what what are you talking about !?! But once the coach said: We’d love to have you on the team, that was like a breath of fresh air and I was like oh, really? Wow, I did it that’s awesome, It was incredible. And an even more incredible thing was both my parents, every weekend, made the trip up to Toronto or wherever we played. They were always there, so that’s pretty cool. They would either leave after my Dad or Mom got home from work Friday night, or they might leave crack of dawn Saturday morning. Drive up to Toronto on Saturday, stay in a hotel Sunday, and then drive home. That’s a pretty great support system behind me!”

After her first pro year in the CWHL, Alexa was pretty much in homeward bound mode. She explained: “I was leaning towards kind of wanting to just come home. I’m a very big homebody, I just love being home. I love having my friends close, and my family close, so I was ready to kind of be home. But during the summer I  was ready to go back to Toronto in case I didn’t get an invite to the Rivs. I would’ve gone back to Toronto. But that’s when I reached out to the Rivs to see what they had for the season, and what they were thinking We got to talking and I went to some summer skates with the team. So I eventually just made the decision, pretty close to the start of the season for Toronto, that I was going to stay home and play with the Riveters.”

Alexa played in eleven games for the Riveters,registering three points last season, and added professional opponent to her resume in regards to Kayla Meneghin. But a few things changed, and Alexa had the opportunity to join the Pod. She revealed:

“We actually moved, so I am up in Ramsey: New Jersey. We’re probably 15 minutes from the Tappan Zee Bridge (closer to Danbury than Monmouth Junction) I was talking to Kayla, kind of just talking to her, talking about playing together again just bringing up the memories. I was thinking about coming back and re-joining the NWHL, but I wanted something different. And I do know a good number of girls on Connecticut, I had either played against them or because now that they’re on Kayla or Hannah’s team I’ve met them, hung out with them. I already knew a couple of girls on the team and Kayla kind of said just reach out, send them an email and tell them you’re interested. So I was like, all right, and I did it in email then and said I played for the Furies, I played for the Riveters last year. I am interested in skating with you guys and seeing what the options are, just let me know what you think. So then I got a call from Colton (Coach Colton Orr) and he invited me to practice with them. So I practiced, I had a couple of practices with them! and that’s kind of how it happened. Through Kayla, just talking about playing together again!”

So that is how it came to be, and  happily, Alexa is now skating on wing for the Pod. In a related question, one we often ask, we inquired about Alexa’s choice of numbers over her career, and how she settled on #10 here. She told us:

“I remember going to college and all of my numbers I wanted were taken, so I just kind of fell upon number 12. But then going to Toronto number 12 was taken so I decided on number 16. So then I got to like 16, and I decided OK, #16 can be my pro number. But then I come to Connecticut and all my numbers were taken So it’s kind of a cycle like that which led me to all my numbers. I was trying to find something so I asked my Dad what number he wore in football. But he said my number wouldn’t be a hockey number, it was like #52. OK, I thought, I’ll be #25. Then when I was picking out a jersey I only had #10 and #13 to choose from.I’m not sure what the other number they had was, but that was a goalie jersey. So, now I like #10!”

Before we concluded our chat, Alexa offered this message to all the Whale fans in Cetacean Nation:

“I just honestly want the fans to know how much their support means to us. It’s just awesome to see the support on social media. I have not played a home game yet so I cannot say from that standpoint, but just seeing social media and seeing all the fans liking posts, commenting, buying jerseys and posting pictures of the kids with them, it’s just amazing! And I want to make sure that they know that we are very thankful for them. And that we will continue to work as hard as we do, and even harder to to make this dream come true for the Little Future Draft Picks!”

Fins Up to those thoughts, and Fins Up to our "New" Jersey Girl, our new #10, the amazing Alexa Aramburu!

Photo of NJ Colonials with out future Whale Alexa, Hanna & Kayla (Photo courtesy the NJ Colonials)