Tori Howran in action with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. Photos courtesy UNH Athletics

WILDCAT FIERCE

 

"Tori is a fierce competitor," said UNH head coach Hilary Witt. "She was a leader on our team who we relied on in every situation of the game. I am so happy for and proud of Tori."

That statement doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about our new defender Victoria “Tori” Howran, from the University if New Hampshire Wildcats, but it’s a great place to start. And for the record, Tori told us “I mostly go by Tori, it’s better than Victoria I feel like, as a nickname It’s shorter, it’s it’s easier to get my attention!” There are a lot of ways to sum up a player in a sound bite, but being called “fierce” has to be at the top of that list. Our 5’9” blue liner seems to fit the the bill of the Whale’s desire to add a big defender to their core, and when we mentioned that to Tori, she said modestly,  “I suppose I do.”  Tori hails from Bancroft, Ontario which sits a couple of hours north of Toronto. And, just about the same distance from Huntsville, Ontario, home of our #20 Laurel Hill. “ I did not know Laurel lived so close.!” she said. But we began our chat with Tori by asking her what things were like on Draft Night up in her neck of the woods, and said we imagined it was pretty exciting. Tori acknowledged

“Yes it was very exciting watching the first couple of rounds on Tuesday night! I wasn’t expecting to hear my name. I was surrounded by family, so after hearing my name it was good to enjoy the moment with them, it was definitely an exciting time for my family and I. And I was very honored to be drafted by Connecticut and sign with them eventually. It was a unique way of doing each player, being announced by female supporters, I enjoyed it a lot, seeing that. I think it needs to happen more often where females support females, so yeah. They’ve (the NWHL) done a great job so far, and a I think they will continue to do a really good job, for sure. I’m very excited for the upcoming season, and I talked to Colten today and he seems excited and hopeful for this season too. They ended up on a high note for the playoffs and that was a good sign, and hopefully we can keep that going.”  Tori mentioned the Draft format, and her own selection was announced by the Chief Brand Officer of WWE, Stephanie McMahon. We asked Tori if she was a fan or if that was totally random?  “I think that was totally random, as far as I know. I had no idea she was announcing me or that I was being announced. I mean, she did a great job, I really enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun. I don’t watch a lot of wrestling, but my a Dad actually knew more about her than I had, so that was interesting.”

Since it seemed Tori was back in Canada, we asked where and how she is dealing with the pandemic. “I’m at home in Ontario, Bancroft, Ontario, with my parents. I did my fourteen days of isolation after traveling back from the US. So, I was locked in my basement pretty much. So that’s where I’ve been, mostly staying at home during this time. I do workouts at home and I’ve been studying and doing my school work because I’m finishing up my senior year in the next week or so. It hasn’t been a drastic change, but it is a change being home this early, compared to most years when I’m home in late May. I have been working out just to maintain and gain, as much as I can without weight training. It’s definitely been a challenge, trying to keep my endurance up. So hopefully come July or August, I can either travel down to Connecticut to train or stay here and train at a gym. Bray told me about Prentiss Performance and it sounds like a good set-up. So hopefully I can take it to my advantage and use it as much as I can.”

Cetacean Nation also asked what Tori’s normal summer training regimen looked like, and she replied "Typically I would workout Monday through Friday and take the weekend off. I would condition three to four times a week during those Monday-Friday splits. I worked 9-5 last summer so I worked out in the morning, did my job, came home, and that was sort of my daily routine. This year it wii be a little different, but we’ll see how that works out." 

Throwing it back a bit, we asked how little Tori first get started in hockey up in Bancroft. She laughed and said  “It has been awhile:). I actually started out figure skating. My sister was a figure skater and my Mom grew up figure skating, so it was just natural I would be a figure skater. And then one year, one of our local hockey teams didn’t have enough players so they asked me to play, and my Mom said: Sure, she can play one year, it will be no big deal, she’ll go back to figure skating. That one year has turned into nine or ten years now! Laurel laughed. Ever since I started, I looked up to my two older brothers, they played hockey, so it was great to have some role models close to home, yeah.” 

Cetacean Nation knew Tori had skated with the Whitby Wolves, and we asked if that was the program she actually started with. She informed us  

“No, that’s not where I started. I started locally in Bancroft, with a rep team, named the Bancroft Jets. Then when I was about nine I think, I traveled to Belleville and played with the Quinnie Red Devils. It was a boys team, and I played with them for a year. Then I traveled to Peterborough, and played with the Peterborough Ice Cats for a year. I’ve done a lot of traveling! So then I took a couple of years and just played locally on both girls and boys teams. And then I started traveling to Whitby for four years. And while playing with Whitby, I kept playing with a local boys team, just in case I couldn’t travel due weather circumstances or whatever, for practice. And I would be able to get on the ice here and still be practicing. My high school hockey team at North Hastings was a boys team, we didn’t have a high school hockey girls team. So, it was sort of just like a winter sport thing. But at one point I was playing with them, and I was playing with Bancroft, and I was playing with Whitby, so it was a lot! I was always on the ice! "

Cetacean Nation guessed that hockey at Hastings probably wasn’t her main focus. Tori acknowledged.
"No it wasn’t, but it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of players I played with locally who also played high school here. We were allowed to play both teams, so we would sort of double practice. I first year I was playing with one of my older brothers, so it was a lot of fun to be able to do that. We are three years apart, so that was our first time playing together, so that was pretty cool. And then my other brother ended up coaching us, so it was like a family affair. All three! If we could just throw my sister in there, it would have been all of us:) But we couldn’t figure out a job for her yet ", she added laughing. "She was mostly a figure skater, but she did play one year of house league hockey. She did well and completed her goals in figure skating. All of my siblings and I spent a lot of time at the rink! “

Cetacean Nation then asked if Tori had always skated on D, and she explained “For the most part I’ve normally played defense. Once and awhile coaches would throw me up at forward for whatever reason. And sometimes on the power play I’ve played forward, because I’m a big body who can stand in front of the net” she laughed. But mostly I’ve played defense, it’s definitely my strength in hockey I‘ve found. I’m definitely a defensive defenseman but I’m leaning towards trying to build on my offensive aspect of playing.” 

Tori was a Gold medalist with her U18 Team Ontario squad in the Canadian National Championship, and a Silver medalist with her U18 Team Canada at the World Championship, and we asked her what those events were like.

“It was a phenomenal experience. My Provincial team going to the National Championship and winning that, was quite the experience, that I won’t forget. We actually played at Huntsville, that’s ironic, (Because Huntsville as we mentioned is where our #20 Laurel Hill is from) I did not know Laurel lived so close.” That’s where the Championships were. So they were great experiences for both my Provincial and National Teams. My family was able to come, and many of my friends were able to come and watch me play, and encourage me, and support me. It was just great playing at World’s against some of the best player’s across the world, it was just mind blowing, Such a phenomenal experience I won’t forget, that’s for sure" 

Tori added “I know a couple of people who were drafted, were actually on my team,for Team Canada U18’s. I played with Kayla Friesen who was also drafted by the Whale, and Saroya Tinker who was drafted,to Metropolitan I believe. I”ve played with her and against her. There are others who are in the league or probably going to sign with the league. i think it’s definitely fun to play with people you know snd see them before the game or after the game. It brings that extra intensity sometimes just because you don’t want to lose ro them or you won’t have the bragging rights" she said laughing  "I mean I respect all of them, they’re all great players, but at the end of the day I still want to win with my teammates.”

As you have learned along with us, Tori has played a lot of hockey growing up. And with all that we asked her if she had an opportunity to try any other sports?

“Throughout high school I played many sports. I played field hockey, I did volleyball, I did badminton at one point, and then I did track and field. And then in the summers, in between hockey seasons, I generally played beach volleyball! So that was something I really enjoyed growing up, and my sister also played. We each played doubles in different age categories, and we’d go to tournaments and compete, so that was a lot of fun growing up, to be able to do that.”

Tori mentioned participating in track & field at Hastings, and we noted she is still listed on the school’s All-Time records with a triple jump of 9.32 meters (4th), a long jump of 4.22 meters (7th), and a javelin throw of 28.42 meters (3rd). We wondered if any of that explosiveness translated over to hockey, and if she had a favorite memory of the sport?Tori revealed “It has translated over. As I trained more I realized jumping is more beneficial for both explosiveness and power so was good to be able to do that throughout high school, I guess one day, it was actually our first division competition, it is called Bay of Quinte (May 14, 2014) . It’s our first divisional high school meet, so it’s people in our school district who compete against each other. There’s about twelve schools I would say, it’s all the schools in Belleville Ontario, and then there’s two or three north of that, and then there’s a few that are east of Belleville that are aalso part of it. I set new PR’s for myself in each of my events, long jump, triple jump, and javelin that day, it was an overall great day for me. The weather was perfect, I felt really good that day, and things just went my way!” 

So when it came time to take her career and education to the next level, we wondered how it came to be that Tori chose UNH as her college. She explained

“So I was contacted by a few teams over my recruiting process, 10th and 11th grade in high school. And UNH was actually one of the last schools to contact me which is ironic. And I said I’ll consider you, but I’m sort of leaning towards other schools at this time. Until my sister and I ended up driving shown on two tours in a 48 hour span, which was pretty crazy, considering it’s ten hours there and ten hours home! . I visited, walked around campus with my sister, and just fell in love with every aspect. I could see myself walking that campus for four years. Even if for some reason I couldn’t play hockey, I would enjoy my time at UNH. And I think that was an important aspect for me, to still be able to enjoy my time even if my hockey continued or didn’t because you never know what happens. And the athletic and academic balance was something that really struck me and stayed with me, so that’s how I chose UNH!”

Tori had a great career at the University of New Hampshire, and continued to develop as a hockey player. And as she got better and better, so did her team. Over the course of her career with UNH, she tallied seven goals and 48 assists for 55 points, and blocked 167 shots. We asked Tori for her thoughts on that and she said.

"It was for sure special. Coming in freshman year, we had some illness and minor injuries but I could still see the development of the team sort of happening. My class, my fellow teammates, were a great recruiting class and they really helped build the program. And then my coaches did a phenomenal job in recruiting for the following seasons. They kept bringing in players that were willing to learn and get better, each and every day, and putting in the work and time. It really changed the atmoshere in our locker room, which I think translated well onto the ice, and helped us gain success over the years. Hillary Witt (UNH Head Coach) came in the year prior to my first year, and she really turned things around I felt. And through my four years I noticed it. Just her values, both hers and Bill Bowes. And Stephanie Jones, they’ just were great people. And brought in great people to really uplift the locker room. I think that’s an important aspect that translates out onto the ice. I feel if you have good chemistry in the locker room it will show out on the ice. So it was great to see everyone get along for all four years. With such a long season in college it is hard to keep people motivated throughout six months, so you need those pushes sometimes. And I think that’s how we really developed individually but more importantly as a team. We really developed, and our team encouraged each other. “

We had noticed that Tori, had become more and more of a part of the offense at UNH each successive season and she replied "For sure, it was something the coaches tried to help build in me, and it was fun. Offense is definitely fun.”  But shot blocking was also a skill Tori honed at UNH, and she averaged better than a block per game. Tori commented "It’s been a lot of blocked shots :) I’ve had a lot of bruises over the years. None that I regret though! I really embrace blocking shots as something I take to the heart. It definitely is nice to have as a skill when it comes to penalty kill, that’s one of my strongest areas I find, my penalty kill. So I blocked a lot of shots on the penalty kill” Those skills helped UNH record the eighth-best penalty kill % in the NCAA last season, at 89%, allowing just 16 power play goals on 145 attempts. Tori had 57 of her career blocked shots last season as well.

So we asked Tori to describe her style of play, and since she served as Captain for the squad her senior year, her style of leadership as well. She responded

“My leadership sort of fluctuated throughout the years, I didn’t always wear the “C” but I always tried to set an example as new classes came in and other people. I tried to put enough effort, and have a good work ethic throughout. I try to come to the rink each day prepared to,learn and get better, I think that’s one thing. My playing style is hard-working, I try to stay composed. I’m never trying to live off of a high, or get down on a low shift, or an error that happened. I try to stay pretty level-headed throughout the game. Or practice, because it can get competitive in practice a lot of times. I think I just try to lead by example through my work ethic and then hopefully that helps. I’m not really a vocal leader, but I have been working on that. Just from over the years, seeing other captains in their roles and how it can impact a team really, so I am trying to work on that still. There are always areas I need to improve on. So I guess I try to lead by example, doing the right things at the right times. It can really turn people off if you try to act out of your ordinary self, it pushes people away sometimes. So I guess I stay who I am, whether I have a “C” or not and go from there.”

With all of the hockey she’s played, we wondered if Tori had a favorite rink that she'd played in. She considered that, and said

Oh, there’s quite a few rinks. I loved the Whittemore Center at UNH. It’s a beautiful facility, the ice is big, I love that rink. I really liked the Lake Placid rink, it had a lot of history to it, it was in some movies. I played there for the Canada-US Series in August. That was a really cool experience to be able to play in that rink. So many rinks! I really loved my four years at UNH playing at the Whittimore Center, so I think I’ve been a little spoiled.” 

Off the ice, Tori excelled in the classroom and was a three-time Hockey East All-Academic Team honoree. She majored in Psychology! With a Forensic Studies and a Justice Studies Minors and disclosed

“I really enjoy criminal investigation, and I’m hoping to pursue that as a Master’s Program. But I just really enjoyed getting to know why people think the way they do, why people act the way they do, and so that’s where psychology came in for me. Learning about that over the four years just made me fall more in love with the field. And my Foresnsic Studiex and Justice Stidies minors were something that intrigued me through TV shows like CSI and Criminal Minds. So one day I said, sure, let’s try one class, and then I was like: Wow, I actually like this, so I might stick with it. And I actually ended up getting minors in both of them, it’s been quite the journey. For psychology, I figure I’m interacting with people every day, so I think it’s something everyone should know a little bit about. Since we all interact with people everyday, maybe not so much now during the pandemic, but for the most part you are interacting with people, so knowing different behaviors, and learning about people is an important aspect of knowing how to interact with them.Tori had mentioned CSI, and we commented that if she became a profiler, we hoped she wouldn’t have any of the harrowing adventures those guys did. She laughed and said“ Hopefully not! I don’t want to be locked in a coffin somewhere. “

We asked Tori when she first become aware of the NWHLand when she developed an interest in playing there, and she told us. “Like I knew about the NWHL when I traveled to the States to play hockey for my university. And because there was also the CWHL at the time, and I knew a little bit more of that, I’m from Canada so it was more promoted up here in the Northern Country. But once I traveled to University of New Hampshire I became more familiar with the NWHL. And then some of my teammates got drafted and started playing there. So then I really didn’t think about playing in the NWHL until my past couple of seasons where I thought maybe it would be an option because I was wanting to continue my hockey career after college.”

Cetacean Nation is always curious about numbers, and asked about Tori’s number. She told us

"I have not been assigned nor have I requested a number yet. I haven’t really gotten that far in the sequence, after just signing I haven’t really, just with the whole pandemic and everything. I know people are busy during this time trying to get players signed, so I’ve just sort of stepped back since I’ve done mine, I’ll wait and see about the number. Maybe in the next little bit I’ll think about requesting a number. Growing up since I was little, I wore #5. And then #5 was taken when I entered college, somebody else was already wearing it, so then I took #15. So it will be interesting to see what number I choose now. Because both of those numbers are taken as of right now” she laughed. "It’s funny because the coaching staff (at UNH) asked me if I wanted to switch over to #5 once it became available, but I opted to stay with #15 for my career there. So maybe I’ll adopt a new number for my next journey.”

We also asked Tori if she was planning on being involved in any hockey outside  of Whale practices or games, and she replied “I’m hoping to get involved with the community and do some coaching or clinics or something. It’s not totally set in stone what’s going to happen, but that’s what I’m looking at right. I’ll be moving to the area somewhere, probably with teammates. I do like to give back to communities because I remember growing up, people coming out to help me and my fellow teammates and it was always great to have those older players as role models, and I just wanted to do that no matter where I am. Because I know there are people everywhere that do this and change communities, it’s definitely something close to my heart to be able to do that. So I definitely will be around the rinks outside of just Danbury, Connecticut. In the future I hope to coach as well, so we’ll see."

 We also discussed with Tori, the rule about jumping the boards in the NWHL, and the autograph tables after games. She stated

“At UNH we jumped the boards quite frequently at our home rink, and some away rinks, so it won’t be a huge change for me. It’s weird that it’s actually a rule! Thankful for my height! Maybe I should have done high jump! "she laughed. And she added she was familiar with the autograph sessions, from UNH “Mostly during our special event games, whether it’s Breast Cancer Awareness or Mental Health Awareness. After the game we would go to the lobby and sit and sigh autographs and interact with people. We also did events like Skate With the ‘Cats, and the little ones would get the skates on and come out after a game and skate with all of us, the men’s team too. And it was a great way to interact with them and get to know some of the future prospects”

Tori added this about a fellow  Wildcat who transformed to Whale, our former #28 Sam Faber: “I came across her profile and noticed she was coaching at LIU. She’s been around UNH a couple of times. Now we’d have a ton to talk about. We had something to talk about then, and now with Connecticut we’ll have a lot to talk about.” As we wrapped up our chat with Tori she passed along this message to the fans

"I am very excited to join the Whale and get to know some of the fans, so it's  going to be a good time! I hope everyone down in Connecticut stays safe during these times, and hopefully I’ll see everyone soon!” Fins Up to that. And Fins Up to our new Amazing, Tori Howran for letting her new fans get to know her a little more through her engaging and informative content. We are looking forward to her bringing that Wildcat Fierce to the Pod next season!

Tori with some Little Future Draft Picks back at her elementary school in Bancroft, Ontario. Photo courtesy of Melissa Armstrong