ICYMI: Five at The IX – Ashleigh Brykaliuk

Hey everyone:

Below you will find my interview with Ashleigh Brykaliuk, newest assistant coach for the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Brykaliuk returns to her alma mater after playing abroad in China for the Vanke Rays. She will work under her former head coach Maura Crowell who I profiled in an earlier edition of The IX Newsletter.

It was recently announced the Rays have been contracted and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) will drop to six teams for the upcoming season.

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Five at The IX: 

Minnesota Duluth Assistant Coach Ashleigh Brykaliuk

This interview was conducted last month while Ashleigh was still in China. 
Erica L. Ayala: How did the opportunity to play in China with the CWHL expanding kind of come about?
Ashleigh Brykaliuk: Yeah it was about a year ago now time kinda files when you’re having a good time. I think I kind of walked into the right time with the right people and the opportunity kind of came about. I was fortunate enough to be offered [a contract] by Rob Morgan to be a sports ambassador here for Hockey China and a Chinese National Team. It was kind of timing, and a couple of people knew a couple of people and it just kind of worked out in my favor. It’s been a crazy experience, but one that’s been awesome.

ELA: After this summer you’ll make your way back to Minnesota. How did the opportunity to join as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs come about?

AB: Yeah. I mean last year UMD only had two coaches, Mara and Laura, for the year. So I think looking forward to this coming season, everyone knew there are going to be looking for a new assistant and I kind of got a call earlier on this year to kind of touch base with coach.

We had talked before last year, kind of when I was a senior and I told her I wanted to get into coaching one day and let her know that if she ever needed coach to give me a shout out with if she needed one but obviously I think that this opportunity would come up this quick but it did. I went through the interview process and I kind of came out on the right side of it. so they offered me a job not too long ago and I accepted it. That’s kind of what I’m Looking forward to now and I’m pretty excited about it.

ELA: Do you think you would have been willing to switch gears and transition from the opportunity in China if it were just any program or was it was this role and with this program why are you willing to kind of make that shift?

AB: Yeah, I think that kind of plays a big role in my decision kind of moving on from this opportunity. It’s been a great opportunity that it was tough to kind of walk away from.

It’s just an exciting experience opportunity for me. I think through my four years there, especially in my last two years as team captain. I put in a lot of heart into that program and that’s kind of where my heart still is now. I’m excited to work with the team again and hopefully get on track back to the national tournament.

So yeah, I think that that does play a big role and also being mentored by Maura [Crowell] and Laura [Bellamy] who are both great, young coaches who embrace having another young coach on their staff. I don’t think all coaches in the NCAA would embrace that as well as they will and as they have. So, I think for me as a young coach getting to work with Maura specifically, and Laura, it’s going to be a great opportunity for me to develop and grow early on in my coaching career.

ELA: I’m sure you’ve heard the news that’s the end of the NWHL has expanded to Minnesota. What are your thoughts about the Whitecaps now being part of that that playing corps right in the State of Hockey?

AB: Yeah, I was pretty excited when I first caught wind of that. I think that’s really cool. I know the Whitecaps have been around for a while and there’s been some pretty big names and players who have played there.
But adding that professionalism to that program I think is awesome. Not only for that team and for those girls who are going to get paid, but just for the girls looking up to those players and the young girls playing all around Minnesota.

I think everyone knows that a lot of top national team players they come from Minnesota. So I think that’s just going to honestly develop and create even more players who want to play hockey and potentially play professional hockey in that state. So it’s just going to grow the game and so it’s a great place to have a professional team … I think it’s just going to be great for the whole sport in general.

ELA: Any eyes in that direction? If something popped up [with the Whitecaps], is that something you’d consider?

AB: I’ve thought about it but right now I’m pretty set on my coaching duties and being in Duluth and focusing on that for now, and just kind of get my feet under me for now.

So I don’t see that in the future right now, but things could change in a few years. But, right now I’m focused on my new role as a coach in Duluth.

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