Since it was announced last week that there was a possibility that two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist Shannon Szabados would join the Columbus Cottonmouths, the anticipation to see how she would perform on the ice has been building.
The wait will end Saturday night when Szabados becomes the first female to play in a game in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
The Cottonmouths announced Friday that Szabados will be the goalie for Saturday night’s game against the Knoxville Ice Bears at the Columbus Civic Center. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Szabados, an Edmonton, Alberta, native, helped lead the Canadian team to the gold medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics last month in Sochi, Russia, and also in 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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In those two Olympics, Szabados went 6-0 with three shutouts. She allowed just four goals.
“Shannon has looked phenomenal in practice in her short time with us. She hasn’t missed a beat since the Olympics wrapped three weeks ago,” assistant head coach Brad Prefontaine said. “We would love to see a full arena to support our newest Snake as she makes her professional debut.”
Szabados arrived in Columbus on Wednesday night. She took part in a short practice Thursday morning before a press conference introducing her to the media, which included the New York Times.
Szabados didn’t play in the Snakes’ 5-0 loss to Pensacola on Thursday night. She practiced again on Friday. The team did not have a game scheduled for Friday after it was moved back to Saturday earlier in the season.
The Snakes will have one more home game during the regular season after Saturday. The Cottonmouths are at home against Louisiana at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The regular seasons ends with a pair of road games, March 21 at the Mississippi Surge and March 22 at the Huntsville Havoc.
The Snakes have already clinched a playoff berth and are seventh in the SPHL standings, two points behind Knoxville.
Szabados is a former teammate of three of the Cottonmouths: Jordan Draper, Andy Willigar and Kyle Johnson. They all played on the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.