Bell ready to weigh her options

After stellar collegiate career and international success, Deloraine defender plans to play professionally


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Deloraine’s Ashton Bell had the golden touch in 2021 and 2022.

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Deloraine’s Ashton Bell had the golden touch in 2021 and 2022.

She helped Canada earn the big prize at two world women’s hockey championships and the Beijing Olympics — all three coming in the span of 370 days.

The 23-year-old blue-liner’s good fortune took a turn earlier this month when she was inexplicably left off the national team roster for the upcoming world championship in Brantford, Ont., April 5-16.

Ashton Bell was the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer in 2022-23, with 12 goals and 33 points in 39 games. </p>
Ashton Bell was the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer in 2022-23, with 12 goals and 33 points in 39 games.

“I was definitely in the running to make the worlds team but got the news that I wasn’t going to be a part of this year’s worlds roster,” said Bell, who recently completed her fifth and final season of eligibility with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

“Obviously, I was really sad about that, but I’m just looking ahead now. I was able to finish off my season with the Bulldogs and I’m going to take some time to process that. I’m really excited for the girls that are going and can’t wait to cheer them on.”

Bell, recently named a first-team All-American, was also named the first three-time All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-team all-star blue-liner in program history.

She was Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer in 2022-23, with 12 goals and 33 points in 39 games.

After a spectacular college season, Bell didn’t get a detailed explanation for why she was left off the national team roster that includes blue-liner Jocelyne Larocque of Ste. Anne and goaltender Kristen Campbell of Brandon.

“I didn’t get too much reasoning why, but we’ll have a conversation with the coaches after they’re done competing at worlds,” said Bell. “I just want to let them focus on that right now and then open up a conversation hopefully after to get more reasoning and what more they need out of me.”

The Bulldogs were eliminated from NCAA title contention when they lost in the regional final to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

“Ash is still a young player and I think she’ll be back in the mix some time soon,” said Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell. “But this just wasn’t her time, I guess.”

The Bulldogs boss said Bell returned to Duluth last fall as a more polished performer after spending a year centralized with Hockey Canada,

“She was a step ahead of where she was when I saw her leave for the national team,” said Crowell. “She was an all-American the season before being centralized and going off and winning the gold medal and she came back even better. She was just more confident, more decisive with the puck.”

It was only three seasons ago that Bell made the wise decision to convert to defence after spending most of her career as a forward.

“I think I’ve continued to grow defensively and I’m still adding tools to my toolbox offensively,” said Bell. “I think there’s still lots of room for growth and improvement, and just getting more confident in myself in my game at the highest levels, I think will be the next step.”

Added Crowell: “Her skating has always been elite… Very few college players skate the way Ashton does and I also thought her defending advanced incredibly over the year that she was gone because she did play a lot of defence against some high-level talent.”

Bell is unsure about what she will do next. She plans to play professionally and has two female pro circuits — the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association and the Premier Hockey Federation — from which to choose.

Many national team members appear to favour the PWHPA option.

”I want to stay involved in the PWHPA,” said Bell. “It’s awesome to see so many opportunities now. A few years ago, girls coming out of college didn’t really know what they were going to do next. They might be done playing hockey, but now there’s so many opportunities for us women to come out of college and keep playing hockey, which is awesome to see.”

Whatever she chooses, Bell expects to have a busy off-season. She is currently planning the second annual Don Dietrich Memorial Hockey Road Hockey Tournament for her hometown for June 24.

The inaugural event in 2022 raised $9,500 for youth sports in the area.

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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