By Matt Gajtka
Moon Township — Former Robert Morris University women’s hockey team star defender and co-captain Kirsten Welsh ’19 has been selected as one of four female officials to work National Hockey League rookie tournaments in the coming days.
Welsh, 22, will officiate in the Buffalo Sabres’ Rookie Challenge, set for Sept. 6-9 at the HarborCenter complex, the same building where she concluded her accomplished collegiate career six months ago. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils will send teams to the event, which is intended as a testing ground for prospects.
Welsh was on the ice serving as a linesman in Friday’s Rookie Challenge opener between Pittsburgh and Boston.
Rookie tournaments have also been used by the NHL in recent years as tests for aspiring on-ice officials, many of whom have gone on to secure pro contracts. However, this is the first year that women will be included in the mix.
“I love the game,” Welsh told NHL.com, “and I want to use my experience and knowledge to be one of the first females to officiate in the NHL, to open up the path for the future of females officiating.”
Welsh is the least-experienced of the four women selected for rookie tourney duty, as her playing career just ended last spring with RMU’s third consecutive College Hockey America regular-season title. The two-time all-CHA First Team selection skated in 128 games for the Colonials, scoring 37 goals and 91 total points. Notably, she also piled up 259 penalty minutes.
Welsh, a native of Blackstock, Ontario, attended the NHL’s Exposure Combine for aspiring officials in August. The Combine is a stepping stone in the journey for many officials in their quest to land a job in professional hockey, whether that journey start at the American Hockey League or ECHL level, or in North American junior hockey leagues.
While Welsh is on a pioneer’s path due to her gender, she isn’t alone as a Colonial in embracing the potential of officiating as a career. Two alumni of the RMU men’s hockey program, Furman South ’12 and Brandon Blandina ’12, have climbed the ladder to officiate NHL regular-season games. South, a Sewickley native, has reffed 43 NHL games over the past three seasons, while Blandina made his NHL debut last spring.
Center Ice Clipboard: The Pittsburgh Penguins lost 4-3 to the Boston Bruins at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo on Friday while the host Buffalo Sabres claimed a 6-4 victory against the New Jersey Devils.
Looking Back – RMU Athletics On YouTube.com (02/27/2019) – RMU Women’s Hockey Senior Video…
Matt Gajtka is the Media Relations Specialist for Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Men’s and Women’s Hockey, and Women’s Lacrosse at Robert Morris University.