Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

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Popchock Says: EJ’s Army Edition with Elijah Milne-Price

EJ Milne-Price

You’d be hard-pressed to find another player in the 15-year history of the Division I women’s hockey program at Robert Morris University who has done more with less than Class of ’18 goaltender Elijah “EJ” Milne-Price.

Not for nothing, EJ only played one full season as a first-string netminder at the NCAA level, dressing for a team that went from needing depth at her position to having an embarrassment of riches. Nevertheless, she parlayed that amazingly successful senior campaign into a pro contract before the fickle finger of fate pointed her in the general direction of player development, and she hasn’t looked back.

She was in the midst of playing juniors for her hometown Mississauga (Ontario) Chiefs when she got “the call” from Robert Morris during its 2014-15 season. Courtney Vinet had suddenly left the program over dissatisfaction with playing time, and Carley Catherine would later transfer to Illinois State to pursue a career in sports psychology, leaving EJ to ride shotgun to sophomore Jessica Dodds.

Dodds hadn’t yet come into her own. Still, EJ debuted inconspicuously, and to throw another log into the fire, Lauren Bailey, a promising rookie with several USA Hockey national camp invitations on her resume, came in on scholarship for ’15-’16.

Ultimately, EJ edged Bailey for the starting job after biding her time. Bookending that season with CHA Goaltender of the Month awards, she earned First Team all-conference honors for 2017-18 while helping her team earn back-to-back regular season titles.

Her 20 wins in goal led CHA, ditto her team single-season record six shutouts. In fact, she became just the third RMU goaltender ever to earn back-to-back goose eggs and the very first to do it twice in the same year, and her stretch of 181:09 without allowing a goal Jan. 27-Feb. 16, 2018 broke U.S. Olympian Brianne McLaughlin’s school record.

The Markham Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League took notice of EJ’s 1.77 goals-against average, which ranked ninth nationally, and .927 save percentage, which was the third-best single-year mark ever by a Colonial, and selected her in the seventh round of the CWHL’s entry draft, with the 36th overall pick. Her watershed moment was a 7-1 decision over the Worcester Blades Feb. 2, 2019 that got her CWHL Goalie of the Week plaudits.

But then came the last–and hardest–hard knock of her playing career: the league shut down that spring due to economic issues. That’s when she decided to create an army.

Today EJ works full-time as a goalie instructor at the PowerPlay Training Centre in Burlington, Ontario, molding the young girls she collectively calls “EJ’s Army” into strong women. When I learned EJ was continuing her efforts to grow the game despite the CWHL’s demise, I couldn’t wait to talk to her and promote her cause. I couldn’t wait to reminisce about her time at Robert Morris, either.

Connecting with a buddy across the border is never easy (I apologize for the phone hiccups in the second half of our chat), but that’s just what we did. Being characteristically generous with her time before heading to private coaching sessions, she explained why she is so appreciative of her time with the Colonials, and the fluid, circuitous series of events that led her to college hockey stardom. As she prepared for her commute, 25 minutes from Mississauga, she also gave me an update on former RMU scoring champion Brittany Howard, her longtime friend, and their further academic endeavors.

EJ went on to tell me the story of the chance encounter with a Burlington area goalie coach at the day job she had been working since earning her Sports Management degree, and how it led to the creation of “EJ’s Army.” She’s probably as down-to-Earth as anyone who’s played her position in Division I hockey, and that’s what she tries to pass along to her kids.

She also told me about the most exotic place she ever played professionally, and how blown away she was by the support for women’s hockey in that particular part of the world.

I’ll never forget her unflappable, ear-to-ear smile, or her signature, one-legged fist pump at the end of Colonial victories. It was great catching up with EJ, and you can give a listen right here:

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