As the head coach of the PWHL’s Oakville Jr. Hornets squad, Bradi Cochrane is an articulate and highly experienced former player who is helping to groom the next generation of women’s hockey talent. Having competed as a player at the NCAA and the NWHL levels, Cochrane’s work as a head coach is equally impressive.
One of Cochrane’s best accomplishments as a head coach came at the 2012 Canadian Under-18 National Championships. As the head coach of Team Ontario Blue, she led the squad to their first ever gold medal. “It was a fantastic experience. A great bunch of kids, and a great staff. It was a special moment the kids will not forget, especially us as a staff.”
With Ontario icing two teams for the event (the other being Team Ontario Red), two of Cochrane’s players from the Oakville Hornets also competed at the 2012 Nationals. Goaltender Camille Leonard and defender Kristin Gilmour competed for Team Ontario Red.
Having to coach against two of her players was a different experience. “I was happy for them. Ontario Red is a top team and I was very proud of them. On the other end of things, I was also proud of the players we (Ontario Blue) had.”
One of her assistant coaches with the Oakville Hornets is Shannon Moulson. The sister of New York Islanders skater Matt Moulson, she is a professional player with the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Moulson’s presence with the Hornets players is undisputed. “Absolutely, they look up to her. She is a very knowledgeable player and person. The kids have been out to see her with the Furies. She brings a great deal to every practice.”
Ironically, Moulson and Cochrane both played their NCAA hockey with the Niagara Purple Eagles. With Niagara, Cochrane was a two-sport star as she excelled in both softball and women’s ice hockey, respectively.
Cochrane was part of the Purple Eagles squad that competed in the 2002 NCAA Frozen Four. Under the leadership of former Canadian national team member Margot Page, the Purple Eagles had a season to remember.
“To play in the Frozen Four was absolutely unbelievable. It was held in New Hampshire, and we ended losing to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3-2. In the third place game, we ended up tying the Minnesota Golden Gophers. To finish in third place was pretty cool. It was only the second year that the program existed.”
With Niagara having dissolved their women’s hockey program in 2012, it was disappointing to Cochrane. “It was a big shock. That was my alma mater. There were no hints.”
She continued, “I could not help but imagine how the coaches and players felt. Some players got the opportunity to transfer to other schools, but for some kids, they lost the experience to play Division I hockey.”
Of note, Cochrane is also a former professional player herself. She competed with the Beatrice Aeros (later known as the Mississauga Aeros) and played with the likes of Jennifer Botterill, Cassie Campbell, Angela James and Geraldine Heaney.
“Playing with the Aeros was pretty amazing. There were nine Winter Games competitors on the team. They were pretty special people and special hockey players as well. To play with them was an amazing experience. They are very knowledgeable. To see their natural abilities was unbelievable.”
Her best experience with the Aeros came at the 2000 Esso Women’s Nationals when the squad was awarded the Abby Hoffman Cup. “The last time we won the nationals was at Nova Scotia in 2000. That was a highlight for sure. We had a fantastic coach in Ken Dufton. He knows how to teach the game.”
In playing for Dufton, Cochrane acknowledged his influence on her as a coach. “He is definitely an influence. 100 percent. He is a great role model to have. He helped me lots as a player. How he structures practices and brings out the best in player’s skills were influences.”
With the passage of time, Cochrane has noticed a change in the level of competition. “It has definitely improved. There is a lot more parity. When looking at the bottom tier and the top tier, there is not much of a gap. The skill level and the speed is really impressive.”
“I also work with young kids and they pick things up so well. At one time, things you would only try in peewee, you can now try in novice. They pick things up so easily.” With the remarkable Cochrane providing the guidance, the future of women’s hockey is in great hands.
*All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated