Sheffield Steeldogs logo (via Sheffield Steeldogs)
22-year-old women’s goaltender Nicole Jackson is following in the footsteps of Noora Raty and Shannon Szabados, as she has signed on to play in the top English men’s league next season. Jackson has been the starting netminder for Great Britain’s women’s national team for the past three seasons.
You won’t find Nicole Jackson at the Olympic games or the World Championships, but having established herself as one of the best women’s netminders not yet in the top level of international competition has opened the door for her to join the men’s English Premier League next season.
The EPIHL’s Sheffield Steeldogs announced this week that Jackson, 22, will be joining the club as a backup netminder. The contract is a two-way deal that will also allow her to play in an amateur league so she can continue to get starting work.
Jackson won’t be making her EPL debut, however, as this past season she had played alongside the Steeldogs in the English Challenge Cup.
“Having given Nicole the opportunity in the cup last season, she showed that she can do a job for the team,” Steeldogs owner Shane Smith said in a release. “She is the GB goalie and she is a real hard worker — you know she is going to turn in a hardworking performance. She also has a great level of fitness. She is wanting to progress and develop her game and we are glad to give her the chance to do that with the Steeldogs.”
The players and staff are embracing the signing, as captain and player-coach Greg Wood said he’s glad to have Jackson come back aboard.
“She came in last year and did a really good job playing in the cup games and we won every game she featured in — we know what she can do,” Wood said. “(Smith) really wants to help develop the women’s game and…made a commitment to Nicole which I’m happy we are keeping.”
At international competition over the past two seasons, Jackson has posted unbelievable numbers. In four games with Great Britain at the 2013-14 Division II World Championship, she had a 0.78 goals-against average and gaudy .973 save percentage. She followed that up with a 1.00 GAA and .964 SP in 2014-15.
In the women’s EPL in 2014-15, Jackson also dominated competition to the tune of a 1.10 GAA and .950 SP in 13 appearances. She also played 20 games for the Widnes Wild of the NIHL, a men’s amateur league, posting one shutout, a 3.93 GAA and .893 SP. The Wild finished in fourth place in 2014-15.