Coming into this season a lot of us didn’t know much about Brooke Baker’s game unless you watched her play hockey at the Rochester Institute of Technology. But two months into her professional career we now know that the Metropolitan Riveters forward, who is originally from Saline, Michigan, is a big part of her team’s RIT Line and at 5’8” she is a tower of power in front of opposing goaltenders.
After netting a hat trick in the Riveters’ lone preseason game, Baker had to wait seven games into the regular season to record her official first NWHL goal. It was certainly worth the wait as that goal, which was scored shorthanded, was the eventual game-winning goal in a grimy, grind-it-out 2-1 Rivs win in Connecticut on Dec. 1. The 22-year-old Baker has been playing the majority of this season alongside two of her teammates from college, Kendall Cornine, and Mallory Rushton, on the Riveters’ RIT Line. Their chemistry is very noticeable and the trio has been reliable for Head Coach Ivo Mocek.
Cornine has been one of the league’s best rookies this season with nine goals and 11 points over her first 11 NWHL games. Rushton is the lone RITveter without a goal this season, but she has displayed great vision (five assists) and with her experience playing defense in college she has been a key player on the point at times during power plays.
After an off-season where GM Kate Whitman Annis has had to rebuild almost the entire roster, the Riveters have been a competitive team during the first half of the league’s fifth season and a lot of that has to do with the acquisition of players like Baker who love playing the game.
The Hockey Writers: How did you feel and what were your takeaways after making your NWHL debut?
Brooke Baker: Definitely the speed and size (of the players) was a big difference for me, compared to playing in college. Everyone in this league is way more patient with the puck, and that’s what good hockey players do. They are patient with the puck and that might catch me off guard sometimes because I go to reach for it and they hold it away from me. That’s a harder game to adjust to than in college, just a little different.
I think as a team we came out strong for the first five minutes before Boston got their legs under them and got on top of us a little bit more. Maybe their first goal got us down a little bit, but we regrouped after the first period and came out strong; I felt like we were with them the whole game, but they’re a talented team who are very patient with the puck.
THW: Having two of your RIT teammates here on the Riveters is surely making the transition easier for you on the ice, right?
BB: Everyone always asks if we played together in college and all three of us never played together but it was me and Mal at a time or me and Kendall or Kendall and Mal. But I think all of us having four years of college hockey together, you mesh and become good teammates. We know each other. We know our strengths, we know our weaknesses, and that makes it easier on the ice. Coach says we move the puck really well together and those are the reasons why we play together so well. It has made the transition here way easier, we didn’t have to get to know a linemate’s strengths and weaknesses right off the bat to start the season.
THW: And having them also helps you to transition to a new league and place to live as well right?
BB: Oh yeah. So Mallory and I both live with Kendall (who is from New Jersey) in Kinnelon, so the three of us are living together. Mal and I were roommates for three years at RIT — We’re inseparable!!
Brooke’s Journey East
THW: As someone who was born and raised in Michigan, how’d you end up at RIT in New York State?
BB: With no Division I women’s hockey teams in Michigan I had to look elsewhere. My senior year in HS the coach I had while playing for the Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles (Scott Welsh) was good friends with Scott McDonald (coach at RIT) who I got in touch with and set up a visit. I stepped on campus and I absolutely loved it. Literally loved it. The campus. The rink. There is great fanbase there and the school is great; I got a good education. I think it was just an immediate yes from me. I was almost thinking of not playing hockey in college and when my parents picked me up after my official visit I looked at them and said: I’m committing. They said: just chill Brooke! Let’s give it a day. And I said, nope I’m calling coach McDonald. He is my favorite coach in the entire world.
THW: So was the NWHL on your radar for post-college plans?
BB: I knew of the league. I knew a few of my friends who played in it. It wasn’t a thought in my mind until the end of my senior year. I just love hockey. I just want to play. I don’t care about anything that’s going on outside of the rink, I just wanna get out there and play the sport I love. I was thinking about it all summer, thinking about playing the sport I love.
THW: Kendall signs first, then you and Mallory follow suit. Did that make it that much more enticing, getting to keep playing with friends?
BB: It definitely did make it more enticing. Yeah, I’ll play another year with some of my best friends, that’ll be a blast! I asked my job back home in Ann Arbor if I can work remotely for them and they gave me their full support to pursue this opportunity. Everything fell into place and worked out perfectly for me. I definitely wouldn’t be here without my parents and everyone else who supports me.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.