Renata Fast and Erin Ambrose were on official and unofficial visits,
respectively, to Clarkson University the first time they met. Fast had
taken the train from Burlington, Ont., to Potsdam, N.Y., but she’d be
hitching a ride back with Ambrose and her parents.
A five-hour drive later the duo arrived at their destination: a rink in the
north end of Toronto, where Fast and the Burlington Barracudas faced off
against Ambrose and the Toronto Aeros in the Provincial Women’s Hockey
“Renata and I had barely known each more for more than two days, and we sat
there in the lobby just trying to have a conversation,” says Ambrose.
“Obviously, we’ve gotten to know each other quite a bit since then.”
The two were roommates freshman year and won an NCAA championship as
sophomores. After graduating in 2016, they were the Toronto Furies’ first
two picks in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League draft. Even at the CWHL
All-Star Game, where teams are decided by randomly drawing names from a
bucket, they ended up on the same side.
Fast and Ambrose are together again, this time with Canada’s National
Women’s Team. Despite seemingly similar paths, the two took much different
roads to arrive at their first women’s worlds.
Ambrose has been a Team Canada mainstay since she was 15. She played in
three IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships, winning gold in 2010 and again,
as captain, in 2012, when she was named Best Defenceman. She won two more
gold medals with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team, at the 2013
Meco Cup and 2016 Nations Cup.
One summer training in Nova Scotia proved the stepping stone to turn a
prodigy into a player capable of one day playing for Canada’s National
“I had been in the [Hockey Canada] program for three years, and I needed to
push myself to get to the next level,” says Ambrose. “After that summer I
made the U22 team for the first time and played with Marie-Philip Poulin,
Brianne Jenner and those kinds of players. Getting to be around them is
when you really see what it takes to get to [the next] level.”
Fast didn’t wear red and white until after her second year of college. She
played with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team in the 2014 and 2015
summer series against the United States and won gold at the 2015 Nations
“I never felt overlooked; I just developed a little bit later,” says Fast.
A multi-sport athlete in high school, Fast didn’t focus all her energy on
hockey until she got to Clarkson. “My first two years of U22 I was happy to
just be at selection camp. I was learning a ton, and I knew if I continued
to work hard, my time would come.”
Pushed every day in practice by a talented Golden Knights roster dotted
with national team alumnae, Fast saw her game grow by the end of her
sophomore season. “That year was a big turning point for me. I made my
first [national] team the following year.”
Learning from those who’d been where they wanted to go hasn’t been the
pair’s only common lesson.
“It’s about resiliency and working hard every day,” says Fast.
“It teaches you how much it takes,” says Ambrose. “When you’re young you
don’t see the nitty-gritty things that it takes to be an everyday pro. As
I’ve matured, I’ve started to figure those things out through mistakes and
“It’s about being a constant learner and believing in yourself,” says Fast.
“Whether I’m a rookie [at the world championship] or a senior in college,
my game stays the same because that’s what makes me successful,” says
Ambrose. That, too, came from maturity and experiencing failure. “It’s put
me in a position to have confidence in myself to be the same player every
day, regardless of what team I’m on.”
They’ve also leaned on each other. While the two were seldom on the ice
together at Clarkson, their familiarity with each other’s games made the
jump to the Furies easier for both.
“It’s similar to when you’re coming in as a freshman. It’s a transition
year,” says Fast. Then it was about sharing classes, eating meals together
and pushing each other on the ice and with their studies. And now in the
CWHL? “Even though we weren’t D partners at Clarkson, we watched each
other. It’s a second set of eyes that’s constantly giving you tips and
looking out for you. And off the ice, trying to find a good routine, we had
each other’s back.”
“She’s somebody who’s pushed me every day to get better,” says Ambrose.
“We’ve done that for each other, on the ice, off the ice, every situation.
Our friendship has grown even more outside of college. It had a foundation
because of going to school together and knowing that we had the same