Alex Rigsby has a history of standing out on the ice.
Rigsby, a 24-year-old goaltender and longtime staple with the U.S. women’s ice hockey team, was drafted by the Chicago Steel in the 2009 United States Hockey League draft, becoming the first female ever selected in the country’s top junior league.
Growing up playing on competitive boys’ hockey teams, Rigsby skated for the Chicago Mission and Milwaukee Admirals in her youth days, and the USHL took notice.
“I was one of maybe 40 goalies at the Chicago main camp, and then I made it to the all-star game, but was one of the last cuts,” remembered Rigsby.
Fast forward to 2016 and Rigsby is expected to be the backbone to the United States’ chances to repeat as gold medalists at the Four Nations Cup, which are being held through Nov. 5 in Vierumaki, Finland, and includes Team USA, Canada, Sweden and host Finland. The U.S. swept its first two games, going 6-0 and 4-0 against Sweden and Finland. Rigsby was in goal for the opening game with Sweden.
“I’m really looking forward to it as always,” said Rigsby, a native of Delafield, Wisconsin, said before the tournament. “It’s a great opportunity, and I’m very fortunate to play with such a great group of women and very excited to get on the ice with them. They really keep me motivated and determined every day, even when you’re away from the rink, so to be named to this team with this group of individuals is very rewarding.”
With the Four Nations Cup this week, Rigsby is optimistic that hard work and a total team effort can equal a gold medal. But as a goalie, is there extra pressure?
“There’s definitely pressure, but at the same time, I think it’s all about managing it,” Rigsby said. “You just have to go in there and focus on what you need to do. It’s a completely different position, so sometimes you just have to focus on yourself and make sure you’re doing all the little things to help put your team in the best position to win.”
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Rigsby’s hockey career began when she was around 5 years old and her older brother Zach announced he wanted to play hockey.
“So, of course, I wanted to do what he wanted to do,” she said.
The younger Rigsby thrived. As a teenager, she began skating with the youth national programs, and in 2009 she was named the top goalie at the under-18 world championships, where she led Team USA to a gold medal. She won the award again in 2010, when she backstopped Team USA to a silver medal.
Later that year, Rigsby fulfilled another dream, playing NCAA Division I hockey, when she joined the Wisconsin Badgers. As a freshman starter, she went 27-1-1 in leading the Badgers to the 2011 NCAA championship.
She credits her family for supporting her as she traveled the country pursuing her potential as a young hockey player.
“As I got older, I was fortunate that my parents could help me kind of promote myself in a way where I could get in front of women’s coaches,” Rigsby said. “Probably in middle school was when I really wanted to play D-I hockey and I went to my first D-I game at Ridder Arena in Minnesota. I walked in and saw the Gophers play and it was a really cool thing to see how many people showed up for a women’s game and how great the competition was.
“That’s what really started me thinking about schools and I took my first visit to Wisconsin when I was a freshman in high school and just fell in love with it right away.”
Rigsby graduated from Wisconsin in 2014 as the program’s all-time leader in wins with 100, minutes played with 7,881:09 and saves with 3,126. Her .941 save percentage is tied for first in program history and her miniscule 1.50 goals-against average is good for fourth all-time.
Since college and her numerous times playing for Team USA, Rigsby has also suited up for the Minnesota Whitecaps pro team in the Western Women’s Hockey League.
Her ultimate goal?
“Growing up, I always wanted to play in the Olympics someday,” said Rigsby. “It was always a dream of mine and I started playing around back when the (U.S.) women won back in 1998. I was 6 years old and really didn’t know what that meant to play for an Olympic gold medal, but it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Matt Mackinder covers hockey in Michigan. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.