By Ross Forman – Ashley Ommen isn’t your typical goalie, nor does she bring a traditional goaltending style. She isn’t a butterfly goalie, nor does she play overly aggressive or overly passive.
She is just a blend of everything.
“I play the shot as I judge appropriate,” Ommen said. “I play aggressive when needed but can play deep as well. I can play the puck, but also will stick to the crease. I can play as a butterfly goalie and use my post to seal up down low, but also can play on my feet and cover the top part of the net. I use the skating skills and everything I’ve been taught since I was 6 to judge the best way to stop the puck on every shot or shot attempt.
“I focus on perfecting my technical skills in practices, camps, and clinics to allow the form to become muscle memory, so I don’t even have to think about that in games, so it comes naturally when stopping the puck.”
She added: “A strength of mine is my skating ability and speed because, when I was 11 years-old, I recall my old goalie coach telling me, ‘You skate better than some of my midget goalies.’ Playing many sports when I was younger also helped me become very quick and athletic and gave me the ability to read and react to anything that happens on the ice.”
Her style in net, whatever it truly is, works, period.
Ommen, 17, who lives in Bolingbrook, is a senior at Plainfield East High School, in her third varsity season for the co-op Naper Valley Warriors, a mix of players also from Benet Academy, Bolingbrook, Naperville North, Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Oswego, Oswego East, Yorkville and Metea Valley. She also is skating for the Chicago Bruins.
She previously has played for the Romeoville Huskies, Chicago Mission, Chicago Fury and Team Illinois.
Ommen turned a 1.83 goals-against average for the Warriors last season, helping Naper Valley finish 10-2-3 (23 points), which was 1 point behind the three teams (New Trier, Fenwick, and Barrington) that tied for the regular-season lead.
“I had a very good season with both of my teams,” a year ago, she said. “I put up great stats with 12 shutouts between my two teams. I played in some high-paced, competitive games at both the high school and AAA level. I got a lot of good exposure at the AAA level and was able to be a part of the AHAI High School All-State Game, which was a lot of fun. I also was chosen as the Blackhawks Alumni Female All-State goalie and that was a great experience. Plus, I was the spotlight of a few reports done by Naperville Community TV on games with my high school team.
“I want to continue developing my skating and puck handling skills as I prepare to play college hockey next season.”
Ommen will be attending St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisc., next fall, where she is committed to play on their NCAA Division III women’s hockey team. She is in the process of applying for the Honor’s Program at St. Norbert and plans to major in psychology, with a minor in human service or education. She’s even looking at getting a graduate degree in clinical sports psychology.
She is a member of Plainfield East’s National Honors Society.
“I have been in the accelerated program since third-grade. In eighth grade I started taking honors math classes, then honors science and English classes in high school. I now take mostly AP and dual credit classes at school,” she said.
To see Ommen on the ice, well, it’s only natural. Just consider:
- Her dad, Tony, works for the Chicago Blackhawks as Vice President of Team Services.
- Her older brother, Logan, “was just starting to skate and play when I was a baby, so I was always going to the rink with my brother and parents for all of his games,” she said.
“Between Logan’s games and my dad’s work I was always around hockey and at rinks,” she said. “When I got old enough, I started skating and playing myself. When I was 6, I decided I wanted to try playing goalie. Logan and his friends would always play street hockey when we were younger, and Logan would only let me play if I was the goalie. I loved being in net during the street hockey games, so I wanted to try it out on the ice, but it took six months to convince my dad to say yes.
“My dad and brother definitely played the biggest roles in getting me started and interested in hockey, but my younger sister, Emily, who is 14 months younger than me, helped in keeping me interested because, in my 11 seasons her and I have been on at least one team together for seven of them and playing with her makes it a lot more enjoyable.”
Ommen also praised her coaches, past and present, specifically Will Lite, and Tim and Nick Anderson. They “played a huge role in influencing my hockey career,” she said. “Coach Will was my first goalie coach and spent months teaching me the proper form and skating as a goalie before even taking a shot on me, which was also probably a part of my dad’s plan. After two months of skating goal line to blue line and in different shapes throughout the crease coach Will finally started shooting on me, nailing me in the face within the first 10 shots.
“I met Coach Tim when I was 11 and started skating with the Mission. I later met his son, Nick. Coaches Tim and Nick worked with me for years, helping me improve my skating and comfort on the ice and getting in front of pucks. I still work with coach Nick to this day in private sessions over the summer and he has come to both the Chicago Fury and Chicago Bruins to continue working with me and coaching the other goalies, too.”
Ommen’s family hockey ties start at home, literally. They often would build a rink in their backyard. “My siblings and I would go outside with our dogs and play games and skate around. It was always a lot of fun and someone – typically my sister or I – would get stuck in the 5-gallon bucket we would put the pucks in; it was always funny. A lot of the time our neighbors would come over and run around on the ice to play with us, too, because they always wanted to play hockey, but never learned how to skate.”
Last season, Ommen was in Toronto for a post-Thanksgiving tournament and her Team Illinois team was playing the Sudbury Wolves, a Canadian AAA team. “I had some scouts and exposure camp directors out watching me, so I was super nervous,” she said.
Ommen faced 47 shots that game with four or five breakaways and countless odd-man rushes.
Still, she pitched a shutout.
“It was a really fun, exciting game for me,” she said.
Ommen also notched a shutout, her first-ever, on December 10, 2011, during “Pro Day at the Huskies.” A Chicago Blackhawks player came to the rink that day while every Huskies team would have a home game. There would be a chance to take pictures with the pro and they would do a puck-drop ceremony before each game.
In 2011, Corey Crawford was the pro.
“As the team goalie, I did the puck-drop with the opposing team’s goalie that game and got my first-ever shutout in that game. Crawford had been watching the end of the game with my dad, so he signed and dated the game-puck for me after the game. The puck sits on my bedside table to this day,” she said.
Ommen said she’s really focused this season on developing her skills from the basics of skating to puck play, rebound control, and reading the puck and plays in front of her.
“I do my best to take a leadership role on every team I play on,” Ommen said. “Even If I am not wearing a letter on my jersey, I always want to be someone who teammates can look up to, on and off the ice. I serve as an honorary captain on my high school team, since I can’t wear a letter as a goalie, and hope to be someone teammates can count on and expect to be responsible and someone who can help the coaches run the team.”
Ommen’s leadership follows her to the school’s track team where she is the team captain, which includes helping in practices, such as making plans, decisions and serving as a voice for the team.
“I joined the track team my freshman year just to do the winter training with intentions of going out for my school’s soccer team in the spring. I ended up loving the girls, coaches, and environment track offered and stayed … and never got around to trying out for soccer since track continues into the spring,” Ommen said. “After joining my freshman year, I began taking on a leadership role, such as helping set up and clean up for practices, leading the team warm-up and cool-down, and staying late at practices to do some extra drills, lifts.”
Her main event on track is pole vault, but also has done the long jump and a few running events.
Ommen also does volunteer work with Hearts Haven Outreach (h20), a non-profit organization that helps local teens in need. “I mostly do service projects through h2o, such as helping clean up trash at a nature center in Bolingbrook, boxing food at a food pantry in preparation for Thanksgiving and making holiday cards for essential workers in the area.”
She also has volunteered for Bags 4 Hope, a pantry run through Plainfield East. “With Bags 4 Hope I helped to create the food bags to be delivered as lunches for Thanksgiving meals to those in need,” she said. “I also have spent several hours as a volunteer hockey coach at spring try-outs with Team Illinois where I helped run some skating drills for the goalies and push pucks, set up drills, etc. I also did some volunteer coaching at my former middle school with the girls’ soccer team that I played on.”
Ommen also has volunteered locally through the National Honor Society.
“Volunteering is helping out and connecting with people to work towards a similar goal, accomplishment,” she said. “If I can help a family get a meal they could otherwise not afford, put a smile on the face of a nursing home employee who hasn’t been able to see their family to keep those they care for safe, or help a nervous freshman find a place or a person they are comfortable with at a new school, I know I have brought some joy or comfort to someone who otherwise may not have gotten it.
“I also enjoy volunteering because I get the chance to meet a lot of people outside of school and hockey that I otherwise may have never of met.”
**Photos courtesy of Ashley Ommen**
Kick-Saves With … Naper Valley Goalie Ashley Ommen
Uniform Number: 31 – “When I played my first season of travel hockey as a goalie (2010-11), right after the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup during my lifetime, Antti Niemi was the starting goalie, and he wore 31. My dad suggested I chose my number after Niemi and I have stuck with it ever since.”
Paycheck: She works part-time as a host at the Nest Bar and Grill in the Bolingbrook Golf Course clubhouse.
And The Winner Is … She was a 2015-16 State Champion with the Chicago Mission
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Corey Crawford
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Unbroken or Miracle
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Chicken and pasta
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Morgan Wallen
Best High School Uniforms (other than Naper Valley): Latin School of Chicago (orange)
Best Hockey Tip: “Use your ‘flash light.’ Imagine there was a flashlight tapped to your helmet and focus on only what is in the lighted area, ignore the dark areas, meaning, focus on what was on the ice and nothing else, like the crowd or anything off the ice.” – Dave Tataryn
Teammate who you could you see, someday, as a hockey coach:
High school team: Ella Iwinski
Club team: Brooke Siebert
Hardest Slapshot On Your Team:
High school: Maggie Korneta
Club: Emily Ommen
Most Accurate Shot:
High School: Maggie Korneta
Club: Natalie Ginnodo
High School: Courtney Swenson
Club: Maddie Chambers
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.