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Erika Lawler (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

The New York Riveters signed United States Olympian and three-time National Collegiate Athletic Association champion, Erika Lawler to a contract for the 2017-2018 National Women’s Hockey League on Thursday.

The 2010 silver medalist and University of Wisconsin forward decided that even at the young age of 30, she still had that drive to be a part of a team again and felt she still had enough left in the tank to give back to the game. Over the course of her hockey career, she has won at many different levels.

During her time with the Badgers the five-foot forward helped Wisconsin win a NCAA title in her freshman, sophomore and senior seasons. In her junior year, she also helped lead the Badgers to the NCAA championship game.

Lawler’s 55 goals and 119 assists in 163 games, helped to rank her third all-time in the school’s history. She was able to end her collegiate career captaining the Badgers to the 2008-2009 NCAA Championship and being a top-ten finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for top women’s college hockey player.

In addition to representing the United States at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, she also skated for her country and helped the U.S. capture the gold during the 2008 and 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships. She also helped lead Team USA to silvers at the 2007 and 2012 IIHF World Championships. Lawler also represented the national team in five Four Nations Cup tournaments and three Under-22 Series against Team Canada.

Laughingly, Lawler said, “I have heard through the grapevine that there could be some roasting from teammates on social media. Bring it on! I am just really, really happy to be back on the ice and contributing to a team’s locker room dynamic again. I will gladly embrace any role [coach] Chad Wiseman assigns me. I want to help the Riveters win the Isobel Cup.”

The Fitchburg, Massachusetts native played for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League during the 2011-2012 season, putting up 11 goals and 22 assists in 26 games and finishing eighth in scoring for the league. After being informed by the national team at the age of 25, that she was not in their long-term plans, her passion for the game started to dim.

She said, “My body and mind needed some serious TLC.”

Over the past two seasons, Lawler had been a regular attendee at many NWHL games and even served as the Director of the NWHL Players’ Association during the inaugural season in 2015-2016. The last six months she has been accelerating both her on ice and off ice training after Wiseman invited her to get back in the game.

Wiseman added, “We are thrilled to have Erika joining our organization. She is a world-class athlete who brings a wealth of experience and leadership. We expect Erika will fill the void up the middle created by the loss of [Boston Pride free-agent signing] Janine Weber.”

Lawler added, “Quickness was my wheelhouse on the ice, so it will be interesting to see how I measure up after a few years away. There is going to be an adjustment period, no doubt. I expect to be rusty throughout the preseason, but over time I hope to get my legs under me so I feel more like myself on the ice.”

The Brooklyn resident and medical device sales consultant, for Johnson and Johnson went on to add, “I was honored to lead the Players’ Association for the time that I did, before my business career stole my focus. The reality was that the players deserved better than me, someone who had ample time to contribute. I am glad the PA is in great hands, thanks to Anya Battaglino’s leadership.”

“I am really grateful for this opportunity and proud to stand among all NWHL players at this incredible time of growth in the women’s game. Regardless of how the season plays out, what is most important to me is enjoying each step in the process. Until then, please excuse me while I go searching for my legs.”  

The Quest for Isobel begins for Lawler and the rest of the Riveters on October 28 at 2:00 PM, when the Pride visit the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House, in Newark, New Jersey.

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