Sometimes a player’s skills can stand out with even a cursory look, and you didn’t need a second glance to pick out Downingtown West’s Ava Thomas.
With her combination of size, speed and skill Thomas looked like a woman playing with girls. Her eye-popping play garnered Thomas Daily Local News’ Girls’ Ice Hockey All-Area Player of the Year accolades.
“She was a very big part of our success,” said West choach Dave Schultz. “Every time she steps on the ice the score can change in our favor.”
Despite missing a number of games due to national team commitments, Thomas still racked up 39 goals in only nine Ches-Mont games along with 47 points.
Her crowning achievement came in the Flyers Cup final against Avon Grove. Thomas scored, and scored, and added a couple more for to make sure. She finished with an astounding 10 goals and added three assists for good measure.
The Whippets downed the Red Devils, 13-8, to capture their second title in three years.
Both coaches had brief, succinct answers when asked about Thomas’ performance.
“The kid’s a superhero,” said Schultz.
“Nope, that’s the game right there, we couldn’t contain Ava Thomas,” added Avon Grove coach Skip Crawford.
Thomas was rewarded by being given the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the Flyers Cup MVP.
“Probably at the top, number one,” Thomas said when asked to ranked the game. “I mean the intensity level was really high and the emotions were up there.”
“Everybody rallied and played tough,” Thomas said. “Nobody gave up. Our team wanted to win.”
Thomas’ hockey journey began thanks to the most basic of motivations: wanting to keep up with her big brother.
“He was 12 or 13 and I wanted to follow him and then I started to get into leagues and the competitive level just took off,” Thomas said. “I was playing on boys’ teams until last year and I developed the drive and motivation.”
With talent comes a natural call to be a leader. According to Schultz, that is a call Thomas has answered with aplomb.
“She has become a leader,” he said. “Her drive and tenacity is second to none and her teammates look up to her.”
She got a taste of international competition in December when she participated in an U-18 select series against Canada.
“It was really eye-opening,” she said. “It was nothing like I ever done before and it showed that I have room to improve. It was really cool.”
Thomas is getting noticed not only by the NCAA Division I coaches who want her to play for them, but also the national press. The Hockey News included her on their prospects to watch, saying that it won’t be long until her name is included in the discussion of top young players in the nation.
As Thomas continues to develop this summer and possibly another stint with Team USA, her time there will only sharpen her come time for her junior season with the Whippets.
“I want to bring back a higher compete level and a willingness to bring that every game,” she said.
The 5-foot-6 forward has a unique blend of speed and size that could fit in nicely with the USA in coming years in the mold of star players Hillary Knight and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando.
It’s a legacy that Thomas is eager to eager on.
“The goal is to play at Division I school, and hopefully, to play for the US at the Olympics,” she said.
Until then, local hockey fans will have a treat right in front of them for the next two years. Enjoy it.