Local Ball Hockey World Champion to Play for Team USA

Proudly representing Team USA in the upcoming master’s world championship in Bermuda is ball hockey superstar Clarissa Arseneault of St. Stephen (right), seen here with her American-born mother, Susan Arseneault Benedetto. Arsenault is currently seeking sponsors to support her efforts. (Submitted photo)

By Lura Jackson

 

It isn’t often that the St. Croix Valley has the opportunity to celebrate and share in the successes of a local athlete that has become world renown for their capabilities, but that’s exactly the opportunity now represented in the form of Clarissa Arseneault of St. Stephen. A lifelong athlete that has most recently adopted ball hockey as her sport of choice, Arseneault helped Team Canada secure the past two Master’s-level world championships – a feat she hopes to repeat this year when she plays for Team USA at the world championship in Bermuda in late September.

Winning with Team Canada

Arseneault is no stranger to athletic competition. Growing up in St. Stephen, neighborhood street hockey was a common engagement for her and her friends. In high school and in college she played basketball and ice hockey, taking up rugby later on when it was an option. After graduating from college, she played as a goalie in the local soccer league – branching out six years ago to try her hand at competing for a St. John-based team in the area ball hockey league.

The St. John team itself is comprised of highly skilled players, having won seven of seven past championships and several provincial titles in recent years. Even playing with and against players that were almost half her years in age, the impeccably calm Arseneault quickly gained the attention of national teams for her skill as a forward. In 2014 she was invited to play for Team Canada at the first-ever women’s master’s world championship ball hockey competition in Tampa Bay, Florida.

That year, Arseneault and her team made world history by acquiring the first gold medal presented for the master’s-level women’s division of the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation. “It was very exciting to wear the Canadian maple leaf and jersey, and having the whole experience behind it,” Arseneault recalled. She was joined on her line by a friend from St. John, and the pair led their fellow players to domination. “Our line was top scoring for that whole tournament.”

Ball hockey world championships are held every two years at the master’s level, so it wasn’t until 2016 that Arseneault was tested on the world stage again in Banff, Alberta. Once more, she led Team Canada to victory – this time over Team USA. But Arseneault wasn’t just present during the matches. Reprising her performance two years prior, she was named the top scorer in the tournament – even making the winning shot in the final match to give her team a 2-1 victory.

If she is anything, Arseneault is humble, preferring not to dwell on her outstanding accomplishments and instead to emphasize what she feels are the most rewarding elements of the competition: “Getting together with friends and people that have the same passions that you do, that are working toward the same goal.”

Connections with 

Washington County

While Arseneault – who takes a break from being an athletic super-hero to serve in her career as an intervention worker at St. Stephen High School – has strong ties to Canada, she is equally connected with the United States. Her mother, Susan Arseneault Benedetto was born and raised in Calais, and her maternal grandmother, Bernice McDougall, was a well-known and beloved kindergarten teacher throughout Washington County.

When Arseneault comes over the border to visit friends or play sports, she is often greeted by community members that know her mother’s family. “They may not know me, but many people in Washington County went through kindergarten with my grandmother. I want to play for her,” Arseneault said.

Playing for Team USA at the 2018 world championship

As she competed on behalf of Team Canada during the previous world championships, Arseneault gained relationships with the members of Team USA, some of whom invited her to practice with them. From there, she was invited to play for the team at the 2018 master’s-level world championship in Bermuda.

It wasn’t an easy choice, but Arseneault agreed. “I just felt [Team USA] was more organized and a better fit for me,” she said, explaining that processes utilized by the teams are different. “I’m pretty honored to say that they asked me to play for them. A bordertown girl playing on Team USA.”

Many of Arseneault’s biggest supporters are happy with her choice. “My mom, I think, is thrilled. My aunt and uncle used to tease me about why I was playing for Canada and now I’m playing for the United States. I have a lot of great friends on both sides of the border.”

A few months ago, Arseneault traveled to Boston to meet and play with the team in a tournament. While she was initially somewhat nervous, she was warmly welcomed by the Team USA players. “I wasn’t sure if the girls would be accepting, but they were like, beyond happy to have me,” Arseneault said. “I fit right in.”  

While there will be various teams playing in the world championship, Arseneault knows her biggest competition will be her former Team Canada teammates – many of whom are now her close friends. “I have to score against my real good friend who is one of the top [goal] keepers in Canada,” she said. “It’s going to be interesting.”

Even facing the stoutest competition in the world, Arseneault is looking forward to the matchup, knowing that playing at that level tends to reinforce relationships across team lines. “I personally want to bring home the gold for the US. That’s who I’m playing for.”

The 2018 International Street and Ball Hockey Federation Master’s Championships will be held from September 26th-30th in Bermuda. Previous tournaments have been streamed live and this year’s is anticipated to be as well.  

 

Arseneault is currently seeking sponsors for her participation on Team USA in the coming tournament. For more information or to become a sponsor, contact her at chickynb08@gmail.com.