Nelson's Aimee DiBella will be playing NCAA college hockey in New York state starting in September.

Nelson Minor Hockey grad DiBella takes grit to NCAA

Nelson’s Aimee DiBella has accepted a hockey scholarship to one of the most highly regarded universities in the United States.

Nelson’s Aimee DiBella has accepted a hockey scholarship to one of the most highly regarded universities in the United States.

Earlier this spring, the Nelson Minor Hockey graduate chose Colgate University in New York state as her path for the next four seasons.

“There was interest from other universities in Canada and in the States, but I chose Colgate because of the hockey opportunity it offered me,” DiBella told the Nelson Star. “I look forward to starting my first of four years there and I was very happy that I was strong enough academically to be accepted.”

Though it boasts just under 3,000 students, Colgate it is considered one of the top liberal arts colleges south of the border. The school is located in Hamilton, New York which is a community of 5,000 people with a historic downtown that rivals Nelson’s core.

DiBella grew up in Nelson and played pee wee and bantam rep hockey with the boys. The hard-nosed defenceman spent two seasons with the Kootenay Wildcats female midget AAA team before moving onto Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton this past season.

DiBella caught the eye of Colgate scouts while playing for OHA and on the BC team at this past winter’s national championships.

“This was always what I worked for and aspired to do,” DiBella said of the college hockey opportunity.

DiBella is a puck moving defenceman who is a force on the blueline. In her 54 games this season she scored seven goals, added 17 assists and lead her team in penalty minutes with 104. In her online OHA bio, DiBella marks her favourite hockey moment as a “line brawl two years ago against the Fusion.”

The Colgate Raiders female team plays in the NCAA Division I’s Eastern Collegiate Athletics Conference. Last season the Raiders finished with 10-21-2 record and were tenth in the 12-team league. DiBella is part of the Raiders’ rebuilding program.

Aimee is the youngest of Mario and Lorainne DiBella’s five children. She points to older sister Beth as one of her role models. Beth DiBella spent four seasons with Cornell — one of Colgate’s most bitter hockey rivals — on a hockey scholarship and now works in Calgary.

“My older sister has always been an amazing role model in athletics and academics,” said Aimee. “I am proud to have made an accomplishment similar to Beth’s.

“I did talk to Beth prior to making my decision and she recommended Colgate as the best choice for me.”

Mario DiBella coached his youngest daughter for many seasons and is proud of her latest accomplishment.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s a terrific opportunity because it opens up a whole new world that she may not have had the chance to see.”

Mario DiBella said playing college hockey in the US is the pinnacle for most female hockey players.

The veteran coach said one of the reasons both of his daughters have had the chance is because they stuck with playing rep hockey against boys.

“I would say girls need to stay in boys hockey as long as they can,” he said. “The speed of the game and the strength it takes to play with the boys hones the hockey skills you need to play at the higher levels.”

Having to drive his daughter all over the Kootenays and western Canada for the last few years was a sacrifice, but one the father said was well worth it.

“There is a lot of time you spend on the road with your child that enables you to instill your beliefs,” said Mario DiBella. “You have the opportunity to say the things that are important… it’s not just about hockey.”

With many young girls playing hockey in Nelson, Aimee DiBella hopes she can provide a bit of inspiration to the next generation.

“My advice to young female hockey players is to achieve the highest marks possible in school to keep all opportunities open,” she said. “Off-ice conduct is also important and recognized by coaches. Follow your passion for the sport and keep your goal in mind.”

 

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