- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) - Canadian women’s goalie Shannon Szabados has agreed to a contract with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

The two-time Olympic champion will join the Georgia men’s team next week.

“When I got home from Sochi, I thought I’d be hanging my stuff up for the summer, but definitely excited to get over there,” Szabados told The Canadian Press.

Szabados was the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League and will become the first in the SPHL. She played provincial college hockey at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology with current Cottonmouths players Jordan Draper, Andy Willigar and Kyle Johnson.

“They’ve been bugging me for a couple of years to go there,” Szabados said. “Probably the guys had a lot to do with it. It probably made the coach feel a little more at ease with the situation.”

The 27-year-old Szabados made 27 saves in Canada’s 3-2 overtime victory over the United States in the title game in Sochi. She had a 28-save shutout over the Americans in the 2010 Olympic final.

“I am very excited to get a world-class athlete that has competed and has faced high-pressured situations. Shannon has won at every level she has played, in women’s hockey or men’s hockey,” Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard said.

“She won a championship with NAIT last year alongside Andy Willigar and Jordan Draper, so I know she can compete at this level. We are working on her immigration, and we are looking to sign her officially Thursday, where she will be backing up (Andrew) Loewen. She will play when she feels comfortable and situated.”

Szabados was in the news this week when she filled in at practice for the Edmonton Oilers while the NHL team waited for Viktor Fasth to arrive after a trade with Anaheim.

That was her first time on the ice since the Olympic championship game Feb. 20.

“I haven’t been in the gym, I haven’t been on the ice, I haven’t been sleeping well,” Szabados said. “It’s been a whirlwind. I told (the coach) I’m not going to rush into anything. If I don’t feel comfortable I might not even play at all this year.

“I want to go there and get on the ice and see how I feel. I still have to unpack from Sochi and pack for this. I’m not too worried. It’s only been two weeks.”

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