Szabados to make pro debut Saturday night

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The time is now for the newest Snake.

The Cottonmouths announced on Friday that recently signed goaltender Shannon Szabados will start on Saturday night versus the Knoxville Ice Bears. She will become only the second woman to play professional hockey in North America.

Szabados is a former teammate of current Snakes Jordan Draper, Andy Willigar and Kyle Johnson at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The Edmonton, Alberta native led NAIT to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship in her final collegiate season in 2013.

Her amateur career capped last month when she led Team Canada to the gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. She also was the goalie for the 2010 Canadian team that captured gold in Vancouver.

Johnson, her former teammate and the one that helped recruit her to Columbus, is confident that Szabados is ready for the professional game.

"She was really receptive when I brought it up to her," said the Cottonmouths team captain. "She's a competitor. She always want to play at the best level she can. There's no doubt in my mind that she can play here.

"She's always had the best numbers wherever she played, whether it's Junior-A in Alberta, college in Alberta, she won the gold medal," Johnson added. "So she not only brings amazing goaltending but she also brings a championship mentality. She's a leader on and off the ice. I mean, we're really lucky have her."

Opening faceoff is set for 7:30 pm ET on Saturday at the Columbus Civic Center.