ATLANTA — Manon Rheaume, pro hockey's only female player, gave up six goals Saturday night in her first start for the Atlanta Knights.
Rheaume made 25 saves, but knocked a shot into her own goal in the third period to give Cincinnati a 6-5 lead. After she was pulled for an extra skater, Cincinnati scored two empty-net goals to beat the Knights, 8-6.
"I tried my best, but I made a few too many mistakes," Rheaume said. "I'm a little disappointed. . . . I really wanted to win for the guys more than myself."
Rheaume, 21, tried not to think about making history.
"On the ice I do not feel like a woman. I'm a hockey player," she said. "I don't think of myself as the first woman hockey player."
Despite the loss, Atlanta Coach Gene Ubriaco was happy with Rheaume's performance.
"She was the victim of a couple of fluky goals," Ubriaco said. "Manon has waited a long time for this. She was one happy camper on the ice. I'm thrilled at the job she did."
Rheaume won respect from the sellout crowd of 15,179.
"My hat's off to her," said Clint Stallings of Fayetteville, Ga. "She's a pioneer. She's gone where no woman has."
Janet Robinson of Knoxville, Tenn., was in town to attend an Atlanta Brave baseball game, but she gave up her ticket when she saw Rheaume was starting.
"It has to be rough on her playing in front of 15,000 people, but she seemed very composed and showed a lot of poise," Robinson said.
However, some fans said Rheaume needs to improve before getting another start for Atlanta. The Knights play in the International Hockey League, the top minor league in the sport.
"Manon certainly added spice to what would have been a pretty meaningless late-season tune-up for the playoffs," said Jud Cathey of Conyers. "She has some talent but . . . I think she needs to start out on the lowest pro level, not the highest minor league level."
Rheaume stopped 11 of 12 shots in the first period but gave up four goals on seven shots in the second period.
Rheaume, a French Canadian, signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL and spent several weeks in training camp last fall before being sent to the minors.