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For the Iginla, hockey is a family affair

DAWSON CREEK, BC. – Donning the maple leaf jersey for the first time was an unforgettable moment for defenseman Alexa Ranahan (Salmon Arm, B.C.) and forward Hannah Miller (North Vancouver, B.C.) while the two young players played with Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team last summer in a series against the United States.

After beating their American rivals 2-1 in the annual three-game series, Alexa and Hannah made sure to bring this magical moment back to British Columbia to share with their provincial teammates and wow fans there. at the National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Dawson Creek, B.C.

Accustomed to being an unfavorite at the national championship, British Columbia had a particular goal this year ahead of the five-day tournament and, at the end of the women’s hockey elite event at the EnCana Events Centre, the team can proudly say: mission accomplished.

“Our goal as a team was to get to the semi-finals,” Hannah said of what was a big step for the province’s top under-18 players.

“Our goal was to rank for the opportunity to win a medal, which is to win a quarter-final match and advance to the semi-finals,” explained the women’s high performance coordinator of BC Hockey, Bruce Tuck, before the national championship this year. “So to be part of the four aces. »

That specific goal was set because British Columbia had finished fifth at the National Women’s Under-1 Championship in Saguenay, Que., and had done better than that only once before winning the bronze medal at the inaugural championship in January. 2005.

But that was before this year.

British Columbia beat Quebec 4-2 and Alberta 2-1 in two hard-fought games to advance to the semifinals and have a chance to play for bronze at the National Women’s Under-18 Championship This year. The probable West Coast losers played with spirit, showing skill and speed in front of their fans who cheered them on until the end of the game bell rang.

British Columbia lost 3-0 to powerhouse Ontario Red, seven-time defending champions, to finish fourth in the National Women’s Under-5 Championship, which is more than respectable – and exactly as promised. .

“They’re the best BC team I’ve played with,” said Hannah, who competed at the national championship last year in Saguenay after representing her province at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax. in Nova Scotia. “We really worked as a team, all the lines were running at full speed and we did all the little things well. »

Alexa Ranahan added that this year’s BC team was “a tight-knit group.”

“We’re pretty strong this year,” said Alexa, who also played alongside Hannah at the national championship last year. “We have a lot of depth…and can play a lot of different styles. »

Bruce Tuck recognizes that “depth” is key to BC’s continued development in women’s hockey, both nationally and internationally. “It will definitely help us along the way. »

Moreover, according to Bruce Tuck, the fact that British Columbia has hosted important women’s hockey events such as the National Women’s Under-18 Championships in January and November 2005 in Salmon Arm and in November 2009 in Surrey, also favors the growth of women’s sport in the province.

“It generates enough publicity so locally, still in small communities, you hope it will have a direct impact,” he says. “We hope that as a result of such exposure, there will be more and more interest in women’s hockey in the general population. »

The fact that players like Hannah and Alexa and Jordan Krause (Kelowna, B.C.), IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Under-20 Championship gold medalist, are paving the way for promising young players west coast is also a key element that will ensure BC’s future success on the ice.

“They saw the competition at a more advanced level,” says Bruce Tuck. “They really understand what’s going on so when the pressure hits, there’s no doubt they know how to handle it better and the exposure they’ve had and the experience they’ve gained the help. »

All this without forgetting the joy of sharing this feeling of pride that inhabits you when you put on this jersey to represent your province – or your country.

“The way we did it made the experience very special,” says Alexa. She and the other 21 members of Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team – including Hannah – all lifted the Team Canada jersey above their heads at the same time before pulling it over their equipment in Calgary, Alberta last August.

“Seeing all the girls in the locker room putting it on at the same time was probably the coolest moment of my 16 years,” Alexa said. “It was incredible and it was very rewarding to finally have this jersey on your back. »

Hannah’s memories of that magical moment in hockey mirror those of her fellow British Columbian.

“In the first game of this series, we were installed in the locker room, we put on our shoulder pads, but no one put on their jersey,” she said. “We all put on our jerseys together, as a team. »

The female hockey spotlight will once again be on British Columbia next April as Burnaby hosts the 2013 Esso Cup, Canada’s National Female Midget Championship. So what advice do Hannah and Alexa have for the top female midget teams in the country representing their region and province, including the host Fraser Valley Phantom of Hockey BC’s Female Midget AAA League?

“When you get a chance to shine at nationals or in a big tournament where people are watching you, you really have to… take advantage of it,” Miller said. “Make the most of every minute you are on the ice. »

This will be another women’s hockey event starting in Burnaby, British Columbia.

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