As the Brampton Thunder send six players to the second CWHL All-Star Game, to be contested on January 23, 2016 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, one of the feel-good stories belongs to Candice Styles. A hard-working forward constantly dedicated to giving her team a chance to win, the recognition of Styles goes a long way towards building momentum for a squad looking to gain their first postseason berth since 2013.
Joining fellow Thunder blueliners Courntey Birchard, Sarah Edney, the first pick overall in the 2015 CWHL Draft, along with Laura Fortino, Jocelyne Larocque, (who both played in the inaugural All-Star game), Styles has accumulated 11 points, ranking fifth overall in team scoring. One of seven Thunder skaters to have logged at least one game-winning goal, she trails teammate Fortino among the league’s leading scorers on the blueline.
Having played her collegiate hockey with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level, Styles graduated as a CIS First-Team All-Canadian, while capturing the university’s President’s Award, recognizing the top female athlete. Originally selected by the Toronto Furies with the seventeenth overall pick in the 2014 CWHL Draft, Styles was one of 17 CIS players selected in said draft. Part of an early season trade that saw the Furies acquire veteran blueliner Tara French from the Thunder, Styles has emerged as a solid contributor to the Thunder’s offensive attack.
Upon discovering her All-Star Game nod, Styles was overcome with a flood of emotion. Part jubilation and part astonishment, the result was a well-deserved opportunity.
“My reaction when I found out that I was going to be apart of the CWHL 2016 All-Star game was ecstatic and speechless. It is such a great honor to be a part of this event amongst all the wonderful hockey players selected.
I look forward to playing with these girls and hope the environment will be like the All-Star Game was last year. It truly is a fun event not only for the players but the fans as well. It is a dream come true for us players in the CWHL.”
Another dream come true for Styles is the chance to play on a team where a strong sense of family exists. As proud as she is to don the Thunder’s colors, she is equally proud to call the women of the Thunder as her teammates. In admiration of their love of the game, it has contributed to a bigger experience that has exemplified what Styles enjoys about being with the squad.
“My favourite moment with the Thunder this season is being a part of this bunch of girls. They truly are amazing every single one of them; they become your second family. The Thunder has made great strides this year and it is a pleasure to be apart of it.”
As the Thunder enter the holiday break sitting in a postseason position, Styles has proven to be a key catalyst in the offensive attack. After going scoreless in the Thunder’s season opener, Styles would reel off a four-game scoring streak, including a sterling three-point showing against the rival Toronto Furies on October 24. During said streak, Brampton enjoyed a 3-1-0 mark.
A 9-1 win against the defending Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades saw Styles rise to the occasion. The November 21 contest saw Styles register her second three-point effort, following it up the day after with an assist to extend the Thunder’s winning streak to six games.
Before the holiday break, Styles would log the first game winning goal of the season. Once again, her success came at the hands of the Blades. Prevailing by a 4-2 tally on the road, Styles would be credited with the game-winning goal. Overall, when Styles logs at least one point in game play, the squad has enjoyed an overall mark of 6-1-0, a key element that has helped Brampton climb to second place in the regular season standings.
Despite the growing improvements in her game, Styles humbly approaches such success. In reflecting on her rookie season and the growth since then, she is quick to acknowledge a supporting cast, testament to her team-first approach, one that is poised to shine at the upcoming All-Star Game,
“My coaching staff and teammates are to thank for that. My coaches Tyler Fines and Kevin Stone have built up some confidence in myself and thank them for it. But, my teammates as well, they do not know but I look up to every single one of them and they motivate me to give 100% every time.
Play my heart out for them all because they are my other family. To all them I thank them for making me push myself and challenge myself every opportunity I get.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Jess Bazal