Having refined her skills under the tutelage of Winter Games gold medalist Gina Kingsbury at the Okanagan Hockey Academy, Micah Hart is hoping to emulate her mentor and capture a gold medal of her own. Named to Hockey Canada’s Centralization Camp, in anticipation of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, Hart was among 28 players bestowed this invitation.
The pride of Saanichton, British Columbia, Hart starred at Okanagan from 2011-15. Also spending one season on the hardcourt as a member of Okanagan’s basketball team, her time there was also highlighted by the opportunity to appear in a short film (which was broadcast on MTV Canada), highlighting successfully young Canadian women. In addition, Hart would serve as British Columbia’s flag bearer for the 2015 Canada Winter Games, which took place on home soil in Prince George.
While the initial announcement was one that found Hart surprisingly but pleasantly stunned at the news, the eventual absorption was made easier upon sharing this revelation with a group of elated confidants. Beginning with her cherished mother, fathoming what transpired suddenly took on a much more profound perspective,
“I do not think I had much of a reaction at first aside from a little bit of shock, it seemed pretty surreal at the time and it definitely took me a while to process it. The first thing I did after I found out was call my mom, my best friend, and my coach. It sunk in a little bit more after hearing their excitement and sharing that moment with them.”
Hart’s journey towards status as a world class blueliner even has its roots across the Atlantic. Among the highlights of her teenage years gracing the ice involved participation in the 2013 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp in Sheffield, England.
Such an event brought with it significant Canadian content including Kelly Mariana, Kirsten Welsh, Alyson Matteau and goaltender Taylor Crosby, the younger sister of hockey icon Taylor Crosby, along with Aldergrove, British Columbia resident Sarah Potomak. Worth noting, Potomak and her younger sister Amy were teammates of Hart at the Canada Winter Games. This sensational sister combination join Hart as part of an exciting youth movement taking place at Canadian Centralization for 2017-18.
Currently serving as the captain for Cornell University, only the second sophomore in program history to achieve this milestone, her hockey resume also includes competing for Canada’s Under-18 national team. Serving as team captain at the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds in Buffalo, New York, Hart played for head coach Laura Schuler.
As Pyeongchang 2018 also signifies the 20th anniversary of the first ever women’s ice hockey tournament in Winter Games history, contested in Nagano, there is a sense of history for the Canadian roster. Considering that Schuler was a member of the roster that graced the ice in Nagano, it is serendipitous to see her serving as Canada’s head coach for Pyeongchang, tapping into the team’s hockey roots. With the experience of already having played for Schuler, there is an element of acquaintance for Hart, as this next major step in her career with a familiar face as head coach,
“It definitely feels a little more comfortable starting this journey with coaches that I have worked with in the past. Coach Schuler is an amazing coach, and in my experience being coached by her she has an amazing ability to get the most out of her players with her passion for the game and her experience in the women’s game especially as a player and a coach. I’m looking forward to working with all of our world class coaches and staff moving forward on this journey.”
Named to the 2017 ECAC First Team All-Stars, the lone Cornell competitor bestowed this honor, there were three other teammates that gained acknowledgement among the elites of the conference. Senior forward Hanna Bunton landed a spot on the Third Team All-Stars, while forward Kristin O’Neill and blueliner Jaime Bourbonnais were recognized as members of the ECAC All-Rookie Team. Coincidentally, all four of these skaters hold a unique Hockey Canada connection.
Having earned a gold medal with Canada’s entry at the 2013 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, Hanna Bunton also skated for their U22/Development Program while at Cornell. Akin to Bunton, O’Neill also has experience with the Canadian U18 national team, garnering a pair of silver medals 2015 and 2016 IIHF U-18 Women’s Worlds. As a side note, O’Neill’s head coach for the 2016 edition was Lisa Haley, part of Canada’s coaching staff at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. A multi-generational star, Bourbonnais not only competed at the Canadian U18 women’s nationals, an event sponsored by Hockey Canada, her grandfather, Roger, served as the team captain for Canada at both the 1964 and 1968 Winter Games.
With 17 assists in her freshman season, Hart showed solid playmaking ability, while obtaining a pair of honors; ECAC All-Rookie Team recognition and All-Ivy Honorable Mention. This season, Hart came into her own as a key contributor on special teams. Of her five goals this season, all were scored on the power play, tying for the team lead. She would also record 11 power play points, once again perched among the Big Red’s leaders in this category. As a side note, all of her career goals with Cornell have actually come on the power play.
Rising to the occasion against conference opponents in her sophomore season, one of her best performances included a solid two-assist effort against Brown, which saw Bunton score the game-winning goal. Hart’s first goal of the season took place on November 18 against the defending conference champion Quinnipiac Bobcats, a 3-3 draw.
Reaching a career best in goals scored, Hart found the back of the net against eventual national champion Clarkson in a January 20 tilt. Goals in back-to-back wins against Union and Rensselaer on February 3-4 were other demonstrations of her offensive flair. Registering four points during the weekend, she would also assist on the game-winning goal against Rensselaer, scored by Diana Buckley. Such an eventful weekend garnered her recognition as the ECAC Player of the Week, the only Cornell blueliner to achieve this.
Following her second season with Cornell, Hart would continue to amass some significant hockey hardware. In addition to the ECAC First-Team honors, she was also recognized as an All-Ivy First Team, while gaining a spot on the ECAC All-Tournament Team.
During the 2016-17 season, Hart would also gain the distinction of competing with Canada’s national senior team, a career first. As a side note, it marked the second straight season at Cornell in which Hart would don the Maple Leaf. Midway through her freshman campaign, she would be summoned to compete on Canada’s Under-22/Development Team, participating at the 2016 Nations Cup in Fussen, Germany.
Coincidentally, her defense partner for the German tournament was Cornell blueliner Cassandra Poudrier, while current Big Red teammate Bunton was also part of the Under-22 roster. As a side note, Hart was also part of Canada’s entry at the 2017 Nations Cup.
Making her debut with the senior team in a two-game December 2016 exhibition series against the United States, Hart was paired on defense with Halli Kryzyzaniak, an All-America blueliner with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Said series also marked the national team debuts for Amy and Sarah Potomak, along with Saskatchewan’s Sophie Shirley, a fellow competitor from the 2015 Canada Winter Games, each sharing in this euphoric milestone with Hart.
The opening contest took place in Plymouth, Michigan, host city for the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds, with Canada prevailing by a 5-3 mark. The latter was contested in Sarnia, Ontario, bookending this battle of the border, where Canada captured victory in a dramatic 3-2 overtime final.
Significant Cornell content was also part of the December roster featured significant Cornell content, as Hart was joined by the likes of alumnae such as Laura Fortino, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Lauriane Rougeau and Jillian Saulnier. Of note, this upcoming Centralization camp shall mark the first for both Hart and Saulnier. Of note, Fortino, Jenner, Johnston and Rougeau were all Cornell graduates who captured a gold for Canada in women’s ice hockey at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Surrounded by so many other accomplished Cornell competitors, Hart finds a positive influence in their topnotch achievements. Looking to emulate their successes with a victorious pinnacle of her own at Pyeongchang, it would also add to an unfolding tradition in to Cornell women’s hockey lore, which is developing a tradition for world-class talent. Looking towards this new chapter in her hockey odyssey with anticipation, the sense of Cornell pride runs strong within Hart, adding luster to her golden ambitions,
“One thing I knew about Cornell Hockey from the moment I stepped on campus for the first time is that it is a program built on pride and tradition. We have a wall up in our rink hallway that has framed pictures of all the male players that have played in the NHL, and then all the female players that have played on the Women’s National Team.
Every time I go to the rink I look up at that wall and feel a sense of pride seeing those players up there. Being able to look at those photos now, and know that I have the opportunity to carry on that tradition of excellence gives me indescribable pride and motivation.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Hockey Canada Images