A highly dependable team player whose approach to the game combines a sheer enjoyment of forging a positive future for the game while deriving a tremendous adrenaline from an ever-growing list of achievements destined to enrich her sporting journey, Rhianna Kurio is among the gems of women’s hockey in Calgary.
Since graduating from the NCAA level, where Kurio starred at Union College, gaining ECAC All-Academic Honors, while having never missed a game, amassing a streak of 136 straight games, her jubilant foray back into Western Canadian hockey has resulted in the extension of a formidable body of work. One that was first formed when she competed for the Bow River Bruins, capturing the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League’s Most Sportsmanlike Player award.
Combining heroics on the ball hockey hardcourt, it has enabled Kurio to proudly become part of an exhilarating time for the game’s continued Western growth. Having appeared in 83 games during her first five seasons with the Calgary Inferno, an assiduous competitor and tireless worker, she is part of a growing trend that has seen highly talented women’s ice hockey players complement their love of competition with ball hockey.
Such a sense of uniqueness and prestige was enhanced by the fact that Kurio’s achievements have placed her among a very rare of sorority of wondrous women that have won both the Clarkson Cup and the CBHA National Championships. Quite a rare double has elevated Kurio into vaunted status, simultaneously affirming Calgary’s status as one of the nation’s premier hockey communities.
A member of the Inferno roster that upended the favored Canadiennes de Montreal to capture the 2016 Clarkson Cup, the first in franchise history, it mirrored the Flames unprecedented defeat of the Canadiens on their home ice to win the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals. Undoubtedly, both victories marked a precious pinnacle in Calgary sports history. Following it up with another notable championship in 2018, once again representing Calgary, Kurio is grateful for both, on-ice and hardcourt glories.
“I feel very fortunate to have been able to compete at a high level in two sports. Hockey has been my passion for much of my life, and it’s been a lot of fun being able to utilize some of those skills as a ball hockey player. I feel grateful that I have been able to continue to grow as an athlete and to have been able to represent Calgary at two prestigious events.”
Competing with Calgary United at the 2018 CBHA Nationals, Kurio was not only part of one of Western Canada’s premier ball hockey teams. She was part of the team that captured the National Championship, altering the balance of power, one that has seen Eastern-based teams traditionally emerge with the top prize. Defeating the Ottawa Capitals in the gold medal game, such victory was testament to this riveting shift among the nation’s elites.
During the preliminary round, Kurio was an integral contributor. Tying for second in assists, she also tied for third in scoring with teammates Reagan Fischer and Chelsea Karpenko. Adding luster to the jubilation of a title win with Calgary United was the presence of many familiar faces. Among them included Jenna Cunningham, who retired as the Inferno’s all-time leading scorer. Also a teammate on the Clarkson Cup championship team, it was a tremendous source of pride for Kurio to win a second major championship alongside Cunningham.
Heather Berzins, an alum of the Calgary Dinos women’s ice hockey program, holds unique connections in both facets of the game. Her sister, Emily played for the Inferno when it was known by the sobriquet Team Alberta. In addition, she shares another proud milestone with Kurio. Both part of Canada’s contingent that emerged with a bronze medal at the 2017 ISBHF Worlds, contested in Pardubice, Czech Republic, the tournament also signified the international ball hockey debuts of Berzins and Kurio.
“I have met nearly all of my best friends through sport, and there are a lot of great girls on the Calgary United. It was a lot of fun being able to reconnect with old teammates and getting to play with Cunner and Berz again.”
While Kurio possessed such prevalent experience in big game situations, she approaches it with a tinge of humility. Although it can be stated that her familiarity in these scenarios was an essential factor for United, she is quick to acknowledge that the high level of talent among United’s competitors enabled everyone to take on an important role. Undeniably, the collective backgrounds of such players allowed them to excel in the high pressure conditions that encompass the medal round.
“Calgary United is full of great athletes, and even better people who possess excellent leadership skills. Given that many of the girls on the United have a lot of experience, and have played in previous ball hockey championships, I did not feel like I needed to step into a prominent leadership role.”
Reaching significant ball hockey milestones in consecutive years, Kurio has attained a sense of achievement that has propelled her into one of the game’s elites. Enriched by the honor of wearing Canada’s colors internationally in 2017, it has embodied the essence of success, while bringing more profound meaning to teamwork. Reflecting proudly on the encouragement received, enabling her to rise towards revered status, Kurio beams with pride at the cherished opportunity to don Canada’s colors, reaching a summit that was the affirmation of her status as a world-class competitor.
“I am very proud to be Canadian, and it is always a great honour to be able to represent your country at the international level. I have had amazing support and encouragement from my family, friends, and all of my teammates over the years and I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to have been able to represent our country.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
All images obtained from Facebook