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Six sensational rookies proud to debut with Canadian women’s ice sledge hockey team

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For six members of Canada’s women’s ice sledge hockey team, the three-game exhibition series against the United States in Brampton, Ontario represented a significant career milestone. Said six were making their international debuts for the Canadian team. Despite being different ages and hailing from various backgrounds, they were unified in the goal of helping Canada prevail in the series.  

Considering that their debuts were taking place on home soil, the likes of Myriam Adam, Sophie Forest, Veronique Major, Jessica Matassa, Sarah Mickey and Mackenzie Spong were eager to don their red Team Canada jerseys, and show the proud fans in attendance that Canada’s hope in establishing a proud sporting legacy in women’s ice sledge hockey is a bright one.

Coincidentally, the number of new faces on Canada’s women’s ice sledge hockey team mirrored a similar trend with Canada’s stand-up women’s team that competed at the 2015 IIHF Womens’ Worlds in Malmo, Sweden. That squad featured nine players making their debut for Canada in IIHF World play, including goaltenders Ann-Renee Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer, blueliners Halli Kryzyzaniak and Brigette Lacquette, along with forwards Jessica Campbell, Emily Clark, Jamie-Lee Rattray, Jillian Saulnier and Kelly Terry.

Among the players in the rookie class, there was no shortage of two-sport stars, including the likes of Myriam Adam, a former wheelchair racer who enjoyed a podium finish at the 2011 Parapan Am Games. Another two-sport star with a similar background is Jessica Matassa, who has earned medals in both the Paralympics and the Parapan Am Games.

Joining Adam among the group of French-Canadian players that comprised the 2015 rookie class included Sophie Forest and Veronique Major, a double knee amputee who has also taken to competition in the swimming pool. Serving as the backup to elite goaltender Jessie Gregory, Forest had the chance to improve her game and learn from one of the world’s finest in her position. Gregory spoke highly of the chance to call Forest a teammate for the first time, ”It was great playing with Sophie she is great and a blast to have as our other goalie on the team.”

While Forest was hoping to help Canada avenge two straight series losses to the United States, she was very courageous in acknowledging that there was some anticipation about competing against such a fierce rival. The opportunity to talk about the anticipation of the event with fellow rookies, plus team veteran Vanessa Racine helped alleviate any worries. In revealing the benefit of being able to communicate such feelings, Forest found confidence and empowerment,   

“The series against the United States was an event both really exciting and stressful, for me and for all my teammates. It was really special to experience this with other players of the national team.

What made my experience a little more special with Quebec players from the team was that I had the opportunity to further discuss with them during the long road trip what was stressing us and our expectations. We were able to reassure each other and share our excitement.”

Only 14 years of age, Mackenzie Spong represents the potential for the future of the game in Canada, and the opportunities for further growth. Competing on defense, Spong earned an assist in the three-game exhibition series against the United States. Acquiring more confidence and the invaluable experience of international play, the results proved to empowering for Spong, approaching the reminder of the season with enthusiasm. 

"It was so much fun playing my first games on Team Canada vs. the USA. I learned so much from those three games, and I am excited for the rest of the season and to see my team again."

Currently in her senior year of high school, Sarah Mickey is another teenaged phenomenon making her international debut for Canada. After a figure skating career was shelved due to the effects of Lyme Disease, the determination of the resident of Medicine Hat, Alberta has resulted in a promising competitor in the sled. Taking into account the character that Mickey has displayed in continuing to participate in sport, the chance to don the Team Canada jersey has provided her with a proud athletic and personal milestone,

“To be able to wear a Team Canada jersey for an international debut is overwhelming to say the least. I went through a range of emotions but I was incredibly proud of myself to see how far I have come and the fact that I’m representing my country by doing what I love.”

Although the rookie class did not register any points for Canada in their opening game, a hard-fought 4-3 win, such a statistical outcome was not repeated in the second game. With any possible jitters and nervous energy from their debuts replaced by feelings of confidence and determination, the second game was a coming-out party.

In a 5-2 victory for Canada, Myriam Adam would record her first multi-point game with the national team. Along with Canada’s captain, Christina Picton, the two would earn assists on Canada’s second goal, scored by Ashley Goure. Before the second period would expire, Adam would add to her momentum, adding an assist on a goal scored by Peggy Assinck.

Despite Game 3 resulting in a 4-3 loss for Canada, the rookie class displayed that a great opportunity lies ahead for Canada. Of note, Veronique Major scored Canada’s second goal of the game, becoming the first member of the rookie class to log a goal in the three-game series. Adding to the jubilation of Major’s milestone goal was the fact that fellow rookies Matassa and Spong both combined to earn the assists.

Alanna Mah, also a member of Alberta’s provincial team, would score Canada’s last goal of the game, resulting in Matassa earning one of the assists. Akin to Adam in the second game, Matassa would compile a multi-point performance. Having played alongside Goure for several seasons on the Essex-Kent Ice Bullets, her strong playmaking skills were definitely enhanced by the privilege of playing alongside Goure.

For Myriam Adam, who has extended her amazing athletic career by mounting the sled, the only element that could eclipse the excitement of being named to Team Canada was the chance to play. Such jubilation added another proud chapter to her world-class athletic career. In reflecting on the three-game series and the chance to help Canada prevail, her perspective is one that likely echoes those of her proud first-year teammates, excited at the possibilites ahead,  

“This experience was very rewarding and fulfilling as much as off the ice as on the ice. I learned more about my team, I had the chance to play against top players and I had great advice from my coaches and my teammates, which greatly strengthened my confidence as a hockey player.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credits: Connor Mah

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