Our day started with a pre-game skate, our first official team practice with the finalized World Championship team. We had a short practice with several drills where we had to battle one another in preparation for tonight’s game where every inch is going to be hard to win. The intensity in practice is very high and we do not take it easy on each other. I guess that is how you get better everyday as a team.
After the practice, we had a short team meeting. Our coach is Ryan Walter, NHL player, Stanley cup winner, and one of the youngest captains in NHL history. Most amazingly, Ryan played many seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and I clearly remember watching him play. Ryan learned French while in Montreal taking lessons intensively. It is great for us, ‘’Frenchies’’, when we see him make an effort to talk to us in French. Not only was Ryan a complete player and a great leader, he coached in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks so the experience he brings is so valuable. Ryan is positive and charismatic and we truly are lucky to be coached by him. Ryan’s involvement with us as a head coach brought a lot of media attention to women’s hockey which is tremendous as we are still in a developmental phase and have so much more work to do to promote our sport. We were privileged last year to also work with another former NHL player, Doug Lidster. Doug was a very good defenseman and he had great insights about the game and he would be able to address the little details that made a big difference.
In the meeting, Ryan talked about the importance of individually have closure with the end of the camp and the team selection. Emotionally it is very difficult to see friends get release and it is important to stay focus on the present and let go of what we cannot control. One of Ryan’s important value is honesty and I love the analogy he used. He compared the importance of being honest with each other with our fore-check in the sense that we have to react differently in the team system depending on if we see the opponent’s logo at the front of the jersey or the numbers at the back. He said that being honest means talking to the logo and not to the numbers meaning that we want to avoid talking about others when they are not present to defend themselves. He is right that no good can happen from that, it only encourages more negativity. When you have a difficult message to communicate with someone, it takes courage to tell the truth. It also takes maturity to take a critic, accept it, and move on. Our coaching staff helps us becoming better people as well as better athletes. Ryan also stated the importance of being a good teammate. Giving our best for the team, accepting and embracing the role we are given. It is not always easy to do so, but in the end we all have to believe and understand that every decision is made based on what is best for the team. Winning is the priority, and we have to trust in the coaches’ plan!
Tonight, we faced the Americans for the first time since our overtime win at the 4 nations cup last November in PEI. During that tournament we had previously lost to them in shootout during the first game. Every time we play them, it is a very close game. Both teams can win on any given nights. We have to be the best team every game if we want to have a chance to win. It was the first game for this team and it was not bad for a first one but we realized that we still have many areas to improve on. We also have to acquire chemistry within our lines and defense pairing. Everyone played hard and was disciplined. This was our 4th game in 5 days. It was a very physical game tonight as the referee decided to let both teams play without interfering which is appreciated by the players! We won the game 3-1. Sarah Vaillancourt had an amazing game for us scoring our first goal and assisting on another. We play the U.S. again tomorrow night and it should be another great game.
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