Game #2 Red vs. White
Our Monday started with a practice that lasted 45minutes. I felt better than I expected because I struggled to fall asleep last night following our game. Morning came fast and I was not too happy when my alarm went on. But then I quickly came back to the realization that there are no other places I would rather be at, no other sport I would prefer to do and no other players I would like more to play with or against. Following our win last night, the atmosphere was relaxed and some of our young players are starting to come out of their shells and be more vocal. We still have an incredibly quiet team and I believe that many of them are much louder in a college environment. Practice was shorter, yet still very intense and designed in a way to get lots of shots on our goalies and get warm-up for tonight.
We had a video session following practice where we talked about the importance of self-sacrifice to block shots. It is a very satisfying feeling to block a shot in an important situation in a game. As you are going on one knee or sliding on the ice, you in that split second truly hope that the puck hits you, yet that it also hits where you have equipment. I have been pretty lucky besides a broken finger a couple years ago. Current teammate with the Montreal Stars and US Olympian Julie Chu is probably one of the best shot blocker in the world. She has helped me witness the importance and the difference it makes. She has taught our Minnesota-Duluth players the art of great shot blocking and I was truly amaze to see them block so many shot in the 2008 NCAA National Championship game when we were able to kill an incredible 10 penalties against us. She has also inspired me to improve that aspect of my game and I now take pride in trying to block as many as possible. Another great shot blocker is our most creative defense Catherine Ward. She is one of the best in the world with the puck, yet she led our defense squad during the Olympic year in shot blocking proving that she is indeed a very complete player.
Win the video session, we also discussed forecheck and faceoffs, two other key strategies in the game of hockey. We have the chance to practice and play our games at the beautiful Master Card Center in Toronto, practice rink of the Toronto Maple Leafs. As we were preparing for our own practice, the Maple Leafs players came off the bus for a practice of their own. It is always so impressive to witness the size of NHL players. They seem larger than life. They too were surprise to see us and seemed eager to take a look at the girls who play hockey for Canada.
After a short nap, it was time to eat again and have our pre-game meeting at the hotel where we reviewed the final game plan. It is coffee or tea time at this point for many of the girls, especially the older ones who have learned to enjoy that caffeine boost before a game. We are staying near the Toronto airport so it is a 15 minutes bus ride to the Master Card center. Many girls use this time as a moment to focus and many listen to music. We can always count on Meghan Agosta and Delaney Collins for some entertainment on board.
For tonight’s game I had the privilege to play again with Marie-Philip Poulin and her teammate at Boston University, Jennifer Wakefield. Two of Canada’s rising stars. As a line, we had size and speed and a good amount of grit without forgetting that they both are extremely talented and can be instant difference maker with the puck in a game. We had a slow start as a team but our goalie Shannon Szabados was solid and kept us in the game early. My legs were heavy in the first, feeling a bit of fatigue. With the experience I gained on the National team, I am well aware that so much of the game is mental. If you are feeling tired at first, it does not mean that you will not be able to feel great moments later. A trick is to give energy to others to eventually find energy yourself. And when you give it, it often comes back to you from others. I felt much better as the game went on. Our line connected better and better and we even kept our best for the 3rd period. Our first goal of the game was on Power Play by Stephanie Mckeough. Jennifer Wakefield scored twice in the second and I finished Jen’s rebound in the third. We won the game 4-2 and our line was on the ice for our teams’ 4 goals, finishing the game at +3. Kim St-Pierre was amazing for team White stopping close to 40 shots.
After the game, I was one of the six lucky ones chosen for doping control! I had been lucky not being drawn at our September and November camps. Twelve of us have been tested over the past two day! We find out as we are walking back from the ice to the locker room when we are stopped by an officer and told we are chosen. That officer follows us everywhere until we are able to deliver our urine sample. It used to be intimidating when I was younger and I could see some of our younger players being a bit uncomfortable with it.
Before the game, we were thrilled to see our friend Peter Jensen, nicknamed PJ, our team’s sport psychologist since 2005. PJ is incredible and so inspiring to all of us helping us through the good and bad days of our training. He is amazingly funny and everyone loves him and would tell you he is the best in his field. He has been to several Olympic Games and we were so lucky to have him with us in Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. Sadly, it is there that he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He made our head coach Mel Davidson promise that she would not tell the team. He wanted to be there to help us without having us worry about him. I cannot imagine how much courage it must have taken for him to remain so composed and happy and especially appear fearless. You feel safe with him, just being in his presence is a confidence booster. He does such magic with his words and analogies, I could listen to him talk all day. PJ went through surgery and chemotherapy after the Olympics and battled hard to regain his health. It was wonderful for us to see him tonight. He looks great!