It has been 198 days since the gold medal game at the 2008 IIHF World Women’s Under-18 Championship; a little more than 28 weeks since members of Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team left their home ice in Calgary on January 12th with a silver medal around their necks, watching the USA celebrate the first gold medal in women’s under-18 history.
Since then, Marie-Philip Poulin has thought about what might have been 198 times, and it doesn’t seem to get any easier, regardless of how much time passes.
“My medal is hanging in my bedroom, and every day, every time I walk in, I see it,” says Poulin, who racked up a tournament co-leading 14 points in five games on her way to Top Forward honours at the world championship as a 16-year-old. “It brings back some great memories, but I always think that it could have been gold.”
The Canadians were the class of the round-robin at the world championship, outscoring the opposition 38-3 in three preliminary round games and rolling to a 7-1 win over a tough Swedish side in the semi-final before stumbling in the gold medal game, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Americans.
Now, seven months later, Poulin and two of her U18 teammates – forward Brianne Jenner and defenseman Laura Fortino – have returned to the same city, to the same arena, to begin another quest for the elusive gold medal.
This week’s selection camp marks another step on the road to Füssen, Germany, where one country will take home world women’s under-18 gold on .
And after following the lead of players like Natalie Spooner, Chelsea Karpenko and captain Lauriane Rougeau last year, Poulin, Jenner and Fortino know it is now their turn to step up as leaders on that road.
“It is a big responsibility for us as veterans to show the new players how things are done,” Jenner says. “There are expectations to be a leader, to help the new players in the program and hopefully we can do that.”
With 42 players at camp and only the three returnees from Canada’s silver medal-winning team, the pressure is on Poulin, Jenner and Fortino to lead the way.
But, according to Poulin, they won’t be alone.
“Everyone here (at camp) wants to work hard, wants to win,” she says. “They all seem determined to help bring the gold to Canada.”