DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – For defenceman Alexa Ranahan (Salmon Arm, B.C.) and forward Hannah Miller (North
Vancouver, B.C.), there was truly something magical about putting on that jersey with the maple leaf for
their very first time, when they played for Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team against the United States
this past summer.
And after beating their American rivals 2-1 in the annual three-game series, Ranahan and Miller made sure
to bring that magic back to British Columbia, to share with their provincial teammates, and impress home
crowd fans at Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Dawson Creek, B.C.
Traditionally an “underdog” team at nationals, British Columbia set a specific goal for itself going into
this year’s five-day tournament, and skated away from the elite female hockey event at the EnCana Events
Centre with full bragging rights of having accomplished that goal.
“Our goal as a team was to make the semifinal game,“ Miller said of what represents a major step forward
for the top under-18 female players in the province.
“Our goal was to get into a position to win a medal, which means winning a quarter-final game to get into
semifinals,” BC Hockey female high performance coordinator Bruce Tuck elaborated prior to this year’s
national championship. “So top four.”
It was that specific goal, because British Columbia finished fifth at the 2011 National Women’s Under-18
Championship in Saguenay, Que., and has only once finished better than that, winning the bronze medal at the
inaugural Jan. 2005 national championship.
That is, until now.
British Columbia beat Quebec 4-2 and edged Alberta 2-1, both very competitive teams, to earn a spot in
semifinals and ultimately play for the bronze medal at this year’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship.
The west coast “underdogs” played with some serious bite, displaying skill and speed in front of local fans
who cheered them on until the final buzzer.
In the end, B.C. only fell 3-0 to always impressive, seven-time defending champions Ontario Red, claiming
a very respectable fourth place finish at the 2012 National Women’s Under-18 Championship – just as
“This is the best Team B.C. that I’ve played on so far,” said Miller, who travelled to Saguenay for last
season’s national championship, and also represented her province at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax,
N.S. “We really pulled together as a team, all lines are firing, and we’re doing all the little things
Ranahan added that this year’s British Columbia contingent was “a really tight knight group.”
“We’re pretty strong this year,” said Ranahan, who also played alongside Miller at last year’s under-18
nationals. “We have a lot of depth … and a lot of different styles of play.”
Tuck agreed “depth” is a key component to British Columbia’s steady development within the female game, at
both the national and international levels. “It will definitely support us down the road.”
British Columbia becoming a hotbed for hosting female hockey events, including the National Women’s
Under-18 Championship in Salmon Arm both in Jan. and Nov. 2005, as well as in Nov. 2009 in Surrey, will also
help grow the women’s game across the province, he said.
“There is a fair bit of publicity generated, so locally, always with small communities, you hope it has a
direct impact,” he said. “We’re hoping that with that type of exposure, there will be more and more interest
just in the general population for female hockey.”
Having players such as Miller and Ranahan, and 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship gold
medallist Jordan Krause (Kelowna, B.C.), lead the way for up-and-coming young west coast women’s players is
also key to ensuring British Columbia’s future success on the ice.
“They’ve seen the competition at the next level up,” Tuck said. “The really have a good understanding, so
when they’re under pressure they definitely know how to handle it better, and just the exposure and
experience they’ve had helps.”
And of course, there’s also the joy in sharing that special feeling of wearing that jersey on the ice
while representing your province – or your country.
“The way we did it made it so special,” Ranahan said of lifting that Team Canada jersey over her head and
then her equipment in unison with the other 21 members of Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team in Calgary,
Alta., this past August – including Miller.
“Seeing all the girls in the room, putting it on at the same time, was probably the coolest moment ever in
my 16 years,” Ranahan said. “It was amazing, and it felt really rewarding to finally be in that jersey.”
Miller’s memory of that whimsical hockey magic mirrors that of her fellow British Columbian.
“The first game of that series, we all kind of sat back and got dressed, got our shoulder pads on, and no
one put their jersey on right away,” she recalled. “We all put our jerseys on together, as a team.”
The women’s hockey spotlight will be back on British Columbia next April for the 2013 Esso Cup, Canada’s
National Female Midget Championship, in Burnaby. So what advice do Miller and Ranahan have for the country’s
top female Midget teams, who will be representing their regions and provinces, including host team the Fraser
Valley Phantom of the BC Hockey Female Midget AAA League?
“When you do get the opportunity to show yourself at nationals or a big tournament when people are
watching, you really need to … capitalize on those,” Miller said. “Make the best out of every minute you have
on the ice.”
The puck drops in Burnaby, B.C., on .