As a member of the Russia’s national women’s team, Iya Gavrilova is quickly establishing herself as one of the elite forwards in the game. Currently, Gavrilova competes with the University of Calgary Dinos. In the last two seasons, the Dinos have competed in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship.
Among one of her teammates on the Dinos, Gavrilova plays with three-time Olympic Winter Games gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser.
“She makes me a better player,” Gavrilova said. “Seeing her practise and the lifestyle she leads. She has school, a child, runs hockey camps and clinics; somehow, she makes it all happen. Her intensity on and off the ice pushes me as well.”
In addition, two members of the Dinos coaching staff have also won gold medals with Canada’s National Women’s Team – Danielle Goyette and Kelly Bechard. “I have also learned so much from our coach, Danielle Goyette. Bechard and the rest of the coaching staff help out a lot, too.”
During her first season with the Dinos, Gavrilova helped the squad to its first ever national championship.
“It was a dream come true when it comes to mind. Winning has always been the goal, and you try and reach that highest goal,” she said. “It is good for the (Dinos) program, as well. Playing in the 2012 championship tournament in Edmonton was a good experience; exciting.”
Prior to competing with the Calgary Dinos, Gavrilova also played in the United States. She played for Shannon Miller, who coached Canada to a silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, with the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in the NCAA.
“Playing there was awesome,” she said. “All the programs there have a bigger budget. It is a lot like the NHL with the equipment and coaching staff. There was also an off-ice training staff. In playing for Shannon Miller, whoever plays for her learns a lot. It was huge to see the difference. The practices, the intensity, the speed; it was a change.”
With Sochi, Russia hosting the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Gavrilova is beaming with pride.
“Yes, I am excited. Especially, because my family has never seen me play. It is a nice opportunity to go there and represent the national team. All the things going on, I feel they are doing it for us. The media, the support, we are getting a lot of attention.”
For Gavrilova, the opportunity to win a medal on home soil at Sochi is one that brings with it great excitement. “I think it would be great not just for me, but for women’s hockey in general. It is important to see the other teams get better.”