Winning a national championship no easy task, and winning two is even tougher.
Four young women have the chance to make “herstory,” potentially joining just one other player who has won both the National Women’s Under-18 Championship and the Esso Cup, Canada’s National Female Midget Championship.
The events are Hockey Canada’s only two female national championships, and the only player to accomplish the feat thus far is Michela Cava of Thunder Bay, Ont., who won the gold medal with the Midget AA Thunder Bay Queens at the 2010 Esso Cup in Regina, Sask., and at the 2011 National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Saguenay, Que.
Valérie Audet (St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que./Nord, Midget AAA), Tammy-Lee Corbeil (Mirabel, Que./Nord, Midget AAA), Alyson Matteau (Blainville, Que./Northwood School, U.S.) and Ève-Audrey Picard (Longueuil, Que./St-Laurent, RSEQ) all know that they can’t accomplish the double victory alone, and relish in the opportunity to represent the Québec along with all of their teammates.
Audet, Corbeil, Matteau and Picard all played for LHFDQ Nord, also representing Québec, at the 2013 Esso Cup this past April in Burnaby, B.C. In the gold medal game against the North Bay Ice Boltz, the Ontario representatives who were considered the team to beat. In front of thrilled fans and TSN television cameras, the LHFDQ Nord erased a two-goal deficit to win 5-2, with three goals coming in the span of two minutes, and all five goals in the final period.
Picard was named Quebec’s player of the game, contributing a goal and an assist to the gold medal game score sheet.
“It was great because, we weren’t the team that was supposed to win,” Picard recalled. “Each game, we played great as a team, and we proved that we never give up, and made it to the finals and had a great comeback.”
“Every game was a team win,” she said.
That win marked Quebec’s first-ever gold at the Esso Cup, which started in 2009 with the inaugural tournament in Calgary, Alta., where Hockey Canada’s head offices and home arena are based.
Corbeil who was only 14 years old when she and her Esso Cup teammates won the gold medal. She is now 15 years old, and will be one of the youngest players at the 2013 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, which is also being held in Calgary, at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Canada Olympic Park. She brings solid experience with her to this year’s under-18 nationals, having played with a Bantam boys’ team before joining the Midget AAA LHFDQ Nord girls’ team.
Audet finished the 2013 Esso Cup with an impressive 11 points in seven games, topping all other players in the tournament.
“It was very amazing, to be able to compete against good teams and very fun to do,” Audet said of her Esso Cup experience. “Going to the championship was a very big step for me.”
Winning two national championships within less than seven months of each other would be an incredible opportunity not just for these four players themselves, but also for their entire team, and the province they’re representing on the ice.
“It would be great to accomplish that, but it would be a team win and it wouldn’t just be my name there,” Picard said.
Québec has never won a gold medal at under-18 nationals, so Audet, Corbeil, Matteau and Picard could help create another first in women’s hockey for their province. Québec has collected six silver medals at the tournament, so certainly has the potential to make it gold this season.
And after lasts year’s disappointing fifth place finish, Québec’s young stars plan to better that outcome.
“I’m not scared or nervous, but very excited,” Matteau said of the upcoming tournament.
“I am looking to win the gold,” Audet added. “To work hard every shift and work hard for my teammates and work hard to represent my province.”
Québec’s first game is against British Columbia on the opening day of the 2013 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, with the puck dropping at 1 p.m. MT. Follow all the action at www.hockeycanada.ca/nwu18.