Together again
Two different roads led Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast to the same point: the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship
Wendy Graves
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April 3, 2017
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Renata Fast and Erin Ambrose were on official and unofficial visits, respectively, to Clarkson University the first time they met. Fast had taken the train from Burlington, Ont., to Potsdam, N.Y., but she’d be hitching a ride back with Ambrose and her parents.

A five-hour drive later the duo arrived at their destination: a rink in the north end of Toronto, where Fast and the Burlington Barracudas faced off against Ambrose and the Toronto Aeros in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.

“Renata and I had barely known each more for more than two days, and we sat there in the lobby just trying to have a conversation,” says Ambrose. “Obviously, we’ve gotten to know each other quite a bit since then.”

The two were roommates freshman year and won an NCAA championship as sophomores. After graduating in 2016, they were the Toronto Furies’ first two picks in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League draft. Even at the CWHL All-Star Game, where teams are decided by randomly drawing names from a bucket, they ended up on the same side.

Fast and Ambrose are together again, this time with Canada’s National Women’s Team. Despite seemingly similar paths, the two took much different roads to arrive at their first women’s worlds.

Ambrose has been a Team Canada mainstay since she was 15. She played in three IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships, winning gold in 2010 and again, as captain, in 2012, when she was named Best Defenceman. She won two more gold medals with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team, at the 2013 Meco Cup and 2016 Nations Cup.

One summer training in Nova Scotia proved the stepping stone to turn a prodigy into a player capable of one day playing for Canada’s National Women’s Team.

“I had been in the [Hockey Canada] program for three years, and I needed to push myself to get to the next level,” says Ambrose. “After that summer I made the U22 team for the first time and played with Marie-Philip Poulin, Brianne Jenner and those kinds of players. Getting to be around them is when you really see what it takes to get to [the next] level.”

Fast didn’t wear red and white until after her second year of college. She played with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team in the 2014 and 2015 summer series against the United States and won gold at the 2015 Nations Cup.

“I never felt overlooked; I just developed a little bit later,” says Fast. A multi-sport athlete in high school, Fast didn’t focus all her energy on hockey until she got to Clarkson. “My first two years of U22 I was happy to just be at selection camp. I was learning a ton, and I knew if I continued to work hard, my time would come.”

Pushed every day in practice by a talented Golden Knights roster dotted with national team alumnae, Fast saw her game grow by the end of her sophomore season. “That year was a big turning point for me. I made my first [national] team the following year.”

Learning from those who’d been where they wanted to go hasn’t been the pair’s only common lesson.

“It’s about resiliency and working hard every day,” says Fast.

“It teaches you how much it takes,” says Ambrose. “When you’re young you don’t see the nitty-gritty things that it takes to be an everyday pro. As I’ve matured, I’ve started to figure those things out through mistakes and opportunities.”

“It’s about being a constant learner and believing in yourself,” says Fast.

“Whether I’m a rookie [at the world championship] or a senior in college, my game stays the same because that’s what makes me successful,” says Ambrose. That, too, came from maturity and experiencing failure. “It’s put me in a position to have confidence in myself to be the same player every day, regardless of what team I’m on.”

They’ve also leaned on each other. While the two were seldom on the ice together at Clarkson, their familiarity with each other’s games made the jump to the Furies easier for both.

“It’s similar to when you’re coming in as a freshman. It’s a transition year,” says Fast. Then it was about sharing classes, eating meals together and pushing each other on the ice and with their studies. And now in the CWHL? “Even though we weren’t D partners at Clarkson, we watched each other. It’s a second set of eyes that’s constantly giving you tips and looking out for you. And off the ice, trying to find a good routine, we had each other’s back.”

“She’s somebody who’s pushed me every day to get better,” says Ambrose. “We’ve done that for each other, on the ice, off the ice, every situation. Our friendship has grown even more outside of college. It had a foundation because of going to school together and knowing that we had the same dream.”

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Morgan Bell
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427
mbell@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

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