A league of her own
Even before making her national team debut, Danika Ranger had made her name on the national stage
Wendy Graves
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January 8, 2017
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Danika Ranger already holds one distinction with Hockey Canada. She is the only player to have been named Top Goaltender at both the Esso Cup and National Women’s Under-18 Championship.

She shares another one with Michela Cava. The two are the only players to have won a gold medal at Canada’s National Female Midget Championship – Ranger with the Sudbury Lady Wolves in 2015; Cava with the Thunder Bay Queens in 2010 – and the U18 nationals, something both accomplished with Ontario Red a year after winning their Esso Cups.

“I actually didn’t know that,” says Ranger. “It’s pretty cool that I’ve got two national titles and I ended up being top goaltender at both. That’s very special to me.”

She could soon add another line to her bio should she enjoy similar success with Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team. A gold medal at the 2017 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship would make her the only player to have a trifecta of titles at the under-18 level.

It’s hard to believe that someone who regularly needs extra room in her carry-on for the hardware she acquires has spent her share of time on the outside looking in.

Of the 23 players representing Canada at the world championship in the Czech Republic, Ranger is the only one who wasn’t invited to the team’s summer camp.

Only a few months after her success at the Esso Cup she attended the provincial camp for the 2015 U18 nationals. Ontario has two teams at the event each year – Red and Blue – and Ranger’s name didn’t appear on either roster.

“That’s what motivates me a lot,” she says. “I don’t take it as a letdown. It’s more fuel to the fire. It gave me more drive, got me to work harder and gave me something to strive for throughout the year. It helped me become better.”

So has big-game experience.

“The Esso Cup made me more comfortable in tougher situations and trying to find my comfort zone in the game,” says Ranger. She made 19 saves in Sudbury’s 2-1 win over the Red Deer Chiefs. “It’s definitely a more difficult game and it made me a better goalie.”

Individual awards are chosen by Hockey Canada scouts. Their stamp of approval was a confidence booster and proof to Ranger that she was good at what she did.

After a standout 2015-16 season with the Durham West Lightning – one in which she led the Provincial Women’s Hockey League in goals-against average and save percentage – and a strong start this year, Ranger was off to Regina with Ontario Red.

The accomplishment came with a new challenge: handling expectations. Ontario Red had won gold at nine of the previous 10 tournaments.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure already, just being on that team,” says Ranger. “But playing in the final prepared me for being [at U18 women’s worlds], with the nerves, with the pressure, with the audience. It was a great experience and it will follow me into the world championship.”

The scouts keyed in on her early in Regina, spreading the word to the national team coaching staff.

“The more you watch her, the more you see the good things she does,” says Troy Ryan, head coach of Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team. “I saw how she competed and just found a way to stop pucks. Whether it was technically sound or not, she found a way to win.”

The coaches and management staff are reluctant to put too much weight on a single performance. With Ranger, though, there was a pattern.

“For me personally it was highlighted by her being successful and finding a way to win gold medals,” says Ryan. “It’s just something that you can’t ignore. If there’s someone consistent in net when those things are happening, you got to play a little extra attention.”

What she showed at Canada’s National Women’s Program strength and conditioning camp in May, its goaltending camp in June and this season with the Lightning (a .956 save percentage through 10 games) simply reinforced what she had already done on a larger stage.

“In doing a back-check on her we saw how familiar she is with winning,” says Ryan. “In a short-term event you can’t really pass up those types of credentials.”

Her steady presence – and stream of success – earned her not only a spot on Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team but also contention as the No. 1 puck-stopper.

New or not, she’s caught on quickly both during goaltender sessions and in the dressing room. When the veterans presented Ranger with her jersey before the team’s first pre-competition camp, reality sunk in at the sight of her name and number on the back of a Team Canada sweater.

“All the new players put them on [together] for the first time,” she says. “It was such a special moment that my heart was racing the whole time because I was so excited.”

Ranger then went out and allowed but a single goal in her team’s victory over a Czech boys’ team.

Heartbeat steadied, it was time to get back to the business of winning.

For more information:

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

 

Morgan Bell
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427 / 403-669-1261 (mobile)
mbell@hockeycanada.ca

 

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

 

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