agosta feature
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Meghan Agosta (R) with Valley West forward, and Winter Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Luka Burzan.
Hawks get an Olympic-sized assist
The Valley West Hawks got a little help from a three-time Olympic gold medallist on their Road to the TELUS Cup
David Brien
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April 1, 2016
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When Meghan Agosta stepped away from hockey after the 2014 Olympic Winter Games to chase down her dream of becoming a police officer, she knew she was sacrificing more than just her love for the game.

In a sport where the talent pool seems to get deeper and deeper every season, Agosta’s decision meant that her roster spot on Canada’s National Women’s Team would be left vacant, and there would be no guarantee that should she decide to return to Team Canada it simply be handed back to her.

But the Ruthven, Ont. native didn’t look like she missed a beat when she came back to the program in the fall, and when the puck dropped on the 2015 4 Nations Cup in Sundsvall, Sweden, there was Agosta in the Team Canada line-up with an ‘A’ on her sweater, helping her team to a silver medal.

Upon her return to Vancouver, Agosta mentioned in a newspaper article that she wanted to get back into the game, but it was a challenge for her to find ice time and high-level competition.

Justin Leung, a colleague of hers with the Vancouver Police Department, read the article and immediately reached out to his brother Jessie, head coach of the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget League.

Could Jessie’s team help out a three-time Olympic gold medallist? He said yes in a heartbeat.

For Agosta, the opportunity was an important one because it meant she’d get to skate alongside some highly-skilled players as she got ready ahead of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Kamloops, B.C.

“I’m so fortunate that the guys accepted me and allowed me to practice with them, they’re great,” she says. “They are the ones that I can honestly say prepared me for this championship.”

For the Hawks, who won the BCMML championship and are on the road this weekend in Lloydminster, Alta., for the Pacific Regional qualifier for the TELUS Cup, it was an opportunity to see a world-class athlete’s training regimen first-hand, and to pick her brain on different aspects and strategies of the game.

“We went through that first practice and as soon as she started taking part in some of our drills you saw some of the boys’ reactions,” remembers Leung. “They went ‘Holy smokes, she’s good!’”

Aside from being a female, a decorated Olympian and a police officer, Agosta is also over a dozen years older than some of the Hawks. That made her transition from shooting at targets with a rifle to shooting pucks at midget-aged goaltenders a little strange at first.

“I was kind of shy to jump on the ice at first because it’s their team” she says.

“I would line up at the back of the line before drills and eventually guys were telling me to go to the front. They started asking me questions about the drill and as time went by they felt more comfortable with me.”

Agosta barely missed a practice for the rest of the season, and the more and more she came out, the more players started to realize just how important Agosta’s presence meant to them.

“I remember a drill where she was taking some reps with [Luka Burzan, a member of Team Canada at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games] and as I kept watching, I noticed he kept pairing up with her,” Leung says. “I finally went over and asked him how that happened and he looked at me and chuckled ‘Well, she’s the best one here.’ Next thing you know, they’re running the drill and every pass was right on his stick.”

Although at a disadvantage in terms of physical strength and size compared to some of the boys, Agosta made the best of the high-tempo practices and stayed in shape ahead of the women’s worlds.

“They’re a lot faster, stronger and have long reaches, so being out there on the ice with them really pushed me to be better. They challenged me to push and battle harder,” Agosta says. “I’ve definitely seen a change in my game. Hats off to them for that.”

Valley West was the class of the BCMML all season, going 33-6-1 in the regular season and winning six of seven in the playoffs, and Leung says Agosta played just as big a role as his players in that success.

“Her hockey IQ is out of this world,” says Leung. “She’d take some reps with our penalty kill unit and she was killing our power play; she was just destroying it, picking off passes everywhere.

“I remember turning to her on the bench once and pointing to the player next to her and saying ‘Meghan, I need you to make him as efficient a penalty killer as you.’”

Leung and his assistants also turned to Agosta to get her point of view on some of the systems they were using, and she’d chat with the boys about anything and everything hockey – what to do on a two-on-one, what she does on a forecheck, what to look for during the opponent’s breakouts, etc.

“Playing on the best teams, and having the best coaches, that experience allowed me to try and give them a few ideas here and there and they’ve taken and applied a few of them,” Agosta says. “But it’s all about getting better. I want to see them succeed because they helped me do just that as well.”

So what could make an already great season better, for both Agosta and the Hawks? Gold, and lots of it.

Agosta wants to add a third world title to her collection, and Valley West wants to be the first B.C. team since the Burnaby Winter Club in 1982 to win Canada’s National Midget Championship.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
[email protected]

 

Spencer Sharkey
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
[email protected]

 

Katie Macleod
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-284-6427
Mobile: 403-612-2893
[email protected]

 

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