Not many people get to say they’ve competed against Olympic athletes, but the Fort St. John Huskies had that opportunity last weekend with the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team in Dawson Creek for their main training camp. The Huskies, playing in their first exhibition games of the season, played Canada White, consisting of Olympians Natalie Spooner and Brianne Jenner, on Sept. 14, and Canada Red, with Marie-Philip Poulin and Shannon Szabados, on Sept. 15.
The games went as many would expect: the Huskies lost 4-0 to White and 6-2 to Red, as more than 40 women were playing their heart out to make an impression and crack the national team roster.
“I think we came out pretty strong, and caught the guys a bit off guard. They came out stronger in the second period,” Spooner said about her team’s 4-0 win.
Indeed, Canada White took a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Huskies rebounded in the second, and outshot Canada 14 to 6 in the second.
“As the game went on we got better. There’s adjustments we have to make, like not being able to hit. A lot of us haven’t played against high-end athletes like that before,” said Huskies goalie Jonathan Bateman.
“It’s fun to see so many people in the stands for training camp, and it’s always fun to play the guys,” said Jenner.
Bateman said there were some nerves before the games, as his team didn’t know what to expect, but the Huskies would come out stronger in the game against Canada Red, and he was right. The Huskies were tied at 2-2 midway through the second period, before surrendering the lead.
Huskies coach Todd Alexander was pleased with the effort from his team, given their opponent and that it was their first exhibition games of the season.
“The experience was really good. Anytime you get an opportunity to be a part of something like that, it’s something you want to jump at. Being around them and seeing what they’re doing, what it takes to be a top athlete, is a good learning experience for not only myself but our players and organization overall,” said Alexander.
Alexander liked how the team is coming together, but noted some things he could work on.
“We found out we need to be in better shape. We allowed five goals in the third period between the two games, and that’s a good indication of running out of gas. Take away those two third periods and they’re closer hockey games. It’s good for the players to see that for themselves,” Alexander said.
The Huskies will have to work out the kinks quickly, as they open the NWJHL regular season this Saturday, in Peace River against the North Peace Navigators.
The players have one goal this season— to repeat as NWJHL champions.
“It’s in the back of our heads, we want to win every year. If we work hard, the championship will come. That’s what we did last year,” said Bateman.
For the Canadian women, they want to return to being champions after losing to the U.S.A. in the gold medal game at the Olympics.
“Losing made us hungry and now we want to win gold at the Four Nations Cup and World Championships,” said Spooner.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.