At least one Canadian team was golden in Finland.
While Team Canada failed to reach the medal round in the world junior hockey championship at Helsinki, the Canadian junior squad captured a world ringette title, defeating the host country 10-9 in overtime last Sunday to sweep a best-of-three final series.
The Canadian squad was not only the class of the tournament in terms of skill, the players also believed in themselves, said Red Deer’s Kelsie Caine, a key player with the national team.
“To be honest, the feeling going into that overtime was that we were going to win,” said Caine, who returned to Red Deer late Tuesday. “I can’t say how, but we just knew we were going to win. When we finally put it away … just rushing towards everybody and knowing at that moment that we were world champions … that was probably the highlight of the tournament for us.”
Caine, 20, first represented Canada in a junior competition four years ago. At the time she played for Team West, as the country also featured a Team East.
To earn a spot with Team Canada for the 2016 junior worlds, Caine and 39 others players attended a tryout camp in Toronto last spring. The team was selected in short order and the successful hopefuls took in a series of training camps over the next several months.
As a member of a top-flight senior team — the Edmonton WAM! — Caine had valuable experience on her side in her quest to earn a berth on the national junior team.
The WAM! compete in the National Ringette League, which also features a recently-formed Edmonton team, one club in each of Calgary and British Columbia and 10 teams from eastern Canada.
“We’re playing three games against Calgary next weekend (Jan. 15-17), then we go out to B.C.,” said Caine. “We go down east for two games after that and then host an eastern team for two games. We play a 28-game schedule.”
Caine and three of her WAM! teammates played for the junior Team Canada, and three WAM players — including Jamie and Dailyn Bell of Lacombe — were with the Canadian senior team in Finland, which lost a best-of-three series to Finland.
Caine and her teammates were able to take in two of Team Canada’s world junior hockey championship games while in Helsinki.
“We watched a couple of their games. We were playing at the same rink as the hockey team,” said Caine, a second-year kinesiology student at Red Deer College who will transfer to the University of Alberta next fall.
The Red Deer athlete, who suited up with the RDC Queens soccer squad last fall, was amazed at the fan attendance during the world ringette championships.
“During our first meeting with Finland there were about 2,000 fans,” she said. “There was a little less for the gold-medal game, but there was something like 1,000 computers logged on. People were watching on-line, as well.
“Normally, that many fans don’t come out for ringette games. But we had a lot of support. Half of the stands were full of Canadian fans.”
Clearly, Canada and Finland are the global ringette powers. As is the case with women’s hockey, there is a hope that the game will evolve to a competitive level in other countries.
“That’s kind of the main goal for us — expanding the sport,” said Caine.