The Canada National Women’s Hockey Team were in Red Deer to take on the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Chiefs at the Centrium.
The game, which counted in the standings for the Chiefs, brought in over 2,000 fans into the lower bowl of the arena, many of them being local minor hockey women’s teams eager to see their Olympic heroes take the ice.
Olympic team veteran Natalie Spooner knows how important these games against midget AAA teams are.
“I think they are huge. We don’t have that many teams to play against in Canada. This is the closest competition we have to playing the US. They are fast, they are big and they are strong, so these are the games we want to play and get better,” she said.
Luckily for the young fans, the national team was already in Olympic form, as they dominated the Chiefs from start to finish.
Team Canada got the game rolling when left-winger Bailey Bram found the back of the net, bringing the young fans to their feet. Canada would quickly follow that up with another goal from forward Jennifer Wakefield.
“The first few minutes we didn’t have our legs under us, but at the 10 minute mark we got them,” Spooner said. “We tried to get pucks behind their D and take it to the net. I thought we created a lot of offence and we were able to get quite a few goals.”
The Chiefs would keep the game close by notching their first score of the period when Sean Michalevich scored with just 56 seconds remaining.
Team Canada went into the first intermission with a confident 2-1 lead.
They would come out firing in the second and would be rewarded in just over a minute when Team Captain Marie-Philip Poulin found the back of the net. The national team would score the only other goal of the period when Spooner scored a goal of her own with 14:04 left to play.
“We are trying to get more pucks away and create more offence. We are trying to get pucks to the net and get the dirty goals. Today we did a good job of that,” Spooner said.
The Chiefs would head into the third period with a mountain to climb, down 4-1.
Unfortunately for the home team, it would be a mountain they couldn’t summit, as Team Canada went on to win the game 5-1. Forward Sarah Potomak would score the only goal of the third period.
Both teams would take part in a friendly, for-the-fans shootout following the game.
Spooner said the game is a great warm-up for the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in February.
“We are trying to put chemistry together and get things moving a bit quicker. Every game we are improving and that is what is important,” Spooner said.
She added it was cool to see all the young girls who had come out to the Centrium to watch them play.
“I remember when I was little watching Team Canada play. It was super cool,” she said. “I remember watching Hayley Wickenheiser and seeing how fast she was. I wanted to be like her. It’s cool to know all those little girls are now looking up to us.
“Hopefully we put on a show for them and hopefully they now want to play for Team Canada one day.”