Canada’s Laura Stacey carries the puck during the 2016 Women’s 4 Nations Cup hockey game against Finland in Jarvenpaa, Finland, on November 1, 2016. (Riku Laukkanen/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
When Sarah Potomak, Laura Stacey, Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast were told they would represent Canada at the women’s world hockey championship for the first time, their emotions ran the gamut, from shivers and tears to speechlessness.
“Before the call I was so nervous,” Potomak said. “When she phoned, I literally started crying.”
Head coach Laura Schuler says delivering good news and hearing a gush of emotion is a fun part of her job.
“You know what? That even happens with our veterans,” Schuler said. “It speaks to just how, even with our veterans, just how important it is and how special it is to be able to play for your country.”
Ambrose said she was most emotional when she called her family.
“My mom kind of lost it,” she said.
Fast said she was “blown away” and that the call “brought tears to my eyes,” while Stacey’s body did the talking for her.
“I had shivers when I got the phone call,” Stacey said. “I didn’t have any tears. I’m not a crier, but I was speechless.”
The four women will make their world championship debut when they play the defending champion United States on Friday in Plymouth, Mich.
The world championship is the biggest international women’s tournament this calendar year and a significant one with the 2018 Winter Olympics less than a year away. Players on the championship roster are usually also candidates to try out for Canada’s Olympic team.
The “centralization roster” of players who will move to Calgary this summer and train full time for Pyeongchang, South Korea, will be announced following the world championship.
Potomak from Aldergrove, B.C., is the youngest player on the world championship team at 19. She’s also the first from B.C. to play in a world championship since goaltender Danielle Dube in 1997.
She is tenacious and gifted with the puck, scoring six game-winning goals as a sophomore for the University of Minnesota this season.
The other three are 22-year-olds from Ontario coming off their inaugural seasons in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Stacey, the great-granddaughter of Hockey Hall of Famer King Clancy, is from Kleinberg and played for the Brampton Thunder. She has a big shot and uses her five-foot-10 frame to create space at the net.
Fast from Burlington and Ambrose from Keswick are Toronto Furies teammates and a year removed from winning an NCAA championship together with Clarkson University.
Fast lives up to her surname. If she’s caught up ice, the blue-liner can still get back in time to defend.
Ambrose is a smart, savvy defender with a lot of experience for a newbie, having played for Canada in both November’s Four Nations Cup and the two-game December series versus the U.S.
Ambrose had an assist in that December series, which Canada won by scores of 3-1 and 5-3.
“With all those players, we hope they’ll provide secondary scoring,” Schuler said.
Russia, last year’s bronze medallist, and Finland are also in Canada’s pool in Plymouth. Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany round out the field. The medal games are April 7 at USA Hockey Arena.
Canada hasn’t won world championship gold since 2012 in Burlington, Vt. The Americans have won six of the last seven, though their participation at the tournament was in jeopardy until recently. USA Hockey and the American women reached an agreement Tuesday after the players threatened to boycott the tournament if they didn’t get more equitable treatment, financial and otherwise, from their federation.
Alex Carpenter scored the overtime winner last year in Kamloops, B.C., for a 1-0 victory over the host country.
Ambrose, Fast, Stacey and Potomak know this year’s world championship is a statement tournament for Canada with the Winter Olympics on the horizon.
“After the December series, I think we’re riding on some momentum,” Ambrose said. “We know what our sights are set on in April. We’re going to do whatever we can to accomplish those goals.”