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Red white and 'ecstatic': Maggie Connors of St. John's makes Canada's U18 team

Maggie Connors (right) is shown in action earlier this month in Calgary during an instra-squad game that was part of the selection process for the Canadian women’s under-18 hockey team. The 16-year-old from St. John’s made the team, which will compete in a three-game series against the United States starting Thursday in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Maggie Connors (right) is shown in action earlier this month in Calgary during an instra-squad game that was part of the selection process for the Canadian women’s under-18 hockey team. The 16-year-old from St. John’s made the team, which will compete in a three-game series against the United States starting Thursday in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Maggie Connors was a 10-year-old minor hockey player in 2010, when Mile One Centre in St. John’s staged the 4 Nations Cup international women’s hockey championship.

Connors entered and won a draw to spend a day with the Canadian women’s team, where she met the players in the locker room and practised with the squad on ice.

It was, at the time, her first experience with Team Canada.

It turns out it wasn’t her last.

The St. John’s native, who turns 17 in October, has earned a berth on the national women’s under-18 hockey team. Connors was one of 42 players to attend a selection camp in Calgary, which wrapped up over the weekend.

The U18 team will compete against the United States in a three-game series in Lake Placid, N.Y., starting Thursday.

“I was ecstatic to find out I made it,” Connors said Tuesday, after the team arrived in Montreal from Calgary before boarding a bus bound for upstate New York, where it will play in the same rink — the Herb Brooks Arena — that was site to the famous Miracle on Ice in 1980, long before Connors was born.

“I thought I had a good camp, but you’re never certain. Things are so tight. Everyone is extremely good. But the coaches talked a lot of about consistency, so that’s what I tried to bring to the ice every game and practice.”

In Calgary, Connors potted three goals and four games. Three of them were instra-squad contests. The other was against the Russian national U18 team, which took part in what was deemed the Summer Showcase.

Maggie Connors (left) joins teammates in showing off pucks commemorating their first international goals after a 7-0 win by a Canadian split squad against Russia’s U18 team in Calgary on Aug. 10. Connors scored twice in the contest, including the opening tally that stood up as the game-winner.

Connors scored her first international goal in the game against the Russians.

Connors is a student at Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school in Faribault, Minn., the same school that produced Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Nathan MacKinnon and a host of other future NHLers.

Coming up through the St. John’s minor association, Connors looked up to the stars of the Canadian women’s team as opposed to the NHL guys.

And her favourite player was Canadian team veteran Natalie Spooner.

“She was the one who brought me around the dressing room (at the 4 Nations Cup) and introduced me to the players,” she recalls. “It’s funny, the national team players (who are based in Calgary) were watching us in practice and in games. It was a surreal experience.”

She’s headed back to Minnesota after her Team Canada stint, where she’ll complete Grade 12 at Shattuck. A highly-recruited player, Connors has signed a letter of intent to attend the Ivy League’s Princeton University starting in 2018.

Connors was Shattuck’s second-leading scorer on the girls’ U16 team last season with 38 goals and 42 assists in 54 games.

She plays both centre and left wing in prep school, but will be used primarily on the wing with Team Canada.

Connors was part of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Program of Excellence teams, skating on provincial teams. She toiled with Team Atlantic in the national U18 women’s championship in 2016.

“This was my first national camp, and it was honestly unbelievable. You get a small taste of what it’s like at branch camps, which was also a great experience. They tell you to soak up the experience when you get to the national level.”

Team Canada, coached by former national team player Delaney Collins, will also play the States Friday and Sunday.

Following the Lake Placid series, Hockey Canada scouts, along with the team’s coaching staff and general manager Mel Davidson, will continue to evaluate players this upcoming season, including at the 2017 national U18 championship Nov. 1-5 in Quebec City, in preparation for selecting the Canadian team that will compete at the IIHF world women’s U18 championship in Russia.

 

rshort@thetelegram.com

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