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Team competing at SBHF women’s world championship in Slovakia is coached by Steve Power of St. John’s, includes three veteran players from this province
When Canada takes on Great Britain in opening-day action Friday at the 2019 ISBHF world women’s ball hockey championship in Košice, Slovakia, it will represent the first competitive game for this particular group of players, whose number includes three from Newfoundland and Labrador.
But the Canadian team — which is being coached by Steve Power of St. John’s — will arrive in Košice united with one purpose: To get back to the top of the world podium.
“We go in knowing that it won’t be easy,” said Power. “The (defending champion) Czechs are always tough, the same for the Americans, and you can be sure that because they’re the hosts, the Slovaks are going to have their top athletes there.
“Plus, the Czechs and Slovaks get a lot of government support.
“Having said all that, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t come with a gold medal. We shouldn’t settle for anything else.”
The Canadians had to settle for a bronze medal at the last worlds, in 2017 in the Czech Republic (the event is held every two years). That was after having played in the gold-medal finals of the previous five ISBHF women’s championships, winning four of them.
Eight Canadians players — including Newfoundlanders Kristen Cooze of Kippens, Dawn Tulk of Deer Lake and April Drake of Long Cove — will have some extra resolve, since they were on that 2017 team. Mind you, Cooze, Tulk and Drake also know the championship feeling, having earned gold medals at the 2015 worlds in Switzerland.
Cooke and Tulk, who will once again be assistant captains, are actually two-time gold-medal winners; they were part of Canada’s world champion team at the 2013 competition hosted by St. John’s.
Selection for Canada’s team for Slovakia was primarily based on performances at the most recent national women championship, so it’s not surprising the bulk of the roster in Košice comes from defending champion Calgary United and the Ottawa Capitals, runners-up at the nationals. Power is hoping that partial familiarity will help quickly bring cohesiveness to team that had no pre-tournament competition or training camp.
It’s a team gathered from right across the country and features players from widespread generations.
“One of my goaltenders (Ottawa’s Nathalie Girouard) is 42 and the other (Julianna Thomson of Winnipeg) is 18,” said Power.
Thomson, who competes for Manitoba male teams, is an up-and-coming netminder for all seasons, having attended Hockey Canada's U18 National Team Camp last year.
There will be just the five teams competing in the world women’s championship this year, and that’s led to a unique playoff set-up.
“It’s pretty neat what they’ve come up with, actually,” said Power. “After the round robin is over, the fourth- and fifth-place teams will play a two-game series to see which one will go to the bronze-medal game, while the teams finishing 1-2-3 in the round robin will play a three-game (mini tournament). The top two teams out of that one will advance to the gold-medal game, with the third team playing for bronze,
“It’s different and it makes sure the teams will get to play a lot. I think it will work.”
There’s a fifth Newfoundlander that’s part of the Canadian contingent: Ian Marshall of St. John’s is the team doctor.
Marshall will actually see double duty in Košice since he’s also the medical officer for Canada’s team at the world men’s championship, which will be held concurrently with the women’s event.
"I’ll be disappointed if we don’t come with a gold medal. We shouldn’t settle for anything else.” — Steve Power
As with the Canadian women’s entry, there will be plenty of Newfoundland representation on the men’s side, including brothers Connor and Cody Donaghey from St. John’s, Jordan Escott, also from St. John’s, Patrick O’Keefe of Mount Pearl and Kevin Reid of Norman’s Cove.
Zach O’Brien of St. John’s, who was named the Kelly Cup MVP after helping the Newfoundland Growlers to an ECHL championship last week, was supposed to have played at the ball hockey worlds, but withdrew two weeks ago. He’s been replaced by Jordan Maher of Gander. O’Brien’s Growlers teammate, Marcus Power of St. John’s, was also named to the original Canadian ball hockey roster.
And as is the case with the national women’s team, the Canadian men are being coached by a Newfoundlander, Ian Moores of Harbour Grace.
Canada, which begins its round-robin schedule Thursday, won a silver medal at the 2017 worlds, but it’s been 12 years since the team claimed gold at the ISBHF men’s tourney.