Four St. Albert Ringette Association players helped their team win bronze at a U16 tournament in Helsinki, Finland, last month.
The tournament, called Lions Cup, took place July 29 to 31.
Lions Cup is part of a series of tournaments for three separate age divisions hosted in either Finland or Czechia every summer. Only teams from Europe and Canada take part.
Alyssa Carew, Andreina Carrero, Kylie Stolk, and Kamryn Waples were the bronze medal winners as part of the Greater Edmonton Vitesse team. The team's coach, Chris Waples, will also be coaching the U16 AA St. Albert Mission this season.
Winning the gold was the Alberta Elite team, based out of Calgary, and winning silver was Canada Peak, which was also based out of Calgary. The tournament consisted of eight teams in total; three from Alberta, four from Finland, and a lone Swedish team.
Vitesse's 14-year-old goalie, Carew, said her tournament experience was nothing less than "crazy."
"This was all new, the entire experience for me," Carew said, adding that since she was an under-aged player, her first ever game in the U16 division took place overseas against a European team.
Stolk, who plays centre, said in an email that the tournament was a "great experience and such a crazy trip."
"Our itinerary was very busy, with our bus tours, our cruise ... and the exhibition games and tournament," Stolk said.
Before Lions Cup play began, the team played an exhibition game in Sweden, then hopped on a roughly 18-hour cruise to Helsinki.
On their way to a bronze medal, Vitesse defeated two of the Finnish teams, lost once to each of the other Canadian teams, and beat the Swedish team.
“We had a game against a Sweden and that was really cool because during the game they were speaking to each other in a different language, which none of us were used to," Carew said.
One of the major differences that Carew said she noticed with the European teams was that they were rather quiet.
"They didn’t cheer on the benches, the parents were relatively to themselves ... they only cheered when they scored,” she said.
“Of course, there’s always the pushing and shoving, which in any culture or language is pretty self-explanatory," Carew said. “We were barking at them a little bit because, you know, we’re Canadians, but there was not much reaction coming from them.”
Stolk, 14, corroborated Carew's experience, saying that, "it was strange to hear them speak Finnish and Swedish on the ice, but after the games we spoke to the European teams, and they were very nice to meet and chat with.”
In terms of playing style, Carew said the Swedish team took some getting used to for the Vitesse team.
“Sweden was especially different because they had a style of playing all together," she said. "They usually had their players stay in one spot and then pass it really quickly without much movement — that was difficult for us because we’re so used to always moving to pressure someone.”
"We play [with] the centre and the forwards working together and the defence work with themselves to get [the ring] all the way to the other end of the ice," said Carew.
The goalie life
When asked why she chose to play goalie, Carew laughed and said it was because she has always loved the attention.
“When I was little, I loved having attention," she said. "When you make those really big saves or you cheer on your team really well, you get a lot of attention.
"As I grew up, not to brag or anything, I got very good and my game and my skill developed really well as I grew."
Although she has played goalie for several years now, Carew joked that she could easily take on a new position.
“I don’t know what you mean, I could be a centre right now," she said with a laugh.
Outside of playing for a team during the season and her sports academy requirements as a student at Broxton Park School in Spruce Grove, Carew said she also helps coach two teams.
The best part of coaching, Carew said, is coaching kids who just love goaltending.
"I’ve coached goalies who are eight years old, hockey goalies, and they just love, love, love being a goalie," Carew said. "When you’re teaching them, they’re actually listening, they’re engaged, [and] they’re focused.”
Carew and Stolk will both be looking to make the St. Albert U16 AA Mission team this upcoming season, and tryouts, which began on Aug. 25, will conclude on Sept. 1.