Thanks to family lineage, St. Albert's Nyah Bodnarchuk and Sturgeon County's Cadence Pirtle will be donning red, white, and blue as members of Team U.S.A. at the World Ringette Championships at the end of October.
This year's championships, organized by the International Ringette Federation, will be held in Espoo, Finland, and are set to feature three separate competitions between teams from five countries.
Team U.S.A. will play in the President's Pool against senior national teams from Sweden and Czechia, while Finland and Canada will play only each other in the Sam Jacks Pool. The third competition is the Junior Pool, in which the U21 national teams from Canada and Finland will compete against each other.
"To represent a country as an 18-year-old is really a surreal experience," Bodnarchuk said. "Reading the email that I got accepted to the team — that I was on the roster — [my] heart just dropped and [I] was full of joy."
“I’m very excited about making the team," said Pirtle, also 18. "It’s a super good experience that not a lot of people get to experience, so I’m super lucky that I get to go to Finland and experience the World Championships.”
As the U.S. national ringette program is still developing, 12 of the 19 players on the 2022 national team are currently living and playing in Canada. The team's head coach, Kari Sadoway, is a resident of Sherwood Park.
"There’s not as much ringette in the U.S., so it’s a bit more open," said Bodnarchuk. "The farthest you can have is a grandparent that is [or was] a citizen.
"We’re really trying to build up the program in the younger ages. Especially with there being female hockey, it can be a bit hard because why would a kid switch from hockey to ringette if there’s not a program there," she said.
"They’re trying to build up this program so it gives those kids that opportunity.”
For Bodnarchuk, who was a member of last year's national tournament, winning U19 AA St. Albert Mission squad, playing for Team U.S.A will be the first time she plays for a team that's not representing St. Albert.
“I don’t even know what to expect going to Finland [but] I am expecting it to be a lot like nationals, always on the go and you’re watching the other teams and you’re always with your teammates," she said.
The World Championships will also be new experience for Pirtle, who usually plays defence, as she is being moved up to forward on Team U.S.A.
"I think they’re just trying me out as a forward and if it doesn’t go well then they’ll put me back on defence," Pirtle said.
“It’s something I’ll have to learn as we go. I’m super excited about it, but coming closer to the day I’ll get nervous.”
Bodnarchuk is entering her last year of eligibility for U19 play with the AA Mission. A 2022 Bellerose Composite High School graduate, Bodnarchuk now attends the University of Alberta where she studies psychology and sociology.
Pirtle recently moved to Calgary to attend the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), where she is studying business. For her last year of U19 ringette eligibility, Pirtle is playing for Zone 2 in Calgary, who also play in the Black Gold League against St. Albert, and the Spruce Grove AA team, which she previously played for.
The World Ringette Championships begin on Oct. 31, and end on Nov. 6.
Another St. Albert ringette player will be taking part in the tournament. Vail Ketsa was named to the U21 Canadian Junior team in June.