Airdrie hockey players strike gold at Alberta Winter Games
By: Lucas Punkari
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 11:33 am
A trio of female hockey players from Airdrie came back from Alberta Winter Games with gold medals around their necks.
Defender Ashley Sutherland, left winger Alyssa Wilkie, and centre Kelly Braybrook were a part of the Zone 2 female hockey team that picked up first-place honours in Canmore on Feb. 9 as the team defeated Zone 5 (which consisted of players who live in communities outside of Edmonton) 4-0 in the gold-medal game.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, and it was pretty amazing to be able to win a gold medal,” Wilkie said. “Everyone on the team was just cheering so loud when we won the game, and all of us were so happy that we had won.”
“All of our hard work that we did as a team paid off in the end,” Sutherland added. “I think that is probably what made it so rewarding for us to win that gold medal.”
The Zone 2 team, which was made up of players who live outside of Calgary in communities such as Airdrie, Cochrane and Okotoks, was the team to beat during the event as it had a perfect 5-0 record on its way to winning a gold medal.
“We all bonded together pretty quickly and I think that helped us out a lot,” Sutherland said. “Many of us already played with one another for the Rocky Mountain Raiders bantam team, so that was an extra bonus for helping to become a tightly knit group.”
“We never quit working as a team throughout the entire tournament,” Wilkie added. “Our team had a number of different goals during the week, which included staying positive and leading by example, and I think we did that not only in the finals, but in all of our games.”
The championship game against the Zone 5 team on Feb. 9 was a rematch of a round-game that took place on Feb. 7, which the Zone 2 team won by a score of 5-3.
“We really played well against them in the first two periods when we played them the first time around,” Braybrook said. “However, we allowed them to make the score a bit closer in the third period, so we really wanted to play well during the entire game in the finals against that team.”
“Everyone felt really nervous before the finals, but once we got going, we were fully into the game,” she added. “It was really fast paced and a even game in the first period, but we were able to take advantage of their mistakes in the final two periods to get the gold.”
In addition to competing on the ice, the Zone 2 team also got to take in the Winter Games experience by staying in an Athlete’s Village.
“It was pretty interesting and it reminded me a little bit of what the athletes are experiencing at the Winter Olympics in (Sochi) Russia right now,” Sutherland said. “We stayed at one of the schools there, and our entire team slept in a classroom on mats and the sleeping bags that we brought.”
“It sort of sounds like it was crowded, but it was actually really cool to be in that environment,” she added.
“We got to meet the other girls from the other hockey teams and the athletes from the other sports, so it was cool to build those friendships that we might not of had the chance to do so otherwise.”
While the Zone 2 team was only together for the Alberta Winter Games, Wilkie felt the lessons that she learned during the event are things she can use during the rest of her hockey career and in whatever she ends up doing in the future.
“We were all able to work together as a team, even though we came from different areas and we all joined up in the middle of the season,” Wilkie said. “We were able to figure out what we had to do in order to be successful, and I think that is something that happens in anything you do as a person.”