Okotokian catching fire with Inferno
Hockey: HTA student Kennedy Brown playing in CWHL before university
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017 06:00 am
An Okotokian is getting a professional head start on a university education.
Holy Trinity Academy Grade 12 student Kennedy Brown will bring priceless professional experience with the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with her as she makes the jump to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies next fall.
“The jump from Midget to CIS is a big jump for girls and it can take some time to adjust,” she said. “This year in between I’m playing with people who’ve been at that CIS league for years already. I’m kind of adjusting before I go there.
“It’s a competitive league and I’m excited to get a chance to play in this environment.”
The 18-year-old stands as one of the best success stories amongst Okotoks female hockey which has built a reputation as one of the elite programs with the third-largest registration in the province.
Brown helped the Rocky Mountain Raiders to their first provincial, regional and Mac’s Midget championships along with a bronze medal at the Esso Cup during a sterling three-year run.
“It’s exciting, with the fact I grew up in the Okotoks Minor Hockey Association,” said Brown, a forward with the Inferno. “I played girls hockey when it was just starting in Okotoks and to be setting this example for girls who are playing on those same teams is really exciting.”
As a 1999 born player Brown was ineligible to return to play one more year with the Raiders where she captained the squad during the 2016-17 campaign.
“I knew I wanted a good competitive place to play hockey in Grade 12,” Brown said. “The opportunity arose that I would be able to join this league potentially and I registered for the draft in May.”
Brown was selected 61st overall in the CWHL draft and spent the summer preparing for the giant leap from Midget AAA to the professional level.
She made the Inferno, finalists in the Clarkson Cup last season, out of training camp as one of two 1999 born skaters on the roster.
“Being a smaller person in stature I worked on getting stronger throughout the summer,” she said. “I knew I was fast, but I wanted to be able to battle hard against people who are way older and a lot more experienced than me.
“It’s been really fun learning and adjusting to playing with people who are better than me.”
Brown said she’s having no issues balancing Grade 12 studies with the time commitment of two practices and up to two games per week including considerable travel around North America and to China.
The school-sport time management model is old hat for the dedicated student athlete.
“It’s almost the same as last year,” she said. “Except that we have workouts before every practice so a bit more commitment there and then workouts on our days off.
“I’m used to it at this point. I’ve had so many years where I’ve played basketball and hockey and balancing all of those things. It’s something I have to get used to either way for next year, even that school aspect is preparing me for CIS next year as well.”
A coach’s favourite throughout her minor hockey league career as an honest and tireless worker on the ice, Brown has quickly caught the attention of her newest bench boss.
“Kennedy really exceeded our expectations,” said Inferno head coach Tomas Pacina. “She plays with a lot of heart, she plays hard and tough, she wins a lot of battles and she’s smart with the puck and protects it well.
“She’s not only safe, but she’s in good enough shape to do the fore-check, do the back-check and then make a good decision. She’s actually in way better shape than some of our other players.”
Brown is one of 15 new faces on a rebuilt Inferno roster. The centralization of the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team in the build-up to the 2018 Games in South Korea forced every team in the CWHL to shuffle the deck.
“This gives her the opportunity to play at the highest level before she goes to university,” Pacina said. “We’re happy we took her. In the tryouts she didn’t look as good, didn’t look as confident, but with every game she gets better and better and her ice-time is going up.
“She’s engaged, she listens well, a very coachable kid, great character and she really fits into our team.”
The re-tooling has paid early dividends as Calgary boasts a 3-0-1 record through four games. The Inferno swept Boston on the road to open the season and took three of four points from China’s Kunlun Red Star on their opening home stand, Oct. 28-29.
The Inferno are home to the visiting Markham Thunder on Nov. 4-5 at WinSport. For more information on the team go to calgaryinferno.thecwhl.com