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Langdon siblings win national championship with MRU Cougars hockey team

Two sisters and competitive hockey players from Langdon are basking in a career highlight, after winning a historic national U Sports championship as members of the Mount Royal University Cougars.
Hockey players and siblings Abbey and Kaia Borbandy of Langdon were members of the national championship-winning Mount Royal University Cougars this season.

Two sisters and competitive hockey players from Langdon are basking in a career highlight, after winning a historic national U Sports championship as members of the Mount Royal University Cougars. 

The Calgary-based university squad bested the Concordia Stingers 4-3 in overtime on March 19 to claim gold at the 2023 U Sports women's hockey championships in Montreal.

In a thrilling final, MRU equalized with just a few seconds left on the clock in the third period, before Emma Bergesen scored the winning goal for the Cougars in the additional stanza. It was a magical way to cap off what was overall a Cinderella-inspired season for the Cougars, who were considered one of the national tournament's biggest underdogs.

Cougars players Abbey and Kaia Borbandy, two sisters from Langdon, were still in celebration mode a few days after returning home to Rocky View County from the trip to Quebec, in an interview with the Rocky View Weekly.

Abbey is a third-year defenseman for the Cougars, while Kaia is a second-year forward. They each said it was a surreal experience to play a part in MRU's women's hockey team's first ever national championship. 

“It was really exciting and emotional,” Kaia said. “It obviously meant a lot to the program, not only because we worked so hard for it, but it just felt like all the hard work paid off. Considering it got cut short last year, [and 2020 was] the heart-breaking season, it was just filled with so much emotion and excitement to see what our program has become and where it’s going to continue going to.”

Making matters even more emotional for Mount Royal's women's hockey team was that their last legitimate shot at a national title – in 2020 – was taken away at the last second due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cougars were competing at nationals that March and had made it to the semi-finals before the tournament was cancelled. 

Three years later, the MRU Cougars women's hockey team was finally back at the national championship tournament, and ranked eighth nationally among U Sports teams, after finishing second at the preceding Canada West conference finals. Despite being the tournament's lowest ranked team, Mount Royal defied the odds, beating sides ranked above them as they marched to their first national title.

“I felt our team just had faith the whole time,” Abbey said. “There was no doubt from anyone. Others may have doubted our team, but no matter what, we stood together and made sure we all believed in one another.”

While it's extremely rare to win a national championship – in any sport – the two Langdon sisters agreed it's even more special to win one alongside your sibling. 

Yet, playing alongside each other is not unusual for the Borbandy siblings. Thanks to being just a year apart, they have been on the same teams for much of their hockey careers.

The pair started their careers with Indus Minor Hockey, before progressing to the Rocky Mountain Raiders AAA teams in Okotoks. They both committed their post-secondary careers to MRU in their final year of high school.

“Abbey and I have played together and we've kind of gone through the whole minor hockey path together,” Kaia said. “I think we’ve always been a part of teams that were either in rebuild years or we were going through [adversity] a little bit. I feel this year…to play alongside each other [on a winning team] was really special.

“Obviously at the university level, it’s hard because you don’t get to play every game, so it was special to see we were both there together, sharing that moment and getting to experience winning a historic championship.”

Abbey said making the recent accomplishment even more special has been the support shown to the sisters by the Langdon and Indus hockey community. Since news broke about MRU's championship, she said former teammates and coaches have flooded her phone with congratulatory messages, highlighting the tight-knit nature of the small rural hamlet in southeast Rocky View County.

“I just think it’s crazy to see how many people reached out to us,” she said. “It's small, but I think it’s special.”

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