It was a victorious experience for the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s Rebecca Russell, Alexa Ranahan, Emily Clark and Hannah Miller won’t forget.
The U.S. scored with a minute remaining in the first period of the world women’s under-18 gold medal final against Canada and that lead held up late into the third period in Heinola, Finland.
Russell, the assistant coach for Canada, had a hand in helping the team post a come-from-behind victory. With 22 seconds left in the third period, Canada took a timeout and Russell drew up a plan for the equalizer. While it didn’t work out perfectly, it led to Catherine Dubois tying the game with 13 seconds left.
“You get to learn the process, and learn from other coaches that have been there before you, people like Mel Davidson, having her around to coach me through that experience, is definitely going to help me,” said Russell, who coaches the Okanagan Hockey Academy female bantam team.
Russell had never experienced that before with the pressure and said it will help her become a better coach.
Fifty-eight seconds into overtime and Karly Heffernan’s goal sent the Canadians into a frenzy.
“I still have bruises from trying to get over the bench,” said Miller, the North Vancouver product, who finished with a goal and three points. “The dog pile was insane.”
The highlight for her was singing the Canadian anthem with her teammates along the blue line. It was an amazing experience for the 16-year-old who traveled overseas for the first time. Compared to playing with the OHA, she found the pace to be quicker.
“Learning how to move your feet and think at the same pace is a big difference,” said Miller, who wasn’t a big fan of the food as she’s not a fish lover. “Being surrounded by the players helped. Watching players helps.”
She cherishes sharing the experience with Ranahan, Miller and Russell because she is close to them.
For Ranahan, 17, it was the most incredible experience with her family. As the team celebrated, she said there were lots of tears and laughter.
“It was kind of a shock because it happened so fast,” she said. “The first thing I thought of was my family in the stands and back home, how happy they were.”
When it came to her play Ranahan felt good.
“It was definitely a big step from your club team,” she said. “It’s always easier to play better when you are at a level with people who you can really rely on and trust.”
The largest difference she noticed was the speed.
“Being a defenceman, you have to transition quickly because U.S. forwards are ridiculously fast,” she said.
Ranahan noticed the difference in herself as she is more confident and feels that she has an edge.
Wearing the Canadian jersey, the Salmon Arm minor hockey product felt a sense of pride.
“You feel like you are a part of something so much bigger than yourself,” said Ranahan. “That was the best feeling I think.”
For Clark, winning gold a second time was amazing.
“Each time you see the logo and put the jersey on, it’s something special,” said Clark. “Proud and pride and just a whole bunch of emotions going through at once.
“Everything was calm and everyone was positive,” said Clark of how they felt throughout the game. “Being able to share with my family and my friends, it’s just awesome.”
She learned a lot from the experience and said the process of how then won will make her better.
“I think I have definitely grown a lot,” she said. “I didn’t want to change my game, but just leading by example and make sure my teammates were comfortable.”
Russell was pleased with how the trio performed. She described Clark as being a leader having been there before.
“I was able to see great character come out of her,” said Russell. “Alexa Ranahan was one of our defenceman. She is one of our top defenceman here. She played a different role. She played very well. Tough, strong. That grittiness was a big part of our core.”
Miller was the youngest and Russell said they knew she would have a lot to learn.
“She was a offensive force, a powerplay specialist for us,” said Russell. “She learned a ton along the way.”
“To me it was an experience that I will never forget in my whole hockey career,” said Russell. “To win in that fashion against the Americans. Although heart-breaking for them, it was definitely a moment. To experience it with three of my own players from here made it even more special.”