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Westman trio capture hockey gold

Cassidy Carels of Bruxelle

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Cassidy Carels of Bruxelle (FILE PHOTO)

Ashleigh Brykaliuk of Brandon

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Ashleigh Brykaliuk of Brandon

Halli Krzyzaniak of Neepawa

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Halli Krzyzaniak of Neepawa

By Ed Tait

These are the moments any hockey player dreams of — an overtime win for a gold medal — and so Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Cassidy Carels and Halli Krzyzaniak decided they needed to preserve it forever on film.

Not long after Canada’s team won gold at the World Under-18 Women’s Hockey Championship in a 2-1 overtime thriller over the United States Saturday, the three Manitoba girls posed together on the ice at Heinola Arena in Finland for a photograph with giant smiles on their faces and gold medals around their necks.

"It’s so cool right now. I don’t even know what to say. Our whole team is going crazy," said Brykaliuk in a telephone interview with the Free Press. "We didn’t give up. We never doubted ourselves and in the end it showed."

Brykaliuk, who hails from Brandon, had played summer hockey before with Carels, who calls Bruxelles home. And Krzyzaniak, from Neepawa, has played the two before as a rival. The three have all been together in the past at Team Manitoba training camps.

"It’s such a good feeling to be alongside some of my close buddies, that makes this so great," said Carels. "I can’t believe it. It’s so surreal to be a part of it. This is a dream come true. "The ending... that was just amazing."

That might be an understatement. The Canadians, facing an American squad which had romped through the round robin with a perfect 3-0 record and had outscored their opponents 25-0, fell behind 1-0 in the first period after a power-play goal by Jennifer Ryan. To hammer home the early US dominance, the Americans out-shot Canada 20-1 in the opening period.

But Canada didn’t fold.

Unbeaten themselves in their pool during the round-robin and coming off a 7-2 win over Sweden in the semifinal — a game in which Brykaliuk scored a hat trick — they rallied and, with their net empty, evened the score with just 13 seconds left on a goal by Catherine Dubois. Then, after a quick intermission following the third period, Canada got the winner on a goal by Karly Heffernan just 58 seconds into overtime.

"I couldn’t believe it when we scored to tie it," said Carels. "Everybody was so hyped up. We knew we had the momentum. But when we came into the dressing room our coaches refocused us because we couldn’t just out there thinking we had it.

"This is the best feeling in the world."

It is the second consecutive gold for the girls’ squad – and for Brykaliuk and Krzyzaniak, both 17 – after they defeated the American’s 3-0 last year. Carel, also 17, was participating in her first worlds.

Earlier in the day, Sweden blanked the Czech Republic 4-0 to win the bronze medal.

"I can’t find the words to describe this," said Krzyzaniak, the sounds of a jubilant Canadian dressing room dominating in the background.

"To tie with less than a minute left and then win it in over time... this is one of the best moments of my life.

"It’s great to do this with friends. And to be on the ice taking a picture with (her Manitoban teammates) is an awesome thing to share with them."

The three girls will begin the long trip home from Finland on Sunday.

» Winnipeg Free Press

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