When will it sink in for Cassidy Carels that she’s made Canada’s under-18 national women’s hockey team?
Maybe around the time the Canadian plane touches down in Finland later this month.
The forward from Bruxelles was one of three Westman players to crack the Canadian squad and, although she played for the national team in a three-game exhibition series against the United States in Minnesota this summer, she said representing her country at the U-18 world championship Dec. 29 to Jan. 5 in Finland will take it to whole new level.
"It seems surreal, actually being named, and I think it will only feel real once we’re over there in Finland," said Carels, who will be joined on the team by forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk of Brandon and defenceman Halli Krzyzaniak of Neepawa, who are both returning veterans. "It’s such an honour and I’m so glad I can be a part of it."
Carels, Brykaliuk and Krzyzaniak, all 17, are the only three Manitobans on the squad and all three accepted full-ride NCAA scholarships two weeks ago. The trio helped Manitoba win silver at the Canadian U-18 women’s championship in Dawson Creek, B.C., last month, with Krzyzaniak being named the tournament’s most valuable player and top defenceman. The national team also includes Eden Murray, a 17-year-old forward from Medicine Hat, Alta., whose parents are both from Brandon.
Last season, Brykaliuk and Krzyzaniak earned gold medals in the Czech Republic as Canada claimed its second world title in the five-year history of the U-18 event.
Canada opens its title defence against Hungary on Saturday, Dec. 29 and will also face Finland and Germany in preliminary play.
Carels, who has some championship experience of her own, having led the Pembina Valley Hawks to an Esso Cup Canadian midget title last season, knows there are high expectations for every team that dons the Maple Leaf for international play, but she’s more than happy to take that burden on her shoulders.
"There’s a bit of pressure, but there’s also motivation because you know your country’s backing you up," she said.