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Heading to the big leagues
These girls are destined for the big leagues, and in girls hockey, the big leagues is college and university.
After hours of training and ice time, nine tournaments across the continent, all nine graduating players of the Shaftesbury Titans Prep Hockey team were offered full scholarships to universities in the United States and Canada, and eight of them accepted.
"By going to specific tournaments across the United States that allowed us to do that," said Eugene Kaminsky, head coach of the Titans. "(Through) that exposure, they were able to do that and this is how, of the nine girls graduating this year, eight are definitely going to a college hockey program."
This success is particularly impressive, as this is the first year Shaftesbury has had a prep team, set up much like a private school’s prep team, without the high tuition costs. To play on the team costs approximately $12,000 per player, which includes ice time, tournaments, air fare, and food while away, said Kaminsky.
To be on the team the girls must be completely committed.
"We played roughly 60 games," said Kaminsky. "Plus practices and weekend tournaments."
Travelling to tournaments, practising every day, plus school work was both exhausting and fun.
"It’s a bit of both," said centre-forward Ricki Meilleur, captain of the team this year heading to Robert Morris University outside of Pittsburgh next season. "On the way home you’re exhausted, after playing four or five games on the weekend, but it was fun."
Being this committed to hockey was nothing new for the girls, who have been playing competitive hockey since they were young.
The girls all say that while they don’t get to see their friends and boyfriends very often outside of school, they all understand.
"Most of us have been this busy and committed to hockey since we were younger so it wasn’t a huge change," said defenseman Michela Esposito, heading to University of Regina. "Plus boyfriends are just as busy."
School work was always a priority throughout the year.
"On the road we were able to help out, (with me) being a teacher here, and we had another staff member that would travel with us, and we had a trainer that was very well versed in chemistry," said Kaminsky. "So there were no excuses for them."
The girls agreed doing school work was actually easier on the road because there was always someone to help them whether it was a teacher or a teammate.
"It was almost better," said defenseman Larissa Martyniuk, heading to Syracuse University in New York State.
"It was more one-on-one other rather than in classrooms," said goalie Rachel Dyck, who will stay local and play for the University of Manitoba.
Families had just as much a part of the commitment as the girls did, said Kaminsky.
"For a lot of these girls it’s not just a commitment on their part it, was a family commitment," said Kaminsky. "Not all parents could make certain tournaments as much as they would like to, and I know families had to make sacrifices for these girls to compete at this level."
"(They are) basically our number one fans," said Meilleur sentimentally, which was met with laughter her teammates and coach.
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