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National team slot squarely in her sights

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After a perfect run with Canada’s under-22 women’s hockey team, Jenelle Kohanchuk says she’s ready to take the next step.

The 22-year-old forward from St. James was invited to this week’s winter camp in Ottawa for the national women’s team – the squad that will represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"It’s been my goal my entire life to play for the national team," said Kohanchuk, who’s in her final season with the Boston University Terriers, currently ranked fifth in the NCAA. "If the chance and possibility comes up to play for the national team, I don’t think words would be able to describe the feeling."

Kohanchuk recently returned from Germany, where she won her third gold medal in three trips to the Meco Cup tournament with the national under-22 squad. That team is the final developmental step for players before they earn a spot on the nation’s top female outfit.

As a 22-year-old, Kohanchuk said she took on a more active leadership role at this year’s tournament.

"It was a great feeling to be a veteran on the team," she said. "I felt more at home and more comfortable taking younger players under my wings and guiding them on and off the ice."

She’s hoping the high level of play she experienced in Germany will have her game at its absolute peak as she tries to muscle her way onto the national women’s roster.

"I need to do my best," she said, "because it’s leading to an Olympic year."

Kohanchuk graduated from Balmoral Hall after attending out-of-province prep schools in Grades 10 and 11. Because a concussion limited her to just seven games last season, she was granted a fifth year of eligibility. She scored 25 points in her first 20 games this season, good for fourth on the Terriers’ roster.

While the camp is vital, Kohanchuk will still be able to impress team officials as she plays for the Terriers leading up to the roster announcement in early March. The selected players will compete in the world championships in April, and will centralize in Calgary in the summer to begin preparations for the Olympics.

Kohanchuk says she doesn’t scan the current national team roster for players she could potentially leapfrog, but rather for what it takes to play at the highest level.

"I don’t try to compare myself with them," she said. "I try to see the skills they have and I try to pick up on that to learn from them."

While representing Canada in a world championships and Olympics is the ultimate goal, helping her college team win a Frozen Four isn’t too far down Kohanchuk’s list. The Terriers reached the national final two years ago before losing to Wisconsin.

"It would be awesome," she said of a potential title. "When you’re playing in those games you don’t even think about the (national team) evaluations and who’s there watching. You just think about playing the best you can to help the team win a national championship."

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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