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Olympic dream within reach for local forward

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Jenelle Kohanchuk has landed an interesting job now that she’s finished university: making the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team.

Kohanchuk, a 22-year-old forward from St. James, was one of four Manitobans recently named to the 27-player roster of players who will centralize in preparation for the Sochi Olympics.

"I was really humbled by the fact they see potential in me," said Kohanchuk, who finished her career at Boston University with a trip to the NCAA championship game in March. "I’m very happy I can continue my career with (Team Canada), and hopefully I could be going to the Olympics."

Kohanchuk got the news two weeks before the Women’s World Hockey Championship, a tournament she was hoping to participate in. While she didn’t make the final cut for that event, Canada’s second-place showing could open the door for a roster shake-up prior to the Olympics.

"Everyone from the world championship team is on the centralization roster," she said. "Then there’s five of us who are joining them. I think (the final decision) is going to be based on the coming months."

The road to Sochi begins with a boot camp in B.C. later this month, with the entire roster coming together in Calgary in August. From there, it will be all hockey, all the time for Kohanchuk.

"A few players who’ve been through it before have said it’s similar to how the NHL is treated," she said. "Those guys just play hockey and train because it’s how they make their living. I won’t have to worry about school or other distractions that aren’t hockey related. I’ll be focused on the game only."

While the highest level of NCAA hockey is nothing to sneeze at, Kohanchuk expects the elevated level of play she’ll encounter daily will help her game reach new heights.

"Even going to a camp for a week with the national team, I can see myself improving," she said.

Kohanchuk is one of five players from the BU hockey program on the roster. In fact, the five Terriers formed the university’s top power-play unit two years ago.

"It is really cool that all five of us are centralized," she said. "We all have great relationships with one another. I don’t think any of us thought it would happen like this."

On top of intense workouts and daily practices, the team’s schedule will include plenty of exhibition games against midget AAA male teams as well as the Four Nations Cup against the U.S., Sweden and Finland in November.

For Kohanchuk, the next seven months —the final Olympic roster is expected to be announced in December — will be a balancing act of thinking about the end goal without losing sight of the daily grunt work.

"I’m definitely trying to go step by step," she said. "But as I’m taking those steps along the path to get to the final destination, the one thing in my mind is wearing the Canadian jersey in the Olympics."

The other Manitobans on the roster are Brigette Lacquette of Mallard, Man., and Bailey Bram and Jocelyne Larocque of Ste. Anne.

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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