The Under-19 World Ringette Championship was a magical experience for several members of a local team.
Three players and coach from the Magic under-19 AA squad were in London, Ont., earlier this month to compete in the triennial event.
Forward Shannon Sarahs and defenceman Sam Renooy were part of the bronze medal-winning Team Canada West along with assistant coach Rob Walker. Meanwhile, forward Kinley Graves — despite having no American heritage — captained the U.S. team.
Because ringette national programs are rare in most countries, only the two Canadian teams and the Finns were composed of players from those countries. The American team was made up of Western Canadians, Team France came from Quebec and the Russian squad was from Ontario.
Sarahs, whose older sister Erin was also on Team West, has been to two national championships, but said they didn’t compare with the level of play in London.
"The was a lot higher level of competition," said the 17-year-old Westwood resident. "It was the best of the best. Playing against Finland (the defending champions) was an amazing experience. We talked about them since our camp in May."
Team West went 3-0-2 in the round robin, but lost to the Finns in the semifinal and had to settle for bronze after beating Russia 7-1 in the third-place game. Team Canada East beat Finland in the gold-medal game.
More disappointing than the semifinal loss was the ending to the round-robin game against Canada East. Team West gave up the tying goal with five seconds remaining, and were therefore forced to play the powerhouse Finns in the semis.
"It was really hard after that loss to come together as a team (for the bronze-medal game)," Sarahs said. "We weren’t as happy as we should have been with a bronze medal."
Renooy, who lives in Oakbank (the Magic club draws players from St. James, northwest and northeast Winnipeg, Macdonald and the Interlake), said she’ll remember wearing the Maple Leaf for a long time.
"I felt very proud to represent part of the country," said the 17-year-old. "The experience taught me a lot, and I grew as a player. The game is so much faster and the players are so talented."
Graves, at 16 years old, wasn’t even given a chance to try out for Team West because of her age, so she was thrilled to get the call for the American team.
"I have no connection to the U.S. other than a stamp in my passport," joked the Stonewall resident. "Just to get to be there, to represent anyone, it’s an honour to play in a world championship."
Walker said Graves’s play caught the eye of some of the Canadian coaches. Since she’ll still be eligible for the next event in three years, there’s a great chance that she’ll play for Team West, he said.