Eight female players from Manitoba are in pursuit of excellence and they're finding it at David Roy's hockey academy in Kelowna, B.C.
They were on a female midget AAA team of just 13 players from Roy's Pursuit of Excellence school who won the Challenge Cup tournament recently in Washington, D.C.
The Pursuit of Excellence team defeated Little Caesar's from Detroit 6-4 in the championship game of the 26-team tournament. Balmoral Hall Blazers were B-side finalists, losing 9-0 to Colorado.
"Our coach said to us that this is what we'll all be remembered for, that we won this tournament. It's really good for our team and our school," said Alexis Woloschuk, 15, in her third year at the Pursuit of Excellence academy. She played on a boys' team before the girls' program began last year.
Roy, director of the Pursuit of Excellence and coach of the female midget AAA team, runs the Edge of Excellence hockey skills summer camps in Winnipeg and across Western Canada.
Woloschuk, a regular at the summer camps, said she came to Pursuit of Excellence for its unique hockey development atmosphere under Roy's direction. Roy is one of the most respected skating coaches in hockey and has worked with several NHL teams and Canada's national men's and women's teams.
"Being in this program has improved my hockey skills a ton, but I've improved as a person as well," said Woloschuk, who hopes to earn a college scholarship to play hockey at the NCAA level. "It's pretty cool there's so many Manitoba girls on the team now."
Meghan Dufault, who played for Balmoral Hall last year with Pursuit of Excellence teammate Christine Bestland, was a member of Manitoba's provincial under-18 team for the past two years before coming west.
"The main goals here are schooling and hockey, and a lot of us here have the goal of playing on the national team some day," said Dufault, 15. "Having a chance to go to a tournament like this one, it was our hardest competition this year, but it was such a good challenge for us. There were lots of people and lots of scouts and it was great recognition for our team to be champions."
Roy said word of mouth brought the Manitoba players to his female midget AAA team.
"A lot of these kids come to us through the Edge of Excellence camps, and the improvement that you see in them is unbelievable," said Roy, adding that his elite team was extremely fit to be able to play with just 11 skaters (six forwards and five defence) at the Challenge Cup. The team's overall record this season was 52-3, including a 7-1 loss to Sweden's Olympic team last month and three major tournament wins.
"It's what I like to call the 360-degree player," Roy said. "They're becoming better hockey players and better people."
"From my perspective, it's not just how much they improved their slapshot speeds and skating speeds and all of their game play. Education and community service are also huge parts of what we do."
Players attend a local high school and, as part of the Hockey Canada-sanctioned academy, have about 10 hours of ice time per week along with off-ice training and games.
Manitobans a majority
Manitobans are dominating the female midget AAA hockey team roster at the Pursuit of Excellence hockey academy in Kelowna. The 13-player team includes these eight girls from Manitoba:
Darion Bruyere, forward, Pine Falls
Alexis Woloschuk, defence, Winnipeg
Christine Bestland, forward, Brunkild
Meghan Dufault, forward, East Selkirk
Halli Krzyzaniak, defence, Neepawa
Brigette Lacquette, defence, Waterhen
Brooklyn Langlois, defence, Steinbach
Dee Ana Marion, goaltender, Winnipeg