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Four score spots on ball hockey teams playing at worlds

Manitobans gunning for gold with Canada

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THEY aren't wearing skates, but four Manitobans are representing Team Canada at a world hockey event.

The World Ball Hockey Championship is underway in St. John's, Nfld., and Team Canada is squaring off against countries such as Switzerland, Czech Republic and even Greece.

According to Manitoba Ball Hockey Association technical director Jeff Dzikowicz, the province's representation at the world championships has been on the rise over the past couple of years.

"It's just been consistency of our programs. We've been getting stronger and stronger in terms of our representation at nationals every year. We've been playing with consistently strong teams," Dzikowicz said.

'We've been getting stronger and stronger in terms of our representation at nationals every year'

-- Manitoba Ball Hockey Association's Jeff Dzikowicz

This year, three female players and one male player from Manitoba have been selected to represent the country.

Shelley Cockerill, Chantal Larocque and Delayne Brian will play for the women's team and Calin Wild will represent the men's side.

The men are 3-0 after beating Slovakia 3-0 Tuesday. The women are 1-0 after shellacking Great Britain 17-0, and are scheduled to meet the Czech Republic today.

Cockerill was part of the gold medal team in 2009 when the championships were held in Czech Republic. Cockerill has also been the captain of the provincial team for the past five years and has proven to be one of the best players in Manitoba.

"I think it's because of her dedication to the game. People tend to follow her and surround her," Dzikowicz said. "She's been kind of the leader of the women's team program since 2009 when it started up in Winnipeg. So she's been the best player and a great character player. I think that's the basis of why she's the heart and soul of the program."

Laroque and Brian are representing Canada at the world level for the first time. Laroque turned some heads at the 2012 national championships with her fast and aggressive play and skill set. Brian, also making her world championship debut, has been Manitoba's top ball hockey goaltender since 2009.

Dzikowicz believes Wild shouldn't have been the only male Manitoban on the Canadian team.

"We believe that anywhere up to five players could have been selected," he said.

Wild also played for Canada in the 2011 world championships in Slovakia. He started among the bottom defensive pairings and worked his way to the top in the tournament.

Wild is a former captain of the University of Manitoba Bisons ice hockey team and plays professional hockey in Texas in the Central Hockey League.

While some players such as Wild have professional ice hockey experience, it's not a necessary requirement to become a good ball hockey player.

"Many of them play ball because it's still hockey. Some of the top players that we've had on our provincial team programs aren't necessarily ice hockey players," Dzikowicz said. "They might play ice hockey but they're not playing junior or pro calibre. They just happen to be really good ball hockey players."

There are also five Manitobans participating for the German men's team, thanks to heritage status.

kyle.jahns@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 5, 2013 D4

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