Jocelyne Larocque and Bailey Bram are one step closer to realizing their Olympic dream.
The Ste. Anne, Man., natives will compete with Canada's national women's team at the 2012 4 Nations Cup, to be held Nov. 6-10 in Kerava and Tikkurila, Finland. The other participating nations include Finland, Sweden and the United States.
"Any time I get to wear the (Canadian) jersey, it's such an honour and playing in this tournament is a big opportunity," said Larocque, 24, in a telephone interview from Calgary, where she is playing for Alberta in the Canadian Women's Hockey League. "Moving toward 2014 (Olympics) and the worlds coming up, playing at a high level and getting a chance to compete against the Americans is a really big opportunity for development."
Bram, a forward, and Larocque, a blue-liner, were chosen as part of the 23-player national team from the 40 players who attended the September Camp/Fall Festival at Calgary. Players selected for the 4 Nations Cup aren't guaranteed to be part of Team Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship from April 2-9 in Ottawa or the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But it's a chance at the international level to impress head coach Dan Church and head scout Melody Davidson.
It is Larocque's fourth time playing at the 4 Nations Cup and the first for Bram. Both were members of the Team Canada squad that won the 2012 WWHC.
"It's such an honour to put on the (Team Canada) jersey and it is definitely a confidence booster. You want to be able to show the coaching staff that you're improving and working hard," said Bram, 22, who last spring completed her college career with the NCAA's Mercyhurst Lakers. She now plays for Brampton in the CWHL. "I've just got to work hard at being a role player, penalty killing, going hard on the forecheck. I know I'm not going to be the big scorer but I'm going to do whatever I can for our team."
Larocque moved to Calgary two months ago after Team Canada told her she needed to play a higher level than she had last winter. Larocque stayed in Winnipeg last winter to play locally with the Manitoba Maple Leafs, but the team could not gain membership in the CWHL and Larocque only got sporadic game action.
"Our team in Calgary is going to be a great place for me to keep growing," said Larocque, who worked on her shot all summer with Dave Cameron at The Rink complex in Winnipeg. "Team Canada wants me as a super-strong defensive defenceman, so that's a priority for me. My shot has improved and I've been working with our coaches on controlling the puck and making better decisions with the puck."
Expectations for Team Canada at the 4 Nations Cup are high. In the 16-year history of the tournament, Canada has won the tournament's gold medal 12 times and taken silver four times.
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