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Suiting up for Canada gives Bram a rush

One of 2 Tobans named to women's puck team

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Every time Bailey Bram gets to lace up her skates and pull on the red and white jersey, she still gets that rush, the feeling never gets old.

Now, the 22-year-old forward will get to feel it again.

On Monday, Hockey Canada announced Bram and fellow Ste. Anne-ite, blue-liner Jocelyne Larocque, will become the two puck-slinging Manitobans on the 23-woman roster for the IIHF Women's World Championship, which kicks off April 2 in Ottawa. Both were part of the 2012 team that won gold at worlds in Vermont.

The last time Bram felt the thrill of the national jersey was in November, when she and the other women of Team Canada took home a silver medal at the Four Nations Cup in Tikkurila, Finland. That tournament ended in a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to the United States, still the only team that can really give the Canadian women a run for their money.

This time, Canada will look to avenge that loss -- and for Bram, that means looking to some of the team's veterans for guidance. Although Bram already has one world championship behind her, she's still a fresh face on a team packed with veteran women's hockey stars such as Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford. Watching those players taught Bram a lot, she said.

"I know last year I went in, and everything was so surreal to me," Bram, who plays for Brampton in the CWHL, said of her first worlds. She contributed one assist in five games. "It was just kind of unbelievable in a way, I was just very happy to be on the team. This year I know what to expect, and how to act when I'm there, and how to control my emotions."

Keeping emotions under control can be key in the developing world of international women's hockey, where games usually veer from comfortable wins for Canada to neck-and-neck matches with the rival U.S.

"I know some games when we play some of the weaker countries, it's sometimes hard to practise good habits and stay in it the whole time," Bram said. "But that's key for us."

Because beyond world gold, there's another challenge looming large on the horizon: the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Neither Manitoban player has served on the Olympic squad before; after worlds, they'll find out if they get an invite to the pre-Olympic camp in August.

"That's the ultimate goal," Bram said.

Bram and her 22 teammates will head to Petawawa, Ont., on March 26 to open their pre-tournament training camp, which will include a pair of exhibition games. They will open the tournament on April 2 with a game against the U.S.

"It'll definitely be a good game," Bram said of that first tilt. "I know last year, us winning (gold) in overtime definitely killed them, for sure. I'm just hoping it's going to be a great game... I know it's supposed to be sold out already."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2013 D5

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