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Pickering on top of the world

Balmoral Hall blue-liner’s hockey future bright after helping Canada to U18 gold

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Avery Pickering was still on top of the world Wednesday afternoon.

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Avery Pickering was still on top of the world Wednesday afternoon.

Less than three days had elapsed since the 16-year-old Balmoral Hall blue-liner helped Canada earn a gold medal at the World Under-18 Women’s Hockey Championship in Sweden and there were already reminders that she was in the enviable position of being young enough and good enough to do it all again in 2024.

“Obviously next year would be a really cool opportunity but I want to experience this and have this feeling as many times as possible,” said Pickering, who drew an assist in Canada’s 10-0 triumph over Sweden in Sunday’s championship game. “But it’s the kind of a situation where I’m lucky enough to be in it now and I want to sort of feel that for as long as possible.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Balmoral Hall’s Avery Pickering wears her team Canada jersey and gold medal from the World Under-18 Women’s Hockey Championship while surrounded by her school teammates

Wednesday after practice at Hockey for all Centre.

It’s hard to argue with those sentiments but it’s also impossible to ignore how bright Pickering’s future appears.

After graduating from Balmoral Hall this summer, the St. Adolphe product will be off to Colgate University where she’ll play her freshman season of NCAA hockey. Before that, she have a chance to captain the Blazers to the second Junior Women’s League title in school history.

Balmoral Hall, currently 10-2-0-1, sits second in the U19 league, which is predominantly based in eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S.

Pickering missed 16 games with the Blazers, the combined outcome of her time away with Team Canada and a high ankle sprain suffered on Nov. 16.

“I got injured before I even knew I made the team but sort of every day I was trying to do everything I could to rehab it to make sure I would be ready for that tournament,” said Pickering, who received treatment and had the ankle taped during the worlds.

“I had a pretty clear idea from the time the injury happened that it would be ready in time and so I just spent all my time (rehabbing). I got back on the ice a couple of weeks before leaving.”

Team Canada’s medical staff doesn’t want her to rush her return to the ice and so Pickering, still jet-lagged, was held out of Wednesday’s practice. She is awaiting clearance to play in the Blazers’ home exhibition game against the Westman Wildcats Sunday afternoon.

Pickering is normally unflappable under pressure but she said waiting for a call from Hockey Canada on Dec. 5 to find out if she had made the worlds roster was particularly nerve-racking.

“I went to the summer camp and made the (U.S. Summer) Series team then but they were clear about the fact that nothing is set in stone and that things can change,” said Pickering. “I spent those months working and trying to improve as much as I could in that time and did whatever I could to give myself the best chance but the day of that call was pretty stressful for sure.”

Being the lone Manitoban on the squad was not a big deal.

“I knew none of them, I mean absolutely none of them,” said Pickering, who got to know future Colgate teammates Emmalee Pais, Alexia Aubin and Farah Walker during Canada’s run to gold. “But it was a great experience to just sort of get to know the girls — they were all great people — and it was cool to be around like-minded people and sort of go through the experience of having a team come together in such a short time frame.”

Pickering added to Balmoral Hall’s legacy, becoming the 10th Blazer to play for Canada at the U18 worlds and the sixth to earn a gold medal. Other gold medallists included: Meghan (Dufault) Glennie (2012), Taylor Woods (2012), Ashleigh Brykaliuk (2013), Christine Bestland (2010) and Caitlin MacDonald (2010).

Balmoral Hall players to win silver at the U18 worlds included: Bailey (Bram) Mitchell (2008), Breann Frykas (2009) Ryleigh Houston (2016) and Corinne Schroeder (2017).

Even with Pickering set to graduate, the Blazers could be sending more talent to the Canada’s U18 roster.

“I think Sara and Kate Manness and Morgan Smith will be in serious contention next season,” said Blazers head coach Sarah Zacharias. “And then two years down the road I think Hayley McDonald also has a chance to make it and we could have even even more.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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