Month: September 2018 (page 1 of 2)

World Juniors: Australia Junior Hockey News

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By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Even the most devoted hockey fans might not know that Australia has a national junior team that competes in international play. It plays in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Division III, along with a few other teams from countries that aren’t usually associated with hockey.

According to Wikipedia, there are only 22 ice rinks in Australia, which about the number one would expect to find in any suburban Toronto town.

Still, the Australians have produced one American Hockey League player, Nathan Walker of the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. Walker played in nine National Hockey League games last year, seven for the Washington Capitals, two with the Edmonton Oilers. The country has also placed quite a few junior hockey players in North America, including 1999-born Tyrone Bronte, a forward who’s scored three goals in four games this season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in his first season in the North American Hockey League; Findlay Wood, a 1999 forward with the NAHL’s Kenai River Brown Bears; and Bayley Kubara, 1998 defenseman playing the Eastern Hockey League for the North Carolina Golden Bears.

Other Australian players sprinkled across the U.S. and Canadian junior and youth hockey footprint are:

Alexander Wardlaw, 1999, defenseman, Boston Jr. Rangers, EHL

Jeremy Vasquez, 2000, forward, Seahawks Hockey, EHL

James Downie, 1999, goalie, Meijer AAA, North American Prospects Hockey League

Julian Fodor, 2000, forward, Kamloops Storm, Kootenay International Junior Hockey League

Sean McLean, 1998, forward, Great Falls Americans, North American 3 Hockey League

Declan Bronte, 2002, defenseman, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Tier 1 Elite Hockey League

Arthur Wang, 2002, defenseman, Schomberg Cougars, Provincial Junior Hockey League

Brayden Martin, 1998, forward, Lake Tahoe Icemen, Western States Hockey League

Connor Lee, 2001, forward, Steele County Blades, United States Premier Hockey League-Premier

Connor Schultz, forward, 2002, Delta Hockey Academy

Ethan Hawes, 2002, defenseman, Everett Jr. Silvertips, North American Prospects Hockey League

Lachlan Fahmy, 1999, defenseman, South Shore Kings, USPHL-Premier

Aaron Grubb, 1998, forward, Seaforth Generals, Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League

Australia’s national junior team will play in the 2019 IIHF Division III U20 Junior World Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January. Tryouts and training camp for the tournament will be held from Nov. 6 through Dec. 11.

David Ruck, who previously coached the Perth Thunder of the Australian Ice Hockey League, will be behind the bench. It’s his first year as head coach of the national team. Ruck, who grew up in Australia but was born in British Columbia, where he played in the late 1980s, will be looking for a vast improvement over last year’s team. That squad won one game in regulation, one in overtime, and lost three in regulation to finish in fifth place out of six teams.

Kuwait ice hockey players gears up for winter sports

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By Ramona Crasto – Kuwait Times

As the news of the Falcons winning an amateur Hong Kong tournament reached Kuwait, Fuhaid Al-Ajmi, a former ice hockey player and current President of the Kuwait Winter Games Club, reminisced about the first international tournament where Kuwait left an international imprint – a tournament in Glasgow in 1993.

Since then, it has been a journey filled with trophies and lessons on how to do better in the next game. After rejoining the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1999, the national ice hockey team of Kuwait made their international debut at the Asian Winter Games, where although they lost, they did not lose hope. Kuwait was the first Arab country to raise its flag at the Asian Winter Games.

“All the members of the Winter Sports Club are former ice hockey players, so we understand the needs of players and do our best to provide them with all the equipment and training necessary. I retired in 2000. When we played back in the 90s, we lacked support, although we do not blame our losses on anyone but ourselves. We wish we had more support, so we hope to provide the players with as much assistance as possible,” Ajmi told Kuwait Times.

“After the win at the Hong Kong invitational amateur ice hockey tournament, we will try to use this title to improve and establish new winter games in Kuwait. The club has already started five such games, namely, ice hockey for both men and women, figure skating, curling, skiing and speed skating,” Ajmi added.

After recently acquiring full membership at the IIHF, Kuwait will be able to vote in the elections of the governing body and the selection of the countries that bid to host world championships. “We’ve pledged to make things easier and better for the upcoming generations participating in these sports. We recently opened a school for ice hockey for kids aged from 4 to 14, who were sent to Sweden for training,” said Vice President Khaled Al-Mutairi.

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In 1992, Kuwait was expelled from the IIHF due to lack of activity. Since then, Kuwait has hosted the Arab Cup as well as the Challenge Cup of Asia, where Kuwait came in 2nd and 4th place respectively. “When we first started playing after the invasion, we didn’t have proper uniforms, gear or equipment to play in. Surely, the sports scene was different back then compared to how it is now. We now have a completely equipped club with a rink to practice, gym to maintain fitness, which is very important in sports, and the latest gear ready to use according to age and size,” Mutairi added.

Russia to host 2023 ice hockey world championship:

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By  Tass Russian News Agency

Russia will host the IIHF World Championship in 2023, the first vice-president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, Roman Rotenberg, has told TASS.

“Everything has been decided. The three federations have come to an agreement. Russia’s St. Petersburg will host the World Championship in 2023, the Czech Republic, in 2024 and Sweden, in 2025,” Rotenberg said.

The decision was made at the IIHF’s semiannual congress in Malta. The official announcement St. Petersburg will host the World Championship will be made at the annual IIHF Congress in Bratislava during next year’s world tournament.

Earlier, the president of St. Petersburg’s club of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) SKA, Gennady Timchenko, said that the world’s largest ice hockey stadium would be built in St. Petersburg by 2023. He estimated the project’s costs at no less than 20 billion.

Also in 2023 Russia will host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championship (WJC, or World Juniors) for national under-20 teams. It will be held in Novosibirsk. In 2000 St. Petersburg hosted the world championship for the first time and in 2016 it shared that honor with Moscow. It will be an eighth world championship to be held in Russia. The previous ones were in Moscow in 1957, 1973, 1979, 1886 and 2007.

How one Georgian family built a national ice hockey league

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By Bradley Jardine, Neil Hauer – Eurasianet

Despite material disadvantages, Georgia’s hockey team is moving up the charts.

“That’s where we broke the window,” says Mikheil Davitashvili, a defenseman and general manager of Georgia’s national ice hockey team, pointing to a puck-shaped hole 7 meters above. “As you can probably tell, this isn’t a convenient place to train professionally.”

The team currently practices at an old Soviet figure-skating school. The rink is smaller than a standard hockey rink, with no boards along the side – so limited checking – and the team has to bring its own net, a self-assembly version normally reserved for pond hockey matches. Hockey rinks should have safety barriers on the side, but this facility doesn’t, so during one slap-shot practice an errant puck flew out of the rink.

Despite these material disadvantages, Georgia’s hockey team is on the rise.

This past April, at the 2018 International Ice-hockey Federation (IIHF) Division III World Championship in South Africa, Georgia delivered convincing victories over Turkey, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei, falling only to the hosts. The performance won Georgia gold and earned the team a promotion to Division II for the next season – an impressive result for a team that played its first IIHF match only five years ago.

“We’ve achieved so much with so little,” Davitashvili says. “And now the government is finally starting to take notice.” The authorities have promised a new professional-standard ice hockey stadium in Tbilisi this year, he says – a change he thinks will revolutionize the sport. “At the moment we’re stuck with this place.” 

Much of Georgia’s hockey success is due to Davitashvili and his uncle, Denis Davidov, an amateur ice hockey player in Soviet Georgia who introduced his nephew to the sport at an early age. Now, at just 26, Davitashvili is unusually young to be the team’s general manager – a role usually reserved for people twice his age.

The substandard rink is only one of the obstacles the team is overcoming. Attracting sponsors has also proved difficult, with the players often working unpaid.

“We have returned from the World Cup as champions, but still, unfortunately, I have not paid any money to the boys yet,” says Ilia Davidov (no relation to Denis), president of the Georgian Ice Hockey Federation. “I am very ashamed.”

Ice hockey stadiums were relatively widespread in the USSR, and though it was never a major sport in Georgia, Tbilisi at least had a stadium and a local league. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, Tbilisi’s stadium fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down.

Despite this, Denis Davidov and Lasha Tsagareishvili, two amateur enthusiasts, started playing hockey again in the late ‘90s. In 2004, they founded the Georgian Ice Hockey Federation – the governing body of ice hockey in the country – laying the groundwork for Georgia’s accession to the IIHF five years later.

“My interest in the sport began because of my uncle,” Davitashvili says. “He was so passionate about it and got me started back in 2004. I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”

But disaster struck. Weeks after getting Georgia accepted into the IIHF, Tsagareishvili and Denis Davidov were killed in a road accident. The sport would have to wait.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Davitashvili would take his uncle’s mantle and Georgia’s national team would mark its international debut in the third division. Their first opponent: North Korea.

They didn’t expect victory, but the scale of the beat-down was disheartening. Pyongyang scored six times in the first period en route to a 22-1 victory. It was an inauspicious start.

That same year, Georgia was defeated by three of the four lowest-rated teams in the world rankings, but Davitashvili puts this down to growing pains.

“We had barely practiced as we were all working full-time jobs,” he recalls. “Obviously, we lost all the matches.”

But Georgian hockey is growing. Today, there are over 500 players registered in the country, although all are amateurs and they include chefs, accountants and CEOs. The national league now includes four teams across the country: Fiery Crusaders, Grey Wolves, Ice Knights and Mimino.

The country also will send its first player abroad to train this fall: 18-year-old Temuri Vedyapin recently signed with the Maniwaki Mustangs of the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL). While the CPJHL is a new and untested junior league, it aims to train players for collegiate programs in the United States, from where professional players are regularly drafted, and so represents a significant milestone for Georgian hockey.

Funding is still an issue. In 2015, the Georgian league began receiving its first government financial support – it had been supporting itself for nearly 11 years. But players complain that their team gets only 80,000 Georgian lari ($32,720) a year, compared to the national volleyball federation’s 500,000 lari ($204,500). (Georgia’s Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs declined to comment.)

That money doesn’t go far. “We paid 63,000 lari on flights alone for the championships in South Africa,” Ilia Davidov, the president, says.

The lack of training venues also presents difficulties, with professional training only possible in Batumi, Kutaisi and the ski resort town of Bakuriani.

“The stadium in Bakuriani is standard size, but as an outdoor stadium it’s only active for a few months a year,” Davitashvili explains. “Batumi has the best rink, but it’s 400 kilometers away.” Some members of the team practice abroad, in Finland, Germany and other countries, but this isn’t financially viable for everyone.

Although ice hockey is beginning to reach Georgian youth, the price to enter the sport is still prohibitively high for a country with an average monthly income of about $400.

“The cost to equip one player is about $1,500, and a goalkeeper costs $3,700,” Davitashvili says. “Bad equipment can be dangerous. When we played in Abu Dhabi our equipment was such bad quality that when a puck hit our goalkeeper’s hand, it broke his fingers.”

Challenges aside, Davitashvili is confident the sport’s popularity in Georgia will only grow from here: “It’s like my uncle used to say: Either you like ice hockey, or you are wrong.”

World Juniors: France Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

France has played only once in the Top Division of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Junior Championships. That was in 2002, a generation ago in hockey terms. Yet several French players have made it to the NHL, including forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Antoine Roussel, and goalie Cristobal Huet.

Is France, promoted to Division IA after winning Division IB in 2016, ready for a breakthrough in international play and an upsurge in NHL presence? Maybe not quite yet. The French finished last year with one regulation win, two regulation losses, one overtime win, and one overtime loss, good for a middle-of-the-pack fourth place finish. So it’s going to take a little more time.

France’s big gun at this year’s Division IA U20 World Junior Championships in Füssen, Germany, should be Louis Boudon. The 1998-born center, who plays for the Northeast Generals of the North American Hockey League, recorded two goals and two assists in five games in last year’s world tournament. In seven international games during 2017-18, Bourdon scored twice and set up two others.

Generals General Manager Bryan Erikson says Boudon has been “one of the top players in every league he has played in.”

“He’s really on a another level,” says Erikson, “as far as how he sees the ice and is able to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates.”

Winger Louis Petit, also born in 1998, scored no goals in last year’s WJC, but he was tied for second on the team in points with four assists. Also with four points, all assists, was Alexandre Texier, a 1999-born center who was drafted in 2017 by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The French were strong in goal last year. Julian Junca recorded a 2.77 goals-against average and a .977 save percentage in three games in last year’s tournament. The 20-year-old appeared in five games total in international play in 2017-18, posting a 3.08 GAA.

Gaetan Richard, a 1999-born goalie with two years of junior eligibility remaining, also saw three appearances in last year’s WJC, where he had a 3.27 GAA and a .865 save percentage. In eight games of international play, his GAA was a stingy 2.45.

Defensemen Vincent Melin (no goals, three assists, even in the WJC; one goal, four assists in 10 international games; born 1998), and Enzo Guebey (1, 1, -2 in the WJC; 2, 4 in 10 international games; born 1999) are likely to be counted on the most at the blueline in the 2019 WJC.

If the French are to make another run at a promotion, they will have to both protect their net better and put a few more goals in at the other end of the ice. In last year’s WJC, France’s goal differential was a -4 on 11 goals for and 15 against. That differential will likely have to be at least in the low double digits on the plus side for this team to move up.

World Juniors: Sweden Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

The Swedish national team narrowly missed in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, falling 3-1 in the Gold Medal game to Canada in January. The Swedes outshot the Canadians 36-28 but couldn’t turn the shot advantage into a win, though they did take the game to the wire, as Canada scored both the game winner and an empty-net goal with less than two minutes left in the third period.

Going into this year’s World Championship, to be held in British Columbia, Sweden has to be considered a favorite for the gold. But that’s expected. The Swedish national junior team has not finished lower than fourth in the U20 IIHF World Championship tournament since 2006 — when it was fifth.

The 2019 rosters haven’t been set yet, but the recent World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, Canada, gives us some idea of which players are expected to be Sweden’s core contributors.

“Top offensive defenceman Adam Boqvist, entering his first World Juniors, could see a heavy workload,” Lucas Aykroyd recently wrote in a tournament preview on the IIHF’s 2019 World Junior Championship website.

Forwards Jonatan Berggren and Isac Lundestrom “are capable of generating offense,” said Aykroyd, but head coach Tomas Monten might also find in “under-the-radar prospect” Marcus Sylvegard, an “undrafted, hard-hitting 19-year-old,” a key tournament player.

“He works hard and I think he had a really good run at home before the World Juniors last year,” Monten told Aykroyd.

Undrafted forwards Rickard Hugg (three goals, one assist in five games) and Marcus Sylvegard (one goal, two assists in five games) performed well for team Sweden in the showcase, and could be vital cogs in Sweden’s 2019 tournament team. Forward Lucas Elvenes also had a solid showcase, scoring once and setting up three in five games. Though he had only one goal in four games, Lundestrom was “arguably was Sweden’s best player,” according to Adam Kimelman of NHL.com.

Goalies Olle Eriksson Ek and Samuel Ersson were tremendous at the showcase and they could make things hard on opponents if they’re part of the 2019 team.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old defensemen Philip Broberg and Tobias Bjornfot might get invitations from Monten to attend camp for the World Championship, says Edmonton Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson.

“Broberg is built along the lines of Oilers’ first-rounder Evan Bouchard, having more offensive chops, while Bjornfot is a quieter, Jonas Brodin-type,” according to Matheson.

The veteran journalist also likes “six-foot-six winger Elmer Soderblom, who goes against the grain these days with scouts looking more at five-foot-six danglers rather than gangly kids.”

For Sweden, each year is just a reload. The pipeline of junior players is rich. They just keep coming.

World Juniors: Japan Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Japan will compete in Group B of Division I in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Junior Championships in Tychy, Poland, this December after being promoted from Division II. It will compete in the same division with Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and Japan.

Last year’s team earned the promotion with four regulation wins and one overtime win in five games. It was a Division II powerhouse, scoring 23 goals and allowing only seven, and finishing first in the IIA group. The squad was led by 1999-born forward Tohi Kobayashi, who scored four goals and added six assists in those five games. He was tied for second in overall scoring for the tournament, and was a plus-7, a mark no other top-10 scorer was able to reach.

Kobayashi was also a force in the tournament the year before, scoring once and setting up four in five games.

The Japanese team was particularly strong in goal. Ryota Koda, a 1998, and Eiki Sato, a 2001, were the core of the team.

Koda led all goalies with a 0.99 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in a pair of appearances. Sato played in five games, recording a 1.66 GAA and a .917 save percentage, good for second among all goalies. Sato put down a 1.80 GAA and .937 save percentage in five games in the U18 Division IB play last season. He was named Best Goaltender for 2017-18 in the U18 WJC.

Daiki Ayoama won the top defenseman award in the 2018 Division IIA world tournament. The 1999-born blueliner scored four times and had one assist in five games. In five games in previous U18 play he scored once and assisted on four goals.

Other junior players from Japan who are worthy of mention include 1998 forwards Hiroya Tokuda (two goals, four assists in the 2018 Division IIA World Junior Championship), and Jin Sawade (one goal, five assists), as well as 1999 defenseman Daika Miura (two goals, three assists).

The Division IB tournament starts Dec. 8 and runs through Dec. 14.

Okinawa warms up to ice hockey

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By Shoji Kudaka – Stripes Okinawa

It may sound odd to say Okinawa is a good place to start playing ice hockey, but there are a bunch of stick-wielding, puck-slapping players on the island who would disagree.

“People are always surprised to find out hockey is played on the island,” said Neil Reid, club president and a player on Okinawa SniperZ. “Sometimes, they are surprised to find out that there is even an ice rink in Okinawa.”

Although Neil grew up in Canada, he only played field hockey as a youth. The first place he laced up his skates to play hockey was on this subtropical island. Neil and other members play regularly at the Sports World Southern Hill in Haebaru Town.

The team roster is diverse, featuring Americans, Okinawans, men and women, military and non-military. “We welcome everybody,” said Neil. “We are trying to build community relations through hockey. A large part of that is due to the military being here. I am not a military person. I am from Canada, so it’s kind of an international thing. The service members have been a huge part of the SniperZ.”

The relationship reaches well beyond international borders.

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Just recently, the inaugural Ryukyu International Ice Hockey Tournament was held at the rink, bringing five teams from Okinawa, South Korea and Thailand together for a weekend of competition. The SniperZ was a driving force to launch the tournament.

“I have been down to Bangkok, played in Thailand. I started talking to these guys, and I went on Facebook,” said Kevin Mingoia, a member of SniperZ. “I put it out there, and Korea came along, saying ‘hey. we are interested in playing.”

“A lot of our players have friends in Korea and Bangkok,” Neil chimed in. “They played in tournaments before, so connecting through social media, and through long-lasting relationships . . . we’ve had pretty good success so far.”

The tournament literally brought people from remote corners of the world to the island.


Joe DeBlois from Portland, Oregon, was at the rink to root for his son who was playing for the Korean team.

“I have been reading about the SniperZ, and they got quite a program here,” said the seasoned ice hockey fan. “It’s very interesting to see hockey on a tropical island.”

And if the players on SniperZ had their way, there will be more to watch in the near future.

“We have an interesting mix of people and are going to go bigger next year,” Mingoia stressed. “I am looking at trying to do a Memorial Day classic next year.”

Although the tournament was meant to be a friendship game, heated competitions were often played out on the rink. But once the tapped their sticks on the ice to end a game, they had big smiles on their faces.

Neil, who is expecting more people to join the club, says it’s all about getting on the rink and enjoying yourself.

“All levels are welcome,” he said. “If you like hockey or want to learn about hockey, come on out. We welcome everybody.”

For more info, contact Marvin Floer at docdetroitusn@yahoo.com or Mark Cooley at mark.d.cooley@gmail.com

 

 

Kuwait’s ice hockey team wins Hong Kong’s int’l amateur tourney

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By menafn.com

Kuwait’s ice-hockey team won HKAHC Invitational Amateur Ice-Hockey Tournament on Saturday night by defeating the HKAHC Giants counterparts by 6-3 scoreline in the final match.

Fuhaid Al-Ajmi, the Head of Kuwait’s national ice-hockey federation, said in a press release obtained by KUNA that the Kuwaiti team earned this victory due to their extreme effort.

He mentioned that the tournament was a beneficial experience to the team playing against many strong squads, adding that the players scored 21 goals, while receiving only six goals only during four games.

Bucifalova ready to shine as RDC Queen

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By Danny Rode – Red Deer Advocate

Growing up in the Czech Republic Veronika Bucifalova had a dream of coming to Canada to play hockey, so when she was 15 she made a decision to leave home and join the Ontario Hockey Academy.

Because of that move she’s now a member of the RDC Queens.

“I wanted to improve my hockey as hockey at home isn’t a good level for girls,” explained the 19-year-old forward. “I had a dream of playing in Canada as Canada is the hockey place.

“And I knew how to speak English so that was nice.”

In fact she’s fluent in Czech and English and understands German, French and Russian.

“It’s awesome to speak several languages as you meet so many great people. I have friends all over the world.”

Veronika spent two years in Ontario, working on her game and finishing high school.

Last season she moved to Switzerland and joined the Neuchatal Hockey Academy.

“Mainly I wanted to take a year off and make some money,” she explained.

This year she was ready to return to Canada, although she didn’t know much about Red Deer.

However, her coach in Ontario gave her Queens head coach Kelly Coulter’s contact number and the rest is history.

“A friend of mine, through connections when I was in Grande Prairie, was coaching in Ontario and he helped make contact,” explained Coulter. “I didn’t know much about Veronika, but I’m certainly happy we made the connection.

“She’s very skilled, has a passion for the game, has an excellent attitude and is a great teammate,” said Coulter.

“She has excellent hands, has great vision and can take a pass on her forehand or backhand and make a quick pass. She also protects the puck and plays a gritty game.

“She’s already a great addition and will be for years to come.”

With a quick release Bucifalova has shown she can score, but enjoys passing.

“I love to see my teammates celebrating a goal,” she said. “It’s a great feeling when you play as a team.”

Coming up through minor hockey Veronika played goal, defence and forward.

“I think that helped as I got a complete perspective of the ice and helped me as a player,” she said. “I wanted to be a goalie, but my dad didn’t want me to.”

She does play goal for her inline team. She also plays ball hockey for the Czech national team, finishing third in the open division and second in the U20 world finals.

“It helps prepare me for hockey with the running and ball handling,” she added.

She also has experience at the world level with the Czech U18 team and women’s team. She played three years with the U18 team and the 2014-15 season with the Czech women’s team.

She first got into women’s hockey when she was 12 and even played with a men’s U18 team for a season, scoring 10 goals and 11 assists in 12 games.

“That helped me a lot in my career, but I still have a lot to learn. I’m a rookie here and will work hard to get better.”

Veronika is listed at five-foot-two and is solid on her skates.

“I say I’m fat … make fun of myself,” she said with a laugh. “But I do feel I’m strong on the puck and hard to push off it.”

In only four exhibition games you can see the skill Bucifalova brings to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference squad.

“We already can see each other and we’re already getting better and better,” she said.

As for the competition, she’s impressed.

“I have a friend who plays at NAIT and she told me about the league. Other than that I didn’t know much about it. But it’s fast with good game plans … I didn’t expect it to be this good.”

Veronika is taking kinesiology as she “wanted to have something to do with sports and to help people.

“I hope to be here for a few years and keep pushing myself every day to get better.”

She’s also impressed with the new Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre.

“I saw pictures, but this is awesome. Much better than the facilities we have at home.”

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