By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson
Special to GoHolyCross.com
As gold medal hopefuls on Canada's National Women's Team lace up their skates and sharpen their blades in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, seven members of the Holy Cross women's ice hockey team will try to focus on finishing their season on top and not let the excitement distract them. Seven of the 20 athletes on the 2009-2010 Crusaders' roster are from Canada and this year's Olympic Games give those athletes a good reason to celebrate their Canadian heritage.
"I'm so excited!" exclaims junior forward Christina D'Ambrogio (Toronto, Ontario). "I'm already in Olympic mode wearing all the Canadian apparel I own around campus. I love the Winter Olympics and am really looking forward to the opening ceremony." The Winter Olympics will kick off with the opening ceremony on Friday, Feb. 12 and the Canadian Women's Hockey Team will take to the ice on Saturday, Feb. 13. Canada is in a pool with Slovakia, Switzerland and Sweden. The United States, Finland, China and Russia are in the other pool, with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the semifinals.
Senior defenseman Lisa Wilson (Corunna, Ontario) is sticking with her home team to win its third straight Olympic Games. "I think the team is definitely capable of winning again. They have a mix of veterans who have strong leadership as well as some very talented young players that really know how to skate." But Wilson knows that her temporary home will provide some hard-hitting competition. "The United States will be its toughest competition. I know they have played them numerous times in preparation for the Olympics and every match has been a close one."
A former opponent is what gets junior defenseman Emily Henry (Lumsden, Saskatchewan) the most excited about this year's Olympic Games. "Not only did I play against Hayley Wickenheiser with my fellow teammate Jocelyn Kratchmer in our league in my senior year of high school, but also her immediate family lives in my town." Wickenheiser is a three-time Olympic medalist, with her eyes on the gold in Vancouver. "I have grown up around her grandpa and cousins. Because of this our small town of Lumsden, Saskatchewan was a strong support system and were very proud to brag about her close family ties residing in Lumsden," tells Henry.
A personal connection to Vicky Sunohara gives senior defenseman Katelyn Doherty (Toronto, Ontario) even more reason to watch the Olympics. "When I went home over winter break the Olympic torch was making its way through Toronto," says Doherty. "The torch bearer who lit the flame at Toronto's City Hall was Vicky Sunohara, a three-time Olympic medalist." Sunohara, a Northeastern graduate, has helped fuel the growth of women's hockey around the world. "Not only did I have the opportunity to have her as a mentor, but I was also able to play against her multiple times. I think having her light the torch really shows how far women's hockey has come and how much time she has put into helping, mentoring and coaching young girls such as myself."
The development of women's hockey in Canada has inspired these Crusaders to continue playing beyond their club and development teams and set up home in Worcester, Mass. "I wanted to play at Holy Cross because it was the perfect opportunity, I was able to play the sport I grew up with and love and receive an excellent education," says Doherty. Wilson echoed Doherty's sentiment, "It was a goal of mine to be able to play hockey in the United States because there is so much more opportunity here for the college level for women. I wanted to play hockey and get the best education at the same time, and Holy Cross was the perfect fit for that."
Between practices at the Hart Center and wrapping up their own regular season, these Canadian student-athletes will be closely following the action in Vancouver. "I will watch the games, as much that is covered on television here; it is tough to watch games over the internet," says junior forward Jocelyn Kratchmer (Watrous, Saskatchewan). Wilson also plans to watch, "I pretty much follow all the events in the Olympics, usually whatever is on I will watch. But I will definitely make time for the hockey games."
The gold medal game is on Thursday, Feb. 25, and with the exception of a major upset, Canada and the United States are expected to face off in the finale. And, after the women's champion has been crowned, Kratchmer, D'Ambrogio, Wilson, Doherty and Henry, along with fellow Canadians Lindsay Atkinson (Westbank, British Columbia) and Monique Gallant (Antigonish, Nova Scotia), will shift their focus back on their own championship, the ECAC Open Tournament, on Feb. 27-28, as the Crusaders look to defend their title from a year ago.
Between following the excitement of the Olympic Games and finishing up their own season, February will be a month filled with high-level hockey action for these international student-athletes.