Team Canada lost just one game at the Women’s World U-18 Hockey Championship in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Problem was it was the one game they didn’t want to lose.
The Canadians dropped the gold medal game on Jan. 3 to the U.S. by a score of 2-1 in sudden-death overtime, giving them the silver medal. For Annie King, it was a tough pill to swallow but she’s proud of what the team did.
The Yellowknife-born King watched the winning goal from the bench and said it was the result of a plethora of things.
“The Americans put two skaters up on our player and forced the turnover,” she said. “It was tough watching it from the bench and so many things led up to that. It was no one’s fault.”
The Canadians had a perfect run leading up to the final, winning all three of their round-robin games, which included a 2-1 win over the Americans on Dec. 29. They defeated Russia in their opening contest on Dec. 26, 3-2 in overtime, and followed that up with a 4-1 win over Finland. After dispatching Finland on the semifinals on New Year’s Day by the same 4-1 scoreline, it was back to face the Americans for the big prize.
Even in defeat, King said it was an experience she won’t soon forget.
“It was amazing to be there,” she said. “You’re surrounded by a group of players with the same goals and dreams as you do and it was awesome to be a part of it all.”
Making the team was a two-year process which began with what’s known as a long list. That list, compiled by Hockey Canada, contained 60 names which was eventually whittled down to the 23 that represented Canada in Slovakia.
King got a regular shift all tournament long and was even named the player of the game by her teammates against Russia, albeit a dressing room honour.
She even had a chance to be on the power-play during the overtime session against the Americans.
“That was cool to be able to hop on during that,” she said. “Getting a regular shift was great because going in, the idea was just being happy to be a part of it all but you always want to play and help the team win and I’m so happy I got that chance to do it.”
Being such a short tournament can prove tough for a team to come together, especially in such a short amount of time, but King said there were no problems with cohesion whatsoever.
“We all came together quickly,” she said. “We were doing activities together and I definitely walked away with 22 new and close friends. We all played for each other and I think we all got along so well together because we all had the goal of playing for Canada and wanting to win for Canada.”
The style of hockey was a big step up from what she’s seen previously, she added.
“Even from playing at the national level, the worlds was so much different,” she said. “You’re playing against the best in the world every shift and the speed of the game was so much different.”
It was a family affair as both of her parents and two of her brothers made the trip to watch and King said it was probably more nerve-wracking for them than it was for her.
“I could tell they were nervous,” she said. “Mom was probably hoping I would get off the ice and not make any mistakes.”
Her mother, Lori-Ann King, said she wasn’t really nervous until sudden-death in the gold medal game itself.
“I just knew how much pressure she would put on herself if she was on the ice when the other team scored and for the first time in the tournament, I was nervous for her,” she said. “I shouldn’t have been though (because) she played great.”
She also said watching her daughter wear the maple leaf was simply amazing.
“This has been a goal of Annie’s for so long and she accomplished it through hard work and determination,” she said. “She told me when she was eight years old that her long-term goal was Team Canada. Who was I to tell her that was a lofty goal?”
And there was the support from the North, which Lori-Ann said was something that amazed her.
“The texts, phone calls and e-mails have been amazing,” she said. “Everyone who watched the games livestreamed to a former teacher who ordered a Team Canada jersey with the no. 3 on it (King wore no. 3 in the tournament) … the love and support has been amazing.”