A Grayson hockey player recently got the opportunity to strut her stuff in an international competition and she says there’s nothing like playing for your country.
Kennedy Ottenbreit, a product of the Melville Prairie Fire, got the opportunity to suit up for Team Canada’s under-18 version for a three-game series with the USA, Aug. 16-19 in Blaine, Minnesota and she says now she understands the storied rivalry.
“It was so overwhelming to finally get to play against the USA and now I understand what it feels like,” says the 17-year-old Grade 12 student who attends Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep. School in Minnesota, well known for its hockey program.
“It was the first time I got to feel what that rivalry is all about and it was awesome – because we won,” Ottenbreit says.
The Canadian team won the best-of-three, needing a shootout to dispatch Team USA in a game where Canada couldn’t seem to put the opposition away despite a large lead.
“We were up 4-1 in game three, but they came back to tie it,” says Ottenbreit of the 5-4 shootout win. “Winning was unbelievable. It was the best feeling you can have for sure.”
Ottenbreit says Team Canada doesn’t get back together until December when the squad will regroup for the U-18 World Championships in Finland and she says she has to stay focused and continue to improve if she wants to retain her spot on the team.
“We have to keep doing what we’re supposed to and developing because we can be replaced if we’re not doing the right things.”
She adds the opportunity to play the States gave the Canadian girls the chance to learn a bit about what Hockey Canada has in mind with its coaching tactics and techniques and it was an ongoing learning experience in playing with each other.
“Our staff was amazing. They worked so hard for us and got us prepared. We’re all still adapting what we do as players on the team, but we do have such good chemistry on and off the ice and it shows when we play I think.”
Before Ottenbreit heads to the World’s she’ll don another familiar jersey and compete in another event.
“I’m going to play for Saskatchewan at Nationals in Dawson Creek (BC) at the beginning of November.”
Experience should play a definite role for the young forward. “I would hope my teammates could count on me with Nationals. I’m in my fourth year (on Team Sask.) and I’d like to be a player they can look up to.”
As for the team in Shattuck St. Mary’s, Ottenbreit feels the club will play with more of a team concept than last year. “I think we’ll be more of a talented team instead of a bunch of individually talented players, which I think was the case last year.”