By Michael Sun
Three former Gloucester Devils players will play for Team Canada at the World Ringette Championships in Mississauga from Nov. 27- Dec 3.
Forwards Kaitlyn Youldon and Allison Biewald from the Gatineau Fusion and goalie Jasmine Leblanc from the Ottawa Ice will represent Canada. Youldon and Biewald are the National Ringette League’s (NRL) leading scorers (34 and 35 points in 8 games) while Leblanc is the top goalie for an Ottawa team in 1st place in their division.
The Gloucester club folded in early October after being unable to ice a full team, according to Alayne Martell, the NRL’s media and public relations person.
The players were entered into a special draft on Oct. 11. for the Ottawa and Gatineau teams. Leblanc was Ottawa’s first pick while Youldon and Biewald were Gatineau’s top two selections.
“It’s a hurdle,” Biewald of changing teams. Leblanc noted: “It’s part of the league that happens and you just move on.”
The players expressed their excitement for the world championships being in Canada, in particular Biewald being it her first time with Team Canada.
“The best part about this is finally being on the team and finally getting to represent Canada. It’s been a long, long road for me so it’s a lot of fun to be here,” she added.
Youldon noted national team program changes – regional camps, “more high performance opportunities” and off ice training – helped better prepare the players this year.
She explained how the team’s been able to build chemistry.
“I find we’ve done a great job with team meetings and some mental training where we’re able to speak out about our goals and what we want to accomplish,” Youldon said.
“Everyone just cares so much and has so much heart – I think that’s something that we’ve bonded over this year.”
Canada comes in as runners-up to Finland in the last five championships, including losing in Finland last year. The players pointed out the challenge of adjusting to Finland’s different playing style and quality.
“I know we work really hard since the last championship and we adjusted a few things in our system so I’m pretty confident we’ll give Finland a go,” Leblanc added.
For the players’ individual success, they credited teammates and hard work.
“I’ve been working very hard off the ice and on the ice,” Leblanc said. “I think it helps having a great team in front of me.”
“I play with really high-talented people [linemates Youldon and Chantal St. Laurent]…it’s made it very easy to be successful with those two people on the same line,” Biewald noted.
“For all of us, a lot of the success comes from the commitment that we made on and off the ice to train off-ice 100 per cent, on-ice 100 per cent,” Youldon said.
The former teammates faced off earlier in the NRL season on Oct. 29, as Ottawa beat Gatineau 9-3.
“At the end of the day, me and Kaitlyn are mad we don’t win,” Biewald said. “It’s just our competitive nature where you can put that friendship aside for a little competition.”
Leblanc noted the game’s important timing. “The game being so close to worlds, I think it was a good training opportunity for us to compete against each other.”
The players explained their personal improvement process. “It’s definitely an adjustment. I find that video is really helpful for that,” Leblanc said.
“I primarily focused on shooting and offensive attacks but then off the ice, for me, it’s always a focus on power and aerobic endurance,” Biewald noted of her off-season.
Biewald and Youldon focus on improving things one at a time during the season, according to them.
“It’s sometimes hard to identify on what you need to improve on,” Biewald said. “At one point, you could say a bunch of different things and it’s tough to focus on everything at the same time.”
The players also touched on how the world championships helps elevate their game further through facing competition. “I think for me, a lot of it is a mental game,” Youldon said. “You have to adjust your game and your mental skills. I know for me, it’s really improved how I think about ringette and practice those mental skills – managing emotions, managing stress and improving confidence.” They all say the ultimate goal is to capture gold.
“I would love to see a gold medal at worlds this time around,” Leblanc noted. “We talked a lot about what we have to do to get there and I’m confident we have the team to do it.”