For the first time since Carley Olivier donned the Team Ontario Blue jersey in Regina in 2016, the Sudbury Lady Wolves found themselves represented at the U18 National Women's Hockey Championships this fall.
But unlike talented locals like Corie Jacobson, Josee Belanger, Rebecca Johnston, Tessa Bonhomme, Carley Olivier and others, the Blue & White representation this past week would come off the ice, behind the bench in Dawson Creek (B.C.).
Sudbury U18 AA Lady Wolves assistant coach Stephanie Pascal was selected as goalie coach for Team Ontario Blue recently and while she certainly understands the opportunity exists for personal growth, the former OUA Goalie of the Year also sees the potential for those whom she now mentors on a regular basis.
"I get to be surrounded by great coaches and great people for an entire week," said the 27 year-old local woman who works as a professional engineer on a full-time basis. "I'm able to learn from them which helps develop my own coaching skills."
"I then get to bring these new techniques and ideas back and implement some with my own team which benefits my players. I'm also able to make some great connections with other coaches in U22 (programs) and universities that will hopefully benefit my players who are looking at playing at higher levels in the coming years."
Not only does Pascal carry with her the knowledge of one who has donned the pads at a high level, she also enjoys the learnings that came from experience at nationals as a player, capturing bronze as a member of the U18 AA Lady Wolves (2014) and twice competing at U Sports Championships as a member of the Queen's Gaels.
"A large part of the goalie coaching role at short competitions is managing the mental side of the goaltenders and doing everything I can to ensure our goalies are playing their best throughout the week," stated Pascal.
"A lot of this involves their pre-game routine and just checking in throughout the day to make sure they are feeling at their best. Every goalie is different - some like to see and chat about their goals against while others don't."
"I tried to get a sense of what they each needed from me at the beginning of the week which has made the process a lot smoother."
Despite being eliminated in the quarter-finals, Pascal had to be pretty pleased with what she saw from the tandem of Amelia Wilkinson (Barrie) and Alysse Wilkinson (Ottawa).
With Team Ontario Blue selected as the de facto #2 provincial entry at the event, a 1-1-1 round robin record that featured a 4-3 win over Manitoba and 3-2 overtime loss versus Team Ontario Red would give way to a final eight matchup with Alberta.
Despite turning aside 27 of the 28 shots that she faced, Amelia Wilkinson received little in the way of offensive support as Alberta edged Team Ontario Blue 1-0 falling to Ontario Red 4-0.
Ontario Red would eventually claim the national crown thanks to a 3-2 overtime win over Quebec as Mackenzie Alexander netted the game-winner just 25 seconds into the extra session.