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Youth taking hold with Canada's women's hockey team

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The Canadian Press
1/25/2013 9:12:14 AM
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OTTAWA, Ont. -- Jenelle Kohanchuk is hoping a youth movement takes hold with Canada's women's hockey team.

The 22-year-old is one of 23 players invited to the team's winter camp in Ottawa in preparation for the 2013 women's world championship, which will be held in the nation's capital from April 2-9.

Kohanchuk is the second youngest player at the camp -- forward Natalie Spooner is two weeks younger -- and could be considered a long shot to make the team.

But that isn't deterring the young forward.

Kohanchuk is competing against a veteran roster, including 16 players from last year's gold-medal winning world championship team, and 11 from the 2010 Olympic championship team.

That said, the young Winnipeg native has enjoyed her own personal international success. She just finished winning her third gold medal at the Meco Cup, an annual six-team tournament held in Europe where Canada sends its under-22 team.

She would love nothing more than to make the leap to the next level.

"To play with these players that are veterans of the game, it's such an honour to be on the ice with them," Kohanchuk said. "I've always looked up to them and I still do. They have great positive feedback and if I ask them questions they'll give great feedback. It's a great opportunity."

Kohanchuk, who missed most of last season with a concussion, is the lone collegiate player in camp, but she has impressed head coach Dan Church.

"We wanted to get a good look at her since she missed so much of last season to see how she fit in with the rest of this group," Church said. "It's a great opportunity to see her and she's been working hard this week."

Within this group Church sees Kohanchuk as a role player. He's been impressed by her speed, energy and ability to keep things simple.

"She's good on the fore-check, she's good on the back-check and defensively she's strong," Church said. "She can compliment offensive players."

Despite the wealth of veterans in camp, Church said he likes balance of experience and youth.

"I think it's important to have the young players' hunger and the fact they're going to push every day because they know they have to earn a position so that creates a healthy rivalry and healthy level of competition," Church said. "We look for that from all our players, but it's a key for the younger ones.

"If they're ever going to make the senior team they have to have the mindset that they're going to push someone out of their position and they're going to have to work as hard as they can every single day in everything they do."

Despite her four Olympic medals -- three of them gold -- Jayna Hefford said she can't rest on her laurels. At 35 years of age Hefford is the oldest player in camp, and said she's as determined as any rookie to make this team.

"I know I need to continue to get better," Hefford said. "There's no resting or being complacent in your training because you know those young players are coming up. It pushes me to challenge myself continuously"

Despite knowing those young players would love nothing more than to take her spot, Hefford is still happy to act as a mentor and leader to Canada's young players.

"It's a responsibility of a veteran that a lot of us take on," Hefford said. "I think it's important to share our experience with them."

Church anticipates naming his final roster for the World Championships in March and will then work at getting players to Ottawa after the Canadian Women's Hockey League Clarkson Cup and the NCAA women's Frozen Four championships.

The Clarkson Cup takes place March 20-23 in Markham, Ont., and the Frozen Four will be held March 22-24.

Canada celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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