By Centine Wilbers
Fernie-born and -raised Erika Sowchuk has stepped onto the international stage of women’s competitive hockey, representing Canada at the IIHF Under 18s Women’s World Championship.
This year’s series, hosted by the Czech Republic, was held between December 31 and the January 7, with teams hailing from eight premier hockey nations. Following convincing wins against Switzerland (13 – 1), Germany (6 – 0), and Finland (7 – 0), Sowchuk scored her first international goal in the semi-final game against Sweden, the team eventually winning with a decisive 7 – 0. For the final, Team Canada scored three goals against the defending champions from the United States, earning the tournament’s gold medal.
“Standing on the blue line with my team mates, a gold medal around my neck, and singing the anthem was an amazing feeling,” said Sowchuk, reflecting on her most memorable moment of the tour. “I look at it every day.” When asked about the key difference between men and women’s hockey, Sowchuk identifies the absence of hitting in the women’s league as a game-changing feature. “Women’s hockey is more about puck possession and handling the puck longer where men tend to pass it off more quickly because of the hitting factor,” Sowchuk explained. “The tactics are different.”
Skating since the age of three, and playing hockey since four, Sowchuk is a committed athlete. “It’s my passion, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.” Currently embarking on her second year playing for the Edge Mountaineers in Calgary, Sowchuk admitted, “Everything revolves around hockey for me.” She has recently accepted an offer from the University of Wisconsin, a move Sowchuk hopes will develop her skills, and mentions Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson as a drawcard to the University team. A former Olympic hockey player himself, Johnson was named head coach of the American Women’s Olympic team in 2006. “It’s such an exciting opportunity to work with Mark Johnson,” she said.
In the future, Erika hopes to qualify for the next level of women’s competitive hockey, the Under 22s national team. “Though, that might be a few years off,” said Erika. However, with her drive and dedication to the game, we are sure to hear more of Erika Sowchuk.