One of Canada’s most dynamic and creative players, Sarah Vaillancourt retires at 27.
Sarah Vaillancourt made her debut with Canada’s team as an 18-year-old in 2003 and appeared in a total of 107 games with the national team, amassing 45 goals, 53 assists and 98 points. Vaillancourt won Olympic gold in 2006 and 2010, world championship gold in 2007, and silver medals at the 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013 world championships. The Sherbrooke, Que., native is a graduate of Canada’s under-22 program as well, serving as team captain in 2006-07 and helping Canada win gold at the Air Canada Cup in Germany in 2005 and 2007.
Here is an interview done late April via email; she explains the whole story on why she retired at 27.
EE: You started playing with Team Canada as an 18 year old and now you are 27; can you fans give some of the highlights of this period which is almost a decade?
SV: Making the Olympic team for the first time in 2006 was quite the highlight, and participating and wining on home soil during the 2010 Olympics is something I'll always remember. Most importantly, it is the friendships that I've made over the years that I will keep and cherish forever.
EE: You had injuries; abdominal and hip surgery; what else happened in terms of injuries over the years?
SV: 3 surgeries...Nov. 2010 right sport hernia, Jan. 2012 left hip torn labrum, and Nov. 2012 left sport hernia.
EE: How did that impact your decision to retire?
SV: It played a major role in my decision, but my decision wasn't solely based on my injuries/surgeries.
EE: You had such a strong world championship in 2013, many fans would be surprized at your departure at this time? How was the world championship from your point of view and did that experience impact your decision?
SV: I was happy about my world championship, despite our loss in the final game. I knew I was retiring before the start of the tournament, so I went into it enjoying every second of it with my teammates and savoring every second of wearing the Maple leaf on my chest. I'm very grateful that I was able to play one last tournament with my teammates and in front of our amazing Canadian fans.
EE: You said in HC press release; “While it was difficult for me to come to this decision to retire, I know that there are great challenges and opportunities ahead for me.” Why did you make this decision now?
SV: Because an Olympic year is extremely demanding physically. I didn't want to take the risk of going through what I underwent post the 2010 Olympic year. (3 years of surgery) I didn't want to have to quit my amazing job here in Sherbrooke and I didn't want to have to postpone my Master's degree in education. Basically, I wasn't ready to make the sacrifices that are involved when moving to Calgary for 7 months.
EE: What are the challenges ahead of you?
SV: Completing my Master's degree in Education and having children within the next few years with my girlfriend. We are also in the midst of building our house, and I'm very thrilled about that!
EE: Are you still working for the sports school?
SV: Yes and I'm planning to get even more involved next year.
EE: Will you play for Montreal team next year? So still involved in hockey?
SV: Yes definitely and I'm very excited about it. We will still have a great team next year, and I'm looking forward to playing hockey as a hobby…(smile icon here)
EE: You have dreamed about playing for TC and realized the dream but it seems like a short time to fans who love to watch you playing with such imagination and skill.
SV: Yes well I had always said that I was going to retire when I was 28. Initially my plan was to retire post-Olympics, but I'll be 28 on May 8th, so I guess I wasn't too far off. I have accomplished what I wanted while playing for the national team and I've had the chance to live my dream for close to a decade, but I'm not one to linger and repeat things over and over again. I love new challenges; therefore, I'm ready for new ones and I'm ready to have a family with my girlfriend.
EE: What will you miss about the game and the team?
SV: I will miss my teammates. I will miss playing, struggling, laughing, working hard, winning, and competing with them. However, I know that what we've accomplished together and the friendships that we've made will last forever. I will miss wearing the Canadian Maple Leaf on my heart and going to battle on the ice with my teammates. I will miss playing in front of our wonderful Canadian fans. I will miss representing my country. But I'm happy that I can say that I will miss these things because that means that I've had the PRIVILEGE of experiencing them all. I feel extremely lucky, and even luckier to still be able to play hockey for more years.
April 9, 2013.
OTTAWA – Anna Shibanova's power-play goal early in the third period broke a scoreless tie and sent Russia to a 2-0 win over Finland to take the bronze medal at the 2013 Women's World Championship.
The Finns were undone by poor shooting and scored only one goal in their final four games of the tournament.
Nadezhda Alexandrova stopped all 32 shots for the victors.
Russia has now won only its second WW medal ever, the last coming in 2001 (bronze). "It's incredible," said 40-year-old Yekaterina Pashkevich, the only member of this year's team who also won bronze 12 years ago. "It's been a long time. And now with Sochi next, we're so excited. We're going to be very competitive there."
The Russians lost only one game all tournament, that in the semi-finals against Canada, and they were inspired by their new general manager, former NHLer Alexei Yashin, who brought in a new head coach and half a dozen fresh faces from last year's team.
"I wouldn't call it pressure, but there were expectations we had, for sure," Pashkevich admitted. "They put a lot of trust in us that we could win a medal."
In the other dressing room, goalie Noora Raty expressed immense disappointment in her team's inability to put the puck in the net. "We scored only five goals in six games," she said. "You can't win like that. It's frustrating watching your team have chance after chance and they can't put the puck in the net. It comes down to will, and I feel like we didn't have that will today. All our shots were easy saves for their goalie."
The first period was calm and tame. Although Finland had a significant advantage in puck possession, Alexandrova wasn’t forced to make many difficult saves. At the other end, Raty faced only four harmless shots.
The best chance of the period came when Olga Sosina made a gorgeous stretch pass to Iya Gavrilova to spring her alone on Raty. Gavrilova, though, blasted a shot high and wide.
Both teams had one power play a piece but nothing much came of either man advantage opportunity.
The second period was also scoreless and not much more dramatic. Neither goalie had to make a great save as defence ruled the day. There were turnovers aplenty between the blue lines and in the offensive end teams shot without much accuracy.
So, for the second time in as many days the Finns headed to the dressing room after two periods in a 0-0 game.
The Russians started the final period of regulation with a power play and couldn't score, but soon enough they had another man advantage, and this time they capitalized. Shibanova's hard slap shot from the top of the circle beat Raty cleanly to the far side at 4:11, and the bronze-medal game had its first goal.
"I didn't see it," Raty said. "Our defenceman was screening me totally. It caught me by surprise."
Four minutes later the Finns had a sensational chance to tie the game. Michelle Karvinen skated in over the Russian blue line, and right in front of her defenceman Pashkevich lost her footing and fell, giving the Finn a clear path to the goal. Karvinen out-deked herself, though, and ran out of room to get a good shot off.
Alexandra Vafina closed out the scoring with an empty netter with 15.8 seconds remaining.
"We've been in training since March 10, and we've worked so hard. We just said to ourselves in the second intermission that we have to leave everything out there," Pashkevich said. "We could not come off the ice after the game knowing we hadn't done everything we could to win."
"Games like these often come down to the power play," Raty noted, "and our power play was absolutely awful. It was frustrating to watch."
ANDREW PODNIEKS (Our thanks to IIHF.com)
Russia vs. Switzerland Sat April 6th, 2013. Quarter-finals.
Swiss Forward Stefanie Marty
It is tough to write about such a disappointing game. It was a game that we had been preparing for for a whole year; a game for which our team did everything to win. And after all, it was a game that we could have won and should have won. In the end it was simply not our night.
For the third consecutive year Russia was our opponent in the world’s quarterfinal. While they beat us in a dramatic game in 2011, we got the win a year ago. So we were prepared for a big fight and a close and low-scoring game. Russia’s goalie had not allowed a goal in the tournament yet and our team is also known to rely on a strong defense.
We started into the game with high expectations in order to confirm last year’s success. We wanted to build on where we left the night before against team USA. We had great team spirit on the ice and on the bench. We tried to carry this spirit over to this game, but we felt some pressure and were not as relaxed as the night before. This was also noticeable on the ice. During the whole game we only had a few plays with great scoring chances. The game lived mostly from individual efforts and mistakes on both sides.
Over the whole game both teams played more or less on the same level and had equal chances. Thus, the game was back and forth over the whole 60 minutes with the Russians being a little bit luckier. It was them who got the lead twice and which we couldn’t answer the second time; the score was 2-1 early in the third period.
What we had had on luck the past year, we were lacking on Saturday. It was not easy to come out of the preliminary round with three losses. But we now know that we are close to any teams ranked 3rd to 8th in the world and are positive that the next time we are going to win such a close game. The experience on Saturday is hopefully going to help us in our last game against Germany and also in next year’s Olympic tournament where we are going to be in the exact same position as this year.
Despite the loss the team is full of confidence that we are going to finish the season with a strong performance and a win.
Russia 2 Switzerland 1
The CR are new to this top level of world championship competition for the 2013 games. They won the Division 1 World Championship last year to qualify for 2013 World Championshp.
Czech Republic vs. Sweden
Sat April 6th 2013 Relegation Round
Captain Alena Polenska's blog on the game:
The second game against Sweden was much more difficult for us than the first one. There were several reasons for that. One of them was our attitude. The first game against Sweden was in a way a bit easier. We knew we were the underdogs of the tournament and not much was expected from us. Thus, we could only surprise, and so we did.
However, the second game was much more difficult, especially as far as mental preparation goes. The day before we lost to Germany and missed the quarterfinals. It was hard for us to stand back up after a tough loss to Germany but we knew we had to find the strength within us to fight again.
Our teammates we discussed different options of how to get the team ready for the next game. We were trying to find a way how to bring up the team mood, and how to find a way to come together for few more games after the disappointment of the last two losses. The decision was to remember why we started playing hockey, and why do we still play despite the fact that we do not gain anything from it except some injuries and lots of bruises. The most important thing is the pure joy of playing the game of hockey with great teammates.
Thus, before our off ice warm up, we sat down as a team and asked everyone to close their eyes and remember the day they started playing hockey. For some of us it was longer ago than for others (haha). We tried to remember the days of our first steps on the ice, first games. Also, we remembered how we stuck to hockey when things were hard. We asked everyone to think about why did they not give up on hockey?! And the answers were not spoken out loud but every one of us answered in her head. Despite of the hard conditions many of us have experienced on and off the ice, we all stuck with hockey because we love it! We were hoping that shifting the focus away from the pressure and stress, the need to win, will help us to ease up a bit and enjoy the game.
We still knew that we needed to win, and there was no doubt about it but we didn’t want to be tied up by the pressure. After this small visualizing activity, we conducted one more team activity, in which each player reminded herself or her teammates what makes her or them succeed in hockey.
Thus, we were mentally ready for the game. Although, Sweden was able to get the first goal, we did not give up and kept fighting back. We (Editor’s note: Polenska scored the goal) were able to get that one goal to tie up the game. The overtime did not start ideally for us; Sweden quickly put pressure in the first seconds of the overtime. There was a controversial situation, when Sweden asked for video referee; however, the referee said it was no goal.
We picked it up after that, and the energy was high on both sides. Players were fighting to get the goal but also playing responsibly in order not to give up any. We could have ended the game when we had a two-man advantage towards the end of the five-minute overtime but we did not shoot enough.
So the game had to be decided in the shootout, the last Swedish player pulled some fancy moves to end the game in their favor.
Sweden 2 Czech Republic 1 in Shoot Out.
Swiss Forward Monika Waidacher
Friday, April 5th, 2013
Yesterday we had the day off so we could really focus on the game today and every individual person could focus on what she needed to do. We played against the US; it was a really important game for us because tomorrow the quarterfinals are starting and we play against Russia. Therefore this game was really important for us to get a lot of good plays and develop some chemistry that we can use tomorrow against Russia.
Everyone came really focused to the rink; we all did our own routine to prepare for the game, I personally always tape my stick, go on the bike for 15 minutes and then we do a team warm up that consists of a couple sprints and stretches. Today our theme was smile. We said to each other when we smile we have much more fun, and we play better because we are not so nervous and we were ready right away from the start.
The game against the US started off really well; we won the first face off and came down right away to their zone. Everyone on our team gave everything they had; we battled for every puck and we had a couple shots on goal. We were all really excited and we were thinking we would go to the first intermission with a 0:0 tie.
Unfortunately, we got a penalty 1 minute before the period ended; the US scored 39 second before the 1st period ended. Then we lost all our focus because just 10 seconds later the US scored again. The Americans took the first three penalties of the game, and although we did not score on the power play we had a couple good scoring chances.
In the second period, our goalkeeper, Florence Schelling was brilliant. The shots were 21-0 and most of those 21 were great chances. After 40 minutes it was still 3:0, that was a really good result for us, and it gave us confidence. The US scored two more times early in the third period. The final score was 5:0.
Overall the game was really good, the whole team was really happy. We had a couple good scoring chances and the most important thing was we got a really good feeling for tomorrow’s game vs. Russia.
Florence Schelling had an outstanding game, she was a huge support for the team, and always kept us in the game.