Olympic journey swings into Okotoks

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Team Canada’s road to PyeongChang makes a pit stop in Okotoks next week.

The Okotoks Bow Mark Oilers will host the Team Canada Women’s Olympic squad for an Alberta Midget Hockey League tilt on Jan. 3 at Pason Centennial Arena in what is a tried and tested build-up to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

“We’re a part of their preparation,” said Bow Mark Oilers head coach Kevin Willison. “Ever since the women’s team has been in the league for all those exhibition games and regular season games they have brought home gold every year. Kudos to the Alberta Midget Hockey League for allowing them to participate and for us to help them prepare for the Olympics.

“That just goes hand in hand.”

Canada edged Bow Mark 4-3 when the teams previously met on Nov. 30 at Calgary’s WinSport.

The red-and-white used their speed to their advantage while the Bow Mark players struggled at times with the female rules of no body-checking being enforced.

“They have experience, they get the whole year to prepare for the Winter Olympics,” Willison said. “I thought we played well against them in the exhibition game at Canada Olympic Park, but we were chasing the puck a lot.

“In the game that counts in the regular season we’re going to throw a little more at them. We’re going to know what to expect, how they play, how aggressive they are and that they work so well as a pack … There are a lot of things our guys can learn from just watching on the bench what they do.”

Led by the likes of superstar captain Marie-Philip Poulin, power forward Natalie Spooner and trailblazing goaltender Shannon Szabados the Canucks are bidding for their fifth-straight Olympic gold medal at the 2018 Games.

For their part, the Bow Mark Oilers should be battle tested for the contest.

Okotoks is skating in its first Mac’s Midget Tournament as of Boxing Day with a chance to play for a spot on New Year’s Day at the Saddledome in the championship game.

It’s also for a good cause.

All net proceeds from the game go to the Okotoks Food Bank.

Tickets are available at the door or through Shawn Bailer at 403-809-2338 at $5 for adults. It’s free to attend for students and minor hockey players.

Prior to the 7 p.m. puck-drop the Team Canada players will get a chance to interact with their fans in the Foothills.

There will be female atom and peewee skills sessions giving young skaters a chance to meet their heroes on the national team. As well the female hockey builders workshop runs from 5-7 p.m. geared towards coaches, administrators and parents.

For more information go to ooaaoilerhockey.ca

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