Langley netminder, coach, part of Canada Games provincial ringette squad.

Team BC goalie Sarah MacDonald is clear-headed and focused as she counts down to the 2015 Canada Winter Games (CWG) ringette competition.

This wasn’t necessarily the case last April during the 2014 Canadian national championships in Regina.

That’s when the 16-year-old, who is in Grade 11 at R.E. Mountain Secondary, suffered her first ever concussion after being accidentally run into by a U16 player from Team New Brunswick.

“My helmet flew off, and I got taken down, and my head hit the ice,” MacDonald said.

She didn’t lose consciousness and finished the game, but soon afterwards packed it in for three weeks while recovering from symptoms that included nausea and dizziness.

With the concussion (and the baggage that came with it) behind her, MacDonald is joining fellow Team BC members at a weekend-long training camp that gets underway Friday at the Langley Events Centre with two hours of fitness testing in the gymnasium.

Team BC – which will go for gold at the CWG ringette tournament at the Prince George Coliseum from Feb. 13 to March 1, 2015 – will then be on the Langley Sportsplex ice this Saturday for a 1 p.m. exhibition game against the National Ringette League (NRL) B.C. team.

MacDonald is part of a family that has ice in their veins, so to speak. Her older brothers Brad, Tylor, and Jason all played ice hockey, with Jason being drafted into the Western Hockey League.

MacDonald, herself, played hockey for a short time before switching to ringette.

Her love for the sport stuck.

“The difference between hockey and ringette for goalies is, definitely the deking is much harder,” she said. “You have to be more well aware.”

Awareness is something ringette could use a little bit more of, particularly in the left coast of Canada.

Even though the sport has roughly 1,800 registered players between the ages of four and 57 in this province, ringette is not as big in B.C. as it is in other parts of the country, in MacDonald’s opinion.

“People will ask, ‘what sport do you play?’ I’ll say, ‘ringette’ and they won’t know what it is, and you’ve got to explain to them that it’s like hockey, but it’s not,” MacDonald said.

But in some provinces outside of B.C., ringette has a solid foothold.

“Everyone knows about it,” MacDonald said.

Another underrated facet of the game, for some, is the players’ ability to skate. MacDonald describes her teammates’ collective skating skills as “unbelievable.”

“I can’t even think of skating that well,” she laughed.

Ergo, her move into the net at six years of age.

“The first year I played out, and that was the year we took turns playing goal,” MacDonald said. “I wasn’t the strongest skater so my coach recommended that I stay in net. He told me just to stand there.”

Power skating sessions with her teammates have improved MacDonald’s skating immensely.

“That’s obviously a lot of help with skating, but skating with your goalie gear on is not the easiest thing,” she said.

MacDonald, who is playing with and against players ranging in age from 16 to 19, relishes the pressure of being her team’s last line of defence.

“Before games, that feeling of being nervous… I like that,” she said.

Offering guidance from behind the bench is assistant coach Kerri Lucas-West, the other Langley resident with the CWG team.

Lucas-West has three daughters, Maureen, Jessica, and Jennifer who played ringette growing up. The three sisters and their mom play together on a local over-30 team.

“I joined in 1989 in the sport and coached my three daughters,” Lucas-West said.

She went on to coach at nationals numerous times, and will be coaching in her third Canada Games this February.

Team BC was more than a year in the making. MacDonald was one of more than 100 athletes who auditioned for the CWG team  

Staff held one identification camp in Northern B.C., one in the Okanagan, and another in the Lower Mainland.

From those auditions, players were invited to the selection camps.

Between August 2013 and May 2014, selection camps were held and releases were made.

In May 2014, Team BC attended a Pre-Canada Games tournament in Saskatoon with 26 players – this was their final try at making a big impression.

After that, staff cemented the final roster of 18 players for CWG’s Team BC.

The team is made up of six players from the Lower Mainland, eight from the Okanagan area, and four from the Northern region.

“We’re bonding really well as a team,” Lucas-West said.

Earlier this summer, Team BC gathered for a week-long training camp in Salmon Arm. Lucas-West noted that the camp consisted of off ice training and classroom time.

“We have just returned from a tournament in Edmonton where we had our first chance to see some of our competitors – Team Alberta, Team Manitoba and Team Nova Scotia,” Lucas-West added. “It was a valuable experience for us to see where we need to make adjustments and add strategies to compete at the games in February 2015. We are attending a tournament on October 2014 where we will meet some of the other provincial teams that will be competing at the games.”

Ringette is not an Olympic sport, so the  Canada Winter Games, held every four years for athletes across Canada, “is the closest thing to an Olympic experience Ringette players will experience,” Lucas-West said.

From Dec. 5 to 7, the Fraser Valley Ringette Association is hosting a Spirit Of Winter Tournament in Langley.

CWG Team BC will host a division that will include Alberta,  Saskachewan and the NRL’s Team BC.

Click here to visit the CWG Team BC website.

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