Tricia Van Vaerenbergh is a forward on Team Alberta and competed in Calgary at the Nationals Nov. 6 to 10. Her team had a major comeback, defeating Quebec for the bronze medal, the first time Team Alberta has ever won a medal at the event.
She said Team Alberta was trailing 5-3 but tied it up in the third period with two minutes on the clock. The game went into overtime and Alberta won 6-5. During the tournament Team Alberta also defeated Ontario Red, the first team other than Ontario Blue to do so.
The tournament marked the first time Van Vaerenbergh has played for Team Alberta. She attended an invitation camp in May where the top 80 players were put through their paces. In the summer the number was dropped to 46 and in the fall the number was further reduced to 27 and then 20 for the tournament.
She said the year before she made it as far as the top 27 and she was determined this year to make the team. She brought a little more to her game and felt she deserved to make the team, but admits she was still a little surprised when she did.
“Being cut (last year) pushed me to work harder.”
She wanted to prove she had what it took to make the team and play for Alberta. As a forward, playing left wing, she feels she has gotten faster, is able to play smarter and sees the puck better than even a year ago.
“My whole perspective on the game changed.”
She said she even feels her game improved just being part of nationals.
“I want to play in university.”
While she is looking into university programs, she hasn’t decided where she would like to go yet. She is trying to balance hockey programs with education programs to find the best fit for her.
She said she knows she definitely wants to play hockey at the next level and she’d certainly love to play for Canada in the Olympics one day.
“Everybody has a shot,” she said of her dream team.
She has watched the interest in women’s hockey grow since she was little. She’s on the ice a couple of times a week working with little kids and is impressed to see more girls taking up the game at a younger age.
“It’s definitely grown from when I was little.”
For Van Vaerenbergh describing how she feels when she steps out on the ice is a bit of a challenge.
“It’s like a Christmas kind of feeling.”
She said she just doesn’t want to do anything else, she wants to play every chance she gets.
Van Vaerenbergh, who attends Catholic Central High School in Lethbridge, lives in the Lethbridge County near Picture Butte and came up through the St. Catherine’s School program. She started playing hockey recreationally in Picture Butte when she was a little girl.
“I was kind of late,” she said of her venture into the world of hockey.
At the age of 10 or 11 she started playing minor hockey in Lethbridge.
The daughter of Brent and April Van Vaerenbergh, she said her dad and her brother Tyler were her early hockey influences.
“They’re kind of my role models.”
Younger brother Hunter is following in the family tradition on ice while younger sister Alyssa is more interested in the arts than being at the rink.