Five Hawks to don red and white

As most Laurier students finish up their exams and settle into the holiday break, there at least five Golden Hawks who can’t wait for January to arrive.

From Jan. 27 to Feb. 6, Liz Knox, Candice Styles, Alicia Martin and Andrea Ironside of Laurier’s women’s hockey program and Jean-Michel Rizk of the men’s team will get the rare opportunity to represent Canada at the 2011 Winter Universiade in Erzurum, Turkey.

“It’s such a privilege to play for Canada and I’m just really excited to get over there and play,” said Styles, a second-year centre. “Not many people can say they went to Turkey to play hockey.”

On the women’s team, Laurier’s four representatives mark the most players from a single team to crack the squad of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) all stars. Reigning CIS silver medalists McGill will have three representatives while last year’s national champion Alberta Pandas didn’t have a single player make the roster.

“It’s a pretty big deal because there’s a ton of talent just in the OUA, let alone the CIS,” said Knox of the group of Hawks making the team. “It’s not very often you get to travel to another country to represent your country and it’s going to be great to have some of my Hawks with me.”

Knox, the defending CIS player of the year will share the goaltending duties with another Ontario University Athletics (OUA) net minder, Brock’s Beth Clause, who made 31 saves to hand the Hawks their second loss of the season on Dec. 4.

While Ironside, Knox and Styles have all previously represented Canada, this tournament will mark the first time Martin will get the chance to wear the maple leaf.

“It’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience,” said the fourth-year defenceman. “I’m just so excited just to get the chance to represent Canada, it’s going to be such an amazing atmosphere.”

Ironside will be getting the chance to play in her second Universiade, despite having played her fifth and final year of eligibility last year. Under tournament rules, players can participate up to one year after completing their university eligibility.

This means that the former Hawks’ captain will get the chance to help defend the gold medal she won with her Canadian teammates at the 2009 Universiade in Harbin, China.

On the men’s side, Rizk is the lone Golden Hawk representative on the roster after making it through an evaluation camp held in early December. The Laurier captain will be one of just five fourth-years on a team comprised primarily of younger players.

The squad is also solely made-up of OUA players, with Western leading the way with seven representatives. This edition of Team Canada will look to avenge the 2009 tournament which saw Russia down the Canadians in the gold medal game, leaving the red and white with silver.

Both the men’s and women’s teams kick off their tournaments on Jan. 27, the men versus Slovenia while the women take on Finland. The men’s team will then play two more round robin games (versus Belarus and Korea) before the quarterfinals. Canada’s women, meanwhile, will play four additional group games, taking on Slovakia, Great Britain, USA and Turkey before starting the knockout phase with the semi finals.

2011 will mark the first time the U.S. has entered a team in the tournament and the Canadians know the road to the gold will ultimately go through the Americans.

“We know the U.S. will be really strong,” said Styles. “But we’ve got a great group of really talented girls and I think it’ll be a really competitive game [against the U.S.]. I think overall, the competition is going to be really tough.”

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