Hawks return with gold, bronze and class

Sometimes there are moments in sport that are bigger than the players and coaches comprising them.

Moments that transcend that overtime goal or back-breaking penalty.

Sometimes the final outcome of the match, and the scoreboard-watching and the gamesheet all take a backseat to these kinds of occasions.

For four Golden Hawks, it took a plane ride halfway around the planet to be a part of something special, and if you asked them about it, it wouldn’t be the golden discs hanging around their necks — although those are always nice.

What had the women’s hockey players talking upon their arrival back in the land of the true north, strong and free was their matchup against the host Turkish team at the 2011 Winter Universiade.

Not exactly considered a powerhouse on the world hockey stage, especially in the women’s game where there is such a clear divide between nations with firmly entrenched and established hockey programs and those lacking, Turkey would probably fall under the latter category.

So days removed from a 32-0 slaughter at the hands of Canada’s eventual gold-medal nemeses Finns, Team Canada’s goaltender and current Hawk, Liz Knox and her squad decided to treat their hosts a little differently.

“It almost makes you sick to your stomach to show that little respect to the host country, so we played a pretty special game and we wanted to give them that respect,” said Knox.

Canada went on to win 11-0, but it was what transpired right after their match that moved some of the Turkish girls to tears.

“We all saluted the crowd together and our team actually held our sticks up and made a tunnel for them going off the ice,” recalled the Stouffville native.

“They’re brand new to the game,” said fellow Hawk and Team Canada forward Candice Styles who recorded eight goals and twelve points to co-lead the team offensively during the tournament in Erzurum. “So you’ve got to respect that.”

The women’s team won Canada’s only gold at the university-level Olympics, vanquishing Finland 4-1 for the medal with Hawks’ defenceman Alicia Martin and former captain Andrea Ironside also leading the charge.

Canada picked up two more silver medallions, and the men’s hockey team, featuring Hawks’ captain Jean-Michel Rizk, notched the nation’s lone bronze, beating Kazakhstan, with Russia and Belarus finishing first and second respectively.

“They were very skilled teams — not so much individually, but as a team,” said Rizk. “They held onto the puck and attacked with a lot of speed and did a lot of drop passes. It’s hard to defend if you’re not ready for it.”

Rizk played with his traditional Ontario league foes, Brandon Maclean of Carleton and Kevin Baker from Western, and the trio combined for most of the team’s goals, with Laurier’s captain picking up two goals and three assists.

“We ate a few traditional Turkish dinners, one with the Canadian ambassador and it was pretty fun touring Erzurum,” said Rizk.

“It was a nice change from the dining hall scenery,” said Knox, recalling Turkey’s renowned kebabs.

The Hawks will now acclimatize themselves back into their Laurier routines after a couple weeks away.

“I think it’s easier to come back over here and get used to the time change, but as the playoffs roll around, it’ll be more important to rest,” said Rizk.

“It’s a lot of hockey.”

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