Thursday, 2 August 2018

Stars’ Fiala realizes dream with Hockey Canada camp invite

Skilled forward to compete for spot on women’s under-18 team

Joelle Fiala will try to crack Canada’s under-18 women’s team.
    Joelle Fiala wasn’t sure if Hockey Canada would come calling.
    Since joining the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team at the start of the 2015-16 season, Fiala regularly watched two to three of her teammates get called away to a national team camp. This year, Fiala received her first ever invite to Hockey Canada camp.
    The 16-year-old skilled forward was one of 43 players chosen to attend the selection camp for Canada’s under-18 women’s national team. The under-18 camp starts this coming Monday and runs through to Aug. 11 in Calgary, Alta.
    “This has been ultimately my goal throughout my whole entire hockey career,” said Fiala. “Ever since I started playing hockey, I wanted to make Team Canada and play in the Olympics or at worlds.
    “For me to have this opportunity is pretty amazing. It is everything that I worked for, so hopefully, I can just do my best in everything and wish for the best.
Joelle Fiala has piled up the points offensively for the Stars.
    “All I can ask for is for me to do my best, and then after that, it is out of my hands.”
    Fiala will be joined at the under-18 camp by Stars teammate in 17-year-old forward Grace Shirley. Shirley was a member of Canada’s under-18 team last season, when Canada won a bronze medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 Women’s World Championship in Dmitrov, Russia.
    “I wouldn’t want to go there with anyone else,” said Fiala about Shirley. “She’s pretty awesome. It is exciting to be able to experience it not only myself, but to have a friend there as well.”
    Wapella product Allison Hayhurst, who is a 17-year-old defender from the Melville Prairie Fire, rounds out the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League representation at Hockey Canada’s under-18 camp. 
    The camp also includes 17-year-old forward Kennedy Bobyck, who played three seasons from 2014 to 2017 with her hometown Regina Rebels. Bobyck played for the Calgary, Alta., based Edge School Mountaineers female prep team in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League last season.
Stars C Joelle Fiala, left, battles for the puck in the offensive zone.
    The Under-18 camp is part of the Team Canada Summer Showcase that began Thursday and runs through to Aug. 11 in Calgary. The selection camp for Canada’s National Women’s Development Team stars Friday and runs through to Aug. 11.
    Stars alumnae Sophie Shirley, who is a 19-year-old forward and Grace’s older sister, will attend the National Development Team camp. The elder Shirley played last season with the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
    Plenty product Jaycee Gebhard, who is a 21-year-old forward and another Stars alumnae, attends the National Development Team camp after spending two seasons with Robert Morris University Colonials women’s hockey team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association ranks in Moon, Pennsylvania.
Joelle Fiala helped the Stars win two SFMAAAHL titles.
    Kaitlin Willoughby, who is an alumnae of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, is already at the Summer Showcase with 19 other players that are training as part of the U Sports all-star team. The U Sports camp, which operations under the Hockey Canada umbrella, runs for the entire duration of the Summer Showcase.
    Fiala expects the under-18 camp to be tough both mentally and physically.
    “I know that I have competed against some of the girls that will be there,” said Fiala, who stands 5-foot-6. “I know that I just have to do my best and play my game and work hard and hopefully, that will pay off.”
    In three complete seasons with the Stars, Fiala has appeared in 84 regular season games piling up 36 goals and 59 assists for 95 points. Last season, she recorded 18 goals and 22 assists appearing in all 28 of the Stars regular season games.
Joelle Fiala celebrates scoring a key playoff goal for the Stars.
    She helped the Stars finish first in the entire SFMAAAHL for a fourth straight year with a 24-3-1 record. In the playoffs, the Stars won the SFMAAAHL title for the third time in four years and advanced to the championship game of the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament in Bridgewater, N.S.
    In the Esso Cup title game held last April, the Stars fell 2-1 to the Alberta based St. Albert Slash, who claimed the national title for a second straight year.
    Fiala began turning heads in her rookie year with the Stars in 2015-16 netting six goals and 14 assists appearing in all of the club’s 28 regular season games. Due to have a late December birthday, Fiala was 13-years-old for sizable chunk of that campaign.
    The Stars won their second SFMAAAHL championship that season and finish fourth at the Esso Cup in Weyburn, Sask.
Joelle Fiala (#27) netted playoff goals for the Stars as a rookie in 2015-16.
    “That year was a really big learning year,” said Fiala, who has committed to join the Robert Morris University Colonials women’s hockey team for the 2019-20 campaign. “It just kind of set me up for the years to come with maturity and what I have to learn.”
    The skilled forward admits she pretty much grew up in hockey rinks. After watching her father, Eddie, play in men’s leagues, her older sister, Jordan, play some minor hockey and her older brother, Evan, play minor hockey, Joelle decided she wanted to play to have fun with a team like Eddie and Evan were having.
    Joelle’s younger sister, Jocelyn, also took up the game and is currently a standout bantam aged player.
    Last season, Evan was the overage captain of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. Evan encouraged Joelle’s big national team dreams. 
Joelle Fiala comes from a family that is deeply connected to hockey.
    Joelle said Evan told her to play like she was on one of those big national teams and like it was her last game as opposed to where she is now.
    “Their game is kind of implemented into my game,” said Joelle. “I think our little sister, Jocy, has the best of it, because she gets to see even more hockey than all of us did.
    “It is pretty cool that we can all share that together.”
    Joelle said her hero is Emily Clark, who is a member of Canada’s senior national team program and also a family friend. Clark, who is a power forward, helped Canada win silver at the Winter Olympics last February in PyeongChang, South Korea.
    Clark helped out with a Stars practice last season and was on hand at the Agriplace Arena last March to watch the Stars win their third SFMAAAHL title.
Joelle Fiala, right, looks up to Emily Clark, left, as a role model.
    “Ever since I’ve known of or met Emily (Clark), she has always been a huge role model in my life,” said Fiala. “I’ve always looked up to her not only as the amazing hockey player that she is but the even more extraordinary person that she is.
    “That is the kind of person I strive to be as a person and as a hockey player. She is definitely a huge role model in my life.”
    The 43 players at the under-18 camp will be split into two teams and participate in practices, intrasquad games, off-ice training, fitness testing and classroom sessions. Following the camp, the 43 players will be cut down to make up a team that will play the United States under-18 team in a three-game series running from Aug. 16-19 in Calgary.
    When everything wraps up, Fiala hopes to earn a roster spot for when the Canadian team heads to the upcoming Under-18 Women’s World Championship, which runs Jan. 6-13, 2019 in Obihiro, Japan.
Joelle Fiala aims to impress at her first Hockey Canada camp.
    “It would be obviously everything that I had hoped for,” said Fiala. “It is still a long way until that will happen.
    “I just have to focus on where I am right now and be in the present and work hard so that I can get the reward in the end.”
    The 41 players at the National Development Team camp will be split into two teams. Starting on Monday, those two teams will participate in a series of intrasquad games against each other, Japan’s national women’s team and the U Sports all-star team. Those games run through to Aug. 11.
    Following those games, the 41 players at the National Development Team camp will be cut down to one team to face the United States in a three-game series that will run Aug. 16 to 19 in Calgary.

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