Hockey Canada is already intrigued by the talents of Jesse Keca.
Over the next 10 days, the Kelowna teenager hopes to prove she is indeed ready for the next big step with the national program.
Keca is among 40 prospects who have been invited to Canada’s under 18 women’s selection camp beginning Friday in Calgary.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the experience of playing at a high level like that with a lot of the best players from around the country,” said Keca, 17. “Whether I make it or not, playing with girls who are so dedicated and committed to the sport, I think will be great for me.”
Keca is one of two local players who will be attending the national selection camp, Aug. 3 to 11.
West Kelowna’s Sam Fieseler, who attends Warner School in Alberta, will be looking to crack the roster on defense.
In addition to regular practises, the Canadian hopefuls will play a series of exhibition games against Kazakhstan and Norway.
The final roster will feature 22 players, who will head to Minnesota following the camp for a series of exhibition games against Team USA, Aug. 15 to 19.
The pinnacle will come in January when Canada travels to Finland for the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship.
Keca heads to the national camp with solid credentials after leading the B.C. Female Midget AAA Hockey League in scoring last season. The 5-foot-7, 134-pound centre scored 22 goals and added 16 assists in 25 games with the Thompson Okanagan Rockets.
Then last week, Keca was named to B.C. Hockey’s U18 team following the final selection camp in Salmon Arm.
Team B.C. head coach Sylvain Leone says it’s little surprise Keca has caught the attention of Hockey Canada’s evaluators.
“I think Jesse’s greatest asset is that she can skate the game, she’s able to really push the pace of play,” said Leone. “At the national level, conditioning and skating are important and Jesse has both those going for her. For her to simply get invited is an accomplishment, it doesn’t happen by accident. They’ve definitely seen something they like.”
That Keca’s is skating ability stands out comes as no surprise to those who know her best. In addition to excelling at hockey, she has grown up as a competitive speed skater and is currently ranked 23rd overall in the country at the senior level.
Balancing two sports at the elite level takes careful planning and commitment, but Keca plans to continue doing both as long as it’s humanly possible.
“I love both sports,” Keca said. “I think what I really love is the competition, and hockey and speedskating both have that. If there’s been a conflict between the two, I’ve usually been able work around it. I’m going to try doing both as long as I can.”
Keca is, as of yet, undecided on her hockey and speed skating plans for the fall. Among her options is attending a school in Quebec where she could potentially pursue both sports at the collegiate level.