Okanagan Hockey Academy players (from left to right) Reece Hunt, Anna MacCara and Sarah Paul were chosen to play for Team BC at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. OHA coach Katie Greenway will also be making the trip with Team BC as the assistant coach.Kristi Patton/Western News Staff

Penticton hockey players chosen to Team BC for the Canada Winter Games

Okanagan Hockey Academy players will compete at the Canada Winter Games

You can’t wipe the smile off Sarah Paul’s face.

Or, for that matter, the faces of Reece Hunt and Anna MacCara. The trio of Okanagan Hockey Academy players are getting ready to skate out onto the national stage, having been picked to play for Team BC at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.

Paul, who is one of the youngest members of the Team BC female hockey team, lights up when talking about the moment she found out she made it after the final tryout camp, which was held in Penticton at the end of December.

Related: Paul pursuing the Olympic dream

“They were calling players out of the dressing room one by one and I started hearing this clap sound. I opened the door and it got even louder and everyone was chanting. It was the people who got called out of the dressing room and had been named to the team that came back — that is when you knew you made it. Everyone stood up and yelled, ‘this is Team BC,’ and we came in a huddle and celebrated together,” said Paul. “It just put a huge smile on my face. This is a goal that I have reached and it is really nice to experience that along with some of my OHA teammates.”

Related: Okanagan Hockey Academy wins CSSHL female varsity title

For Hunt this will be her third time representing Team BC, the two previous times (non-Winter Games years) were at the national championship where B.C. came home with bronze both times. In her first run with Team BC, she played alongside Amy Potomak, who has since gone on to represent Canada at the Under-18 World Championship and was one of the final cuts off the senior national women’s for the 2018 Olympics. She currently plays for the University of Minnesota.

Related: Team BC wins bronze at women’s hockey nationals

“My first year, I came in as an underager and the girl I looked up to most was Amy Potomak. She was such an awesome leader, and now going into my third year I want to be like her and step up into that leadership role to show these girls the way,” said Hunt.

Team BC finished in sixth place at the 2015 Canada Winter Games held in Prince George, having better luck at nationals — which take place between Games years.

“We got bronze the first two times, and that is a pretty big accomplishment, but we are always looking for gold,” said Hunt.

OHA captain, MacCara, also has experience representing her province, albeit this will be the first time in B.C. She competed at the 2015 Canada Winter Games with the North West Territories.

“I’m so proud, honoured and just excited to go to the Games again and especially with Team BC. It is just an awesome experience,” said MacCara. “I definitely want to get to see other sports and I can’t wait to get to meet other athletes — it’s just so cool.”

The three players will be joined by their OHA coach Katie Greenway (Team BC assistant coach) and another Okanagan player Lyndsy Acheson (Summerland), who plays club hockey with the Pacific Steelers in the Junior Women’s Hockey League.

Their OHA coach, and Team BC assistant coach, Greenway said she has seen the trio of players evolve over the years into leaders, working hard to get to this point.

Related: OHA finds new female coaches

“This is a mini-Olympics, so having that exposure to short-term competition and playing on demand in back-to-back games — it is really prepping them for what they could see in university, and hopefully, the national team one day for these girls,” said Greenway.

The Canada Winter Games open on Feb. 15, but female hockey will be part of the second week of action. Team BC will first face off against Alberta on Feb. 24.

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