Top females face off in Sarnia

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Some of the top female hockey players in the country will be competing in Sarnia this week -- including six national team members recently named to play at the world championship in Sweden next month.

Players such as Jayna Hefford, Jennifer Botterill and Vicky Sunohara will suit up for the women's national hockey championship beginning today in Sarnia.

"It's being talked about quite a bit," said Fran Rider, executive director of the host Ontario Women's Hockey Association.

This is the 24th year of the championship, which has been held in Ontario six times.

Rider said the championship aims to get as many people from the Sarnia area involved as possible.

From programs in schools that will teach children about sports broadcasting and refereeing to volunteer opportunities, Rider hopes everyone who wants to be involved in the championship can be.

The opening ceremony is tonight at 7 p.m., followed by a game between Quebec and Ontario.

Ontario is represented by the Brampton Thunder. The Toronto Aeros are also participating as the host team and the defending champions. Lambton County native Allison Edgar, 23, plays defence for the Aeros.

Hefford and Sunohara will play for Ontario and Botterill is a member of the host Aeros.

It will be Ontario's second game of the day as the team also meets Alberta this morning.

"It's a gruelling schedule," Rider acknowledged.

Teams are divided into two pools with the strongest teams competing in Pool A. But Rider said any team from either pool can win medals.

"If there is a really strong team from the B pool, they can work their way into the medal rounds," she said. "The B pool features really strong hockey as well."

Rider said she's been encouraged in the past couple of years by the attention given to the championship.

"The growth of the game has come about because of the people coming and watching and the media covering the events."

TSN will broadcast the final and semifinal games live. The final will be played Sunday at 3 p.m., with both semifinals on Saturday.

This is the first year TSN will air the semifinals live.

NATIONALS

Canadian women's hockey championship

When: Today until Sunday

Where: Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre

Tickets: Event pass, $59; day pass, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, $12; Saturday, Sunday, $15. Call 519-541-1717.

Information: www.hockeycanada.ca


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