Goal is more gold

WES GILBERTSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Rising star Shannon Szabados is nowhere to be found, but Kim St-Pierre can practically hear her footsteps.

She's no mathematician, but St-Pierre, a nine-year veteran of the women's national program and Canada's all-time leader in games played, wins and shutouts, knows the formula.

She understands there's only room for two in the crowded Canadian crease. Despite her lengthy playing resume and her dozen gold medals, she realizes her spot is not guaranteed.

"Every year, it's something we have to work to get. It's not like in men's hockey where you sign contracts and you know you're going to be back the year after," St-Pierre said yesterday at the national women's evaluation camp at Father David Bauer Arena, one of the final steps in the process of picking the roster for April's world championships.

"I think that's what keeps us on our toes. We take nothing for granted. Even if I was on the team last year, it doesn't mean anything this year."

At evaluation camp, St-Pierre is splitting netminding duties with Charline Labonte, who has suited up at the past two world championships.

Labonte got the nod in an exhibition game last night against the Calgary Midget AAA Royals, making 22 stops to lead the Team Canada hopefuls to a 5-2 win.

They're not at camp, but Szabados, the Edmonton product touted by some as the future face of the national team, and five-time world champ Sami Jo Small are also in the mix for a spot between Canada's pipes. Small and Szabados led the national team to gold at the Four Nations Cup in November.

Canadian head coach Peter Smith admits picking his pair will be an onerous task.

"We have so much depth here in Canada, so I think it's tough at every position," Smith said. "At goaltender, it's probably even tougher because you only take two. There's no getting around it -- it's a challenging process."

On paper, Labonte also has an inside track at winning a spot on the national team. She has surrendered just one goal in four appearances at the world championships and backstopped Team Canada to gold at the 2006 Olympics.

None of that matters now.

"It's my dream since I was young to play on the national team, and now that I have the chance to be here, obviously you don't want to lose that," Labonte said.

"This is where I want to be, so every time I step in the gym or on the ice, you're kind of reminding yourself that you have to work hard and you want to work harder than everyone else around the country to make sure you finish on top."

While St-Pierre, who missed a fall training session while rehabbing a hip injury, also has her sights locked on the number one job, the 29-year-old is just thrilled to be back on the ice with Canada's best.

"You never get bored of coming back and putting the jersey on," St-Pierre said.


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