CHASING GOLD AGAIN
Photo Credits: IIHF
By MARIO ANNICCHIARICO
A trio of hockey players will be representing BC Hockey and Team Canada at the 2024 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship, from Jan. 6-14 in Zug, Switzerland.
Gracie Graham and Morgan Jackson will be making their second-straight appearance at the event, winning gold last year in Sweden, while Chloe Primerano will join the two for the 2024 tournament.
“I am extremely excited. Every year you get the call, there’s an overwhelming amount of joy because it’s like a dream come true,” said Graham, a 17-year-old defender, who plays out of the RINK Hockey Academy in Kelowna.
Graham was born in Fort Nelson and moved to Clearwater and then Merritt, before moving to Kelowna while playing at the U15 level.
“Last year in Sweden it was my first time ever going overseas. The team was like a family and we all got along so well. It was so much fun, just the opportunity to wear the Canadian jersey was such an unbelievable moment for me and then having that gold medal around my neck was just unreal.”
The same held true for Jackson, who resides in Courtenay, but plays right-wing at Shawnigan Lake School.
“It’s exciting and it’s an honour, especially being my second year. I’m super excited to be playing on this team. You get the same feelings over again; nervous, but super excited to be playing,” said Jackson.
“Sweden was a lot of fun. On the ice, with the cameras there - everything was so cool and it was a big moment. Something nobody can take away. Winning gold did not feel real, even in the third period (when Canada was up 8-0 on Sweden after two periods in the final and eventually won 10-0).”
Graham, Jackson and Primerano were all members of gold-medal winning Team BC at the 2023 Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island and recently won bronze at the 2023 National Women’s U18 Championship in Dawson Creek. The latter was a team that Graham captained.
Graham and Jackson agreed that their time with Team BC and their days in B.C. minor hockey has helped prepare them for the international stage.
“I definitely think that playing on Team BC and just having the opportunity to play with high-level girls from across the country, and even with different people I haven’t played with before, has definitely helped me adapt,” said Graham.
“Skating with new players at a high-level, as well as playing against other provinces, has prepared me for the speed, and it also helped me make new friends at the same time.
“Every event has been so much fun and a chance to be in those medal-games is an experience in itself. Winning them makes it that much more amazing,” added Graham, who is committed to play at the University of Minnesota for the 2024-25 season.
“Playing provincials helps prepare you for the bigger events,” said Jackson, who will be attending Northeastern University next year. “A few of my B.C. teammates will be there at Worlds, and that definitely helps with the competitiveness. It brings up the pace.”
Mario Annicchiarico is a freelance writer based in Victoria who has previously covered the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, as well as the Western Hockey League.