For Lauren Spring and Sam Fieseler, it was a hockey experience beyond compare.
The two Kelowna players are back home this week after helping Canada to the gold medal at the IIHF world under-18 women’s hockey championship in Hungary.
The Canadians, who went unbeaten at the tournament, won their third straight title Sunday with a 5-1 victory over Team USA in the final in Budapest.
Spring and Fieseler, both members of the Pursuit of Excellence program, have been on Hockey Canada’s radar since last summer, and were named to the national U18 team this spring.
Spring, 18, couldn’t have conceived of a better outcome in her first tour of duty with Hockey Canada.
“It’s pretty much indescribable,” said Spring, whose dad, Don, played for Canada in the 1980 Olympics. “The feeling when you get that gold medal, it’s like both else. And to see your parents in the crowd, celebrating with you, it’s unbelievable.”
Spring, a forward, saw action in all five games during the world championship.
Fieseler, 17, who plays defence, was steady along the Canadian blue line with two assists and a +6 rating in five games.
“It was a huge honour to wear the jersey for our country, and to finish it off that way was pretty exciting,” said Fieseler, whose parents and aunt and uncle all made the trip to Hungary to support her. “It’s been a long journey, but pretty rewarding.”
Two other POE players suited up for Canada in Hungary: Sarah Potomak led Canada with five goals nine points in the tourney, including two goals in the final, while Karly Heffernan added two assists.
While they went undefeated, the tournament wasn’t without its drama for the Canadian team. In the semifinals, Canada needed overtime to knock off the Russians 1-0.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Spring. “Even in the final, I don’t think the score (5-1) showed how close the game was. It was nice to see us battle and win.”
Spring now graduates from the POE program and will play hockey on scholarship next season at Ohio State University.
Fieseler plans to return to the POE U18 team again next season.