Okanagan hockey player wins Gold for Canada

Vernon’s Anne Cherkowski, along with three others, trains at Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence

POE’s gold winning players. Left to right: Steph Markowski, Danielle Serdachny, Anne Cherkowski, Rachel Weiss. Photo: Kris Hogg

Winning the gold medal at the 2019 IIHF world women’s u-18 hockey championship was the first of many potential milestones for Vernon’s Anne Cherkowski. In a 3-2 overtime win against the U.S., Canada won gold for the first time since 2014.

“It was really exciting to play with girls from all over the country. We had lots of nerves going into the finals, but we stayed strong and stuck to our game plan,” said Cherkowski.

Cherkowski’s roots go deep into the Okanagan. The 16-year-old has been a student at Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy for three years. POE had four students, including Cherkowski, represent Canada at the IIHF tournament in Japan that concluded Jan. 13.

“POE has been really good with my development and I get a lot of time on the ice. It’s helped me become a better hockey player,” said Cherkowski, who is happy to stay with a local hockey academy. “There are a lot (of hockey academies) to go to, but it’s nice to stay home and have a good program close to home. Having the support of my family is great.”

Cherkowski and teammates and fellow POE students, Danielle Serdachni, Steph Markowski, and Rachel Weiss, stay pedal to the metal with hockey and training almost 12 months a year to stay on top of their game, as winning the IIHF championship is an early stepping stone to one of the goals Cherkowski, and many young players at POE, has: the Olympics.

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But before that, the students of POE work towards local goals and do lots of community events with the YMCA, shelter houses, and the Boys and Girls Club to immerse themselves in the community. Kris Hogg, POE female prep coach and hockey director, says the community component is big for their program.

“They come to POE to get exposure and develop time management, but they also have to make an investment to live and work here,” said Hogg. “It’s a big commitment and the girls are fully immersed within their school, George Elliot, and their community. POE gets them ready to pursue post-secondary education, as they get recruited to play professionally in the NCAA and U Sports — and develop towards the possibility of the Olympics.”

Pursuit of Excellence hockey director Dave Roy said the program can only take minimal credit.

“I always say you don’t get what you want, you get what you deserve,” said Roy. “Anne and the other winners are living proof they got what they deserved because they were the ones that put in the hours and stayed disciplined and worked hard to get where they are now. And they had fun in the process.”

“The purpose of POE is to not just develop hockey players, but to use hockey as a platform to impact kids’ lives, faith, values, and character,” said Roy.

As a young women, Cherkowski’s character shows with her confidence in her overall future by choosing a post-secondary education she can be happy about: with a verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota.

“It’s one of the top programs and will push me everyday, as I get to be with the top players in the game,” said Cherkowski.

Although university is close to two years away and the dreams of the Olympics almost three years away, she said there’s always something more that’s important to her.

“Keep my local roots, and stay connected to the hockey in town and help as much as I can.”

Cherkowski knows she wants to stay connected with her original Okanagan hockey grounding, wherever her career takes her.

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