Publication:

Journal Pioneer - 2021-07-21

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Better late than never

SPORTS

JASON SIMMONDS SPORTS REPORTER jason.simmonds @theguardian.pe.ca @JpsportsJason

ST. LOUIS — It may have taken longer than expected, but Abby Hustler can’t wait to experience her first inperson Hockey Canada camp experience. Last year, Hustler received an invitation to the national team’s under-18 summer development camp. But the players were unable to travel to Calgary for the camp due to COVID-19. “Last year, they invited 60 athletes to go, and since we couldn’t go to Calgary, they did Zoom calls and things like that,” said Hustler, 18. “This year, since I’m too old for under-18, they are doing what is called the NextGen camp, where they took 23 girls from the 2003 age group and are putting a team together to play the U-18 team and U-22 team at the Calgary camp. Since we missed out on the U-18 team, this is a new thing.” Hockey Canada director of operations Gina Kingsbury said in a media release that the organization wanted the players who missed out last year to have the opportunity to experience a regular summer camp. The 2021 event runs from July 29 to Aug. 5. “As with the rest of our athletes, the pandemic has limited the on-ice opportunities for this group, and we know this camp will provide a great opportunity for these athletes to get familiar with Canada's National Women's Program and to participate in a highly competitive camp before heading to school for the upcoming season,” said Kingsbury. Hustler said she was surprised and happy to receive the invitation to this year’s event. The action-packed camp will consist of fitness testing, on-ice sessions, meetings and scrimmages. “Now that you are playing with the girls who are the best in the country in your age group, you can really see what areas you need to improve on,” said Hustler. “I'm going to try to focus on my playmaking ability now that I’m playing with some world-class girls. You really need to work on all aspects of your game.” Kingsbury praised the players and coaches for finding ways to stay engaged and committed to virtual meetings since last summer. “We are expecting a hightempo and spirited camp, and we are eager to put all our office work into practice,” said Kingsbury. UNIVERSITY The 2021-22 hockey season will feature another step up hockey’s ladder for Hustler. The left-winger will enter Year 1 at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., and will join the school’s Division 1 women’s hockey team. Hustler is looking forward to those challenges that come with playing at a higher level against elite competition. “Obviously, the competition is a lot tougher, but it will be a good experience for me,” said Hustler. “I’ve missed out since COVID on a lot of tough, high-competition games that I would have played in the last year or two. It will be good for me to get in a steady diet of good hockey that pushes me.” Hustler attended the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall for the last two years. She graduated in 2021 with top academic honours — a 4.0 GPA. Hustler described her grades 11 and 12 years at OHA as a rewarding experience. “It was a program that keeps you so busy — hockey, hockey. Even with COVID, we still had a good opportunity to be playing games, in the gym every day and so on,” said Hustler. “My two years there were awesome. I couldn’t expect any better. I made so many friends, got to know so many new people and played a sport that I love and helped me get to the next level, which I feel will help me prepare for St. Lawrence.” Hustler learned a lot during her two years at OHA that will help with the transition to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Hustler feels an adjustment at the next level will be physical fitness. “What Ontario taught me is (physical fitness) is the biggest difference-maker on the ice,” said Hustler. “That’s where I really stepped it up at OHA, and it has shown on the ice. “The stronger you are, obviously the easier it is. OHA really taught me that you can help yourself so much by improving in the gym, which I saw first-hand.”

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