Williams Lake’s Julia Flinton will make her international hockey debut for Team Canada this February in Granada, Spain at the 27th biennial 2015 Winter Universiade.
The 21-year-old University of Saskatchewan Huskies’ defenceman was named to the team by Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) late October as one of 20 university players in the country to get the nod from Canadian head coach Jon Rempel and his staff, including assistants Bruce Donaldson (University of Prince Edward Island) and Jim Hunter (University of Windsor).
The tournament — an international sporting and cultural festival for student athletes staged every two years in a different city and second only to the Olympic Games — takes place from Feb. 4-14.
“I’m super excited,” Flinton told the Tribune. “Just to play at that higher level and to play at an international level will be a whole new thing for me so I’m looking forward to it.”
Last year Flinton helped lead the Huskies to their first-ever Canada West Championship and CIS bronze medal.
As a result Flinton — now in her fourth season with the Huskies while working on a agricultural and bioresources degree — was named a CIS Championship tournament all-star and a Canada West second team all-star. At the championship she tallied a hat trick in the bronze-medal game.
“The coaches last year for all the CIS teams in Canada put forward names of players they thought could compete at that level and go to the Games,” Flinton said. “The coaching staff pretty much hand picked from that list, and I got a call during the last week in September asking me if I wanted to play and, of course, I said yes.”
After winning a third-straight gold medal at the Winter Universiade 13 months ago in Trentino, Italy, the Canadians will head to Spain as the favourites with a perfect 21-0 overall record since the women’s hockey competition made its debut in Harbin, China in 2009.
In February Canada will compete in Pool B with Russia and Kazakhstan. Pool A will consist of host Spain, the U.S., China and Japan.
Rempel said the Canadian roster features standouts from across the four CIS conferences, including five from Flinton’s conference in Canada West.
“Our coaching staff believes that the experience of the returning players from last year’s squad combined with an influx of energy from a number of first-time players going to this event will make this year’s team very tough to play against,” said Rempel, a two-time Canada West coach of the year who has led the Manitoba Bisons to five CIS championship appearances in his 11 seasons at the helm.
“This year’s team represents a great mix of skill, speed, character and hockey IQ. We are looking forward to representing the CIS and our country at this prestigious event.”
Flinton said the team will leave two weeks before the tournament starts to begin practice and preparations for the tournament.
So far in 10 games with the Huskies this season Flinton has three goals and three assists and sits second among team-leading scorers and fifth among league-leading defencemen.
The Huskies are currently fourth in the Canada West conference with seven wins and three losses.
Flinton added the 2015 Winter Universiade is athlete-funded, so she’s looking for individual and corporate sponsors to help her attend the tournament.
If anyone is interested in providing a sponsorship Flinton said she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– With files from Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies