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Plug pulled on U18 Worlds doesn’t diminish what Point Roberts blueliner accomplished

Ava Svejkovsky was days away from going to Sweden when International Hockey Federation cancelled tournament over COVID-19 concerns

Her dream of playing at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships was harshly taken from her on Christmas Eve, yet it hardly diminishes Ava Svejkovsky’s extraordinary achievement.

The 17-year-old blueliner from Point Roberts was among 23 players named to the Team USA roster for the week-long tournament that was scheduled to run from Jan. 8 to 15 in Mjölby, Sweden. It was among six championships cancelled by the International Ice Hockey Federation Council due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

“While we respect the decision of the IIHF Council to cancel the six men’s and women’s world championships, we’re heartbroken for the athletes and staff associated with our U.S. U18 Women’s National Team who have been working so hard to prepare for the chance to compete for a gold medal,” said a written statement from USA Hockey. “We know how disappointing this news is for not only our team, but all those preparing to compete in the various world championships across the world.”

The journey to wearing Red White and Blue

That hard work for Svejkovsky included two trips to Minnesota last summer as part of the extensive selection process and ultimately being one of just two players from the west coast to make the final roster. Los Angeles native Laney Potter was the other.

It would have been the first time in red, white and blue colours for the Delta Hockey Academy U18 Girls Prep Team member. Svejkovsky has grown up learning the game in Hockey Canada’s development system and participated in just one other USA camp two years ago.

This time, she advanced past the initial 76-player camp back in July then locked up a roster spot at the annual USA Women’s Hockey National Festival in August. Svejkovsky didn’t know her status until she was back home.

“At the camp there were some really amazing girls so I was just grateful for the opportunity to be there,” Svejkovsky reflected.  “I was a little torn. I thought I represented myself well but at the same time everybody there had some pretty special things to offer. At the end of the day it was just the type of player they were looking for and I just happened to fit that. I was super happy with the way I performed and either way I was just excited to get home and start training again to get better.

“I grew up playing in Canada since I’m from a really small part of the U.S., so it was really amazing to see how skilled the girls are from the U.S. as well.”

A future Colgate Raider

Svejkovsky was to meet her US teammates in New Jersey before heading to Sweden. She at least knows she will be spending the next stage of her life in the New York area come next September.

She has accepted a scholarship offer from Colgate University, culminating a recruiting process that was initiated soon after she was eligible to begin dialogue with NCAA programs. The Raiders’ roster includes forward Katie Chan who is not only a DHA alumni but Svejkovsky’s one-time neighbor when her family was living in Richmond.

“Right off the bat they were an amazing school with an amazing coaching staff. Ultimately the coaching staff is why I decided to commit there,” continued Svejkovsky. “I love the way they play and really there was nowhere else I would rather go. It just turned out to be a really good fit for me and a bonus that I know someone on the team.

“It’s super cool that we grew up playing together and she was my neighbour when I was six-or-seven-years-old. I would always look across our yard and see (Katie) shooting in her garage. She was definitely somebody I looked up to growing up through hockey.”

Hockey is a true family affair

Svejkovsky has also received plenty of help from within her own home. Her father Yogi is a former NHL player and a renowned skill development coach currently working for the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks. Her brother Lukas was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2020 and is in his final season of junior hockey with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League.

“My dad is such a big influence. Ever since I was at a young age he has been my hockey coach and to this day he still sends me videos,” she added. “It used to be I don’t want to listen to you, your my dad kind of thing, but as I have got older, I’m really learning to appreciate just his hockey sense and the way he sees the game.

“I see my brother’s passion for the game and it honestly has inspired me too. Now we are at the stage of our careers that we can do things like stick handle together. It’s really an awesome thing.”