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Bohlken excited for Summer Showcase opportunity

Moose Jaw product and U of S Huskies standout to take ice with USports All-Stars at National Women’s Team Selection Camp
Leah Bohlken has only been in Calgary for the Hockey Canada Summer Showcase for a couple of days and it’s already been an eye-opening experience.

Fitness testing, meetings, classroom sessions and yes, even an on-ice session or two. Plenty busy, and the games haven’t even begun.

But that’s all part of the plan for Bohlken and her USports All-Stars teammates as they prepare to take part in the National Women’s Team Selection camp, including a set of exhibition games to help Hockey Canada coaches select Team Canada for a three-game series against the United States at the end of the month.

“It’s an awesome experience, it’s good to come into one of these camps and see everybody else and have good competition, learn some different things from the other girls,” Bohlken said Saturday morning from Calgary, shortly after completing the first round of fitness testing – including the dreaded beep test, where she recorded an impressive 10/2. “The more people you have around, the more you can learn. So I’m really excited just to compete with everybody and play with my team. I think we’re going to have a really good team and now we’re just waiting for the games to start.”

The camp runs from Aug. 2 to 11, with tournament games beginning Aug. 5. Five teams will take part, including 45 of the top development players from throughout the country broken into two squads. The event will also feature the national teams from France and Japan.

Bohlken cracked the USports line-up largely due to her standout season with the University of Huskies in 2018-19, where she led the team in scoring with nine goals and 16 points in 27 games. That total was second among defenceman and 11th overall in Canada West, earning her a first-team all-star selection for the season. She also suited up for Team Canada at the World Universiade, winning the silver medal.

The goal of the Showcase is to offer all the players involved a chance to improve as much as possible while at the same time throwing a heavy challenge at the players looking to crack the Canadian national team line-up.

“It’s definitely exciting to play against the teams that they’re picking from,” Bohlken said. “Obviously we want to play our best against them so they can improve and then it’s a bit of a challenge for us, too, ‘can we beat them’. So I’m looking forward to playing against them and helping them improve and trying to improve just as much ourselves… Everything that we learn here this week we can take back to our teams back home, so we’re all really looking forward to these games.”

And yes, there is a chance that with a strong enough showing, Bohlken could find herself once again wearing the Maple Leaf in a few weeks time – while the two main development teams will draw the most eyes, players on the USport squad have already been identified by Hockey Canada, meaning a good week could lead to big things.

“So if there’s somebody who stands out, (Team Canada) isn’t going to pass up the opportunity to have them play on that team,” Bohlken said. “There’s definitely a chance, so we’ll see where the week takes us.”

Regardless of how things turn out, Bohlken and her U of S teammates – including Weyburn’s Bailee Bourassa, who’s also part of the Showcase – will be looking for big things this season. The 21-year-old fifth-year veteran is one of eight final-year players taking the ice with the Huskies in Canada West in 2019-20, meaning the goals will be lofty right from first puck drop.

“The goal this year is to go all the way,” Bohlken said. “This is the definitely the year to do it… then individually, it’s just improving as a player. Last year I had the kind of season I’d never had before so going into this year I’m going to do what I can to become a better player and help our team win as many games as possible.”

Tournament play begins Monday, with USports’ contests taking place on Tuesday against Japan, Wednesday against France, Thursday against Canada Gold, Friday against Canada Red and Saturday against Japan.

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