This week two years ago, the Mercyhurst University Women’s Ice Hockey team had the oppor-tunity to play against a national team at their home rink.
On Oct. 3, 2017, Team China took a trip over to America to play some hockey.
Mercyhurst was able to play Team China because a Chinese businessman created two profes-sional teams in China, Kunlun Red and Vanke. These two teams have a mix of both graduated NCAA players and also the top prospects from China.
The Chinese teams recruited former NCAA coaches in hopes of elevating the play of the Chi-nese National Teams for the next Olympics.
“These two teams came over to the United States and Canada to play teams from the pro leagues here and on the trip. They sought out some NCAA teams for Chi-na’s National Team players to play,” Coach Sisti said.
Emily Janiga, a Mercyhurst alumnae and former captain of the Women’s hockey team on campus, was playing on one of the teams at the time so it was awe-some to have her back on campus playing a sport she loves again. Having her back on campus play-ing on a national team shows the other players what can be possible with hard work and dedication to the sport.
Janiga came back to visit her alma mater with the two hockey clubs that consisted of 60 other players, coaches, and staff in to-tal. Athletes on the Chinese teams consisted of former collegiate ath-letes that attended schools such as Cornell, Boston College, Brown University, Minnesota-Duluth, Dartmouth, Princeton and St. Lawrence University are all repre-sented on these two teams.
Team China came to the Unit-ed States and Canada in efforts to expand women’s ice hockey participation and build a compet-itive team before hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Play-ers on the two Chinese Olympic teams, Kunlun and Vanke, recruit elite players from not only just China and the United States, but also players from European coun-tries.
Alexa Vasko, currently a senior on the Women’s ice hockey team, was able to be a part of this unique experience in 2017. She remem-bers the event as being very special to her since she was able to speak to athletes from a different coun-try that shared the same passion as her.
“It was definitely a really cool experience for everyone on the team! It’s not every day you get to play against an international team, especially China, so that made it very special. Mercyhurst made this a really cool event, and it looked like everyone on campus enjoyed it,” Vasko said.
The game was treated as an ex-hibition match and there was no focus on score, as both teams used the opportunity to see their play-ers in all situations to prepare for the upcoming season.
Coach Sisti believes that this game was a nice tune-up game for the season and that it was a fun way to show off our campus to many new faces.
“It was great to be part of some-thing new and help the sport of hockey continue to grow,” Coach Sisti said.
The visit from Team China was not only a valuable experience for the Mercyhurst team, but a push for women’s ice hockey on the global scale. While it showed how the sport transcends borders, it also helped Team China grow their team and gave talented play-ers a chance to build their career as a hockey player.