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Anmore's Leah Barnard skating east to 'Western' for college hockey

Next year, the current B.C. U18 Female AAA league's leading scorer will suit up at Canada's highest level of university sports.

Leah Barnard is proving she's got what it takes to play at the next level of hockey.

The Anmore product has already matched her points total from last season in just half the time, scoring 14 goals and 36 points in just 13 games with the Fraser Valley Rush in the 2022-23 season thus far.

As of this publication (Nov. 5), she's the top scorer in the under-18 female AAA division of the BC Elite Hockey League (BCEHL), and that talent, plus her outing at nationals last spring, has secured her a spot at Canada's highest level of college sports.

Barnard recently announced her commitment to Western University in London, Ont., next fall — part of U Sports and the Ontario University Association (OUA).

The 17-year-old forward joins teammate Gillian Lapierre as the second Tri-Cities hockey star to put pen to paper for a university women's hockey team starting in the 2023-24 campaign.

Lapierre will be further east in Halifax with the St. Mary's University Huskies.

Barnard recorded four points in six games at the Esso Cup, which is the national championship for U18 female AAA hockey.

This included three assists, and one of which came in the gold-medal match that would ultimately see Fraser Valley fall 4-1 to the Durham West Lightning.

The silver medal for Barnard solidified a historic season as the Rush became the first B.C. team to reach both the final and the playoff round at the tournament.

Prior to the Esso Cup, Barnard notched five points in five playoff games that resulted in provincial and regional banners, as well as 36 points in 32 games from the 2021-22 regular season.

That was the third-highest total among her Fraser Valley teammates last year.

Barnard is set to join a Western University hockey club that's looking to rebound from last year's semi-final exit.

The Mustangs were shut out 3-0 in the OUA west division final to Brock University despite playing as the underdogs that finished ninth in the regular season with a 5-7-3 record.

Western has won two OUA conference championships, one as recently as 2018, and one national title in its history from 2015.

Barnard's next stint on the ice is scheduled for next weekend as the Fraser Valley Rush host a home-and-home with the Greater Vancouver Comets, Nov. 12 and 13.