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Hockey dream come true for Port Moody player

Hands down Jenna Buglioni will have the best winter break story when she returns to class in January at Gleneagle secondary school.
Jenna Buglioni
Port Moody's Jenna Buglioni is playing for Canada at the IIHF U18 women's world hockey championship in Bratislava, Slovakia, Dec. 26 to Jan. 2.

Hands down Jenna Buglioni will have the best winter break story when she returns to class in January at Gleneagle secondary school.

Buglioni, 17, departed yesterday (Wednesday) for Bratislava, Slovakia, where she’s playing for Canada at the IIHF U18 women’s world hockey championships. The tournament begins Dec. 26 and wraps up Jan. 2.

It’s the Port Moody athlete's first taste of international hockey — and she’s determined it won’t be her last.

Buglioni, who plays for the Greater Vancouver Comets of the Female Midget AAA league and was on the provincial team at last spring’s national championships, is one of only three players from British Columbia on the U18 team’s roster, which has traditionally been dominated by players from Ontario and Quebec. That’s where the numbers, and top coaches, are, she said.

But as teams such as the Comets find success at major tournaments back east, B.C. players are getting more heavily scouted and noticed by the national program. This year’s west coast contingent of three is one more than was on last year’s squad.

“We’re closing the gap,” Buglioni said. “The level of skill is getting better out here.”

After a week-long selection camp in Calgary last summer, Buglioni was among the 23 players named to take part in a three-game rivalry series against the United States in Lake Placid, N.Y. in August. And while she didn’t register a point in the series, which Canada won 2-1, Buglioni said she felt she’d excelled at other aspects of her game, like playing responsible defence.

“I think I was right in the mix,” Buglioni said. “When you’re surrounded by the best, it brings you to another level you didn’t know you had.”

But with the decision on final roster positions for the team heading to the world championships not scheduled until November, Buglioni said she had to work hard to keep the momentum of positive feedback she’d received from its coaches through the fall season with her league team. She set aside her love for field hockey. She continued her off-ice training in the gym to improve her strength, speed and cardio fitness. She volunteered to coach younger girls, finding inspiration in their energy and enthusiasm.

When Buglioni did get the call, she was waiting in the family car while her dad, John, was picking up some groceries. It was all she could do not to burst into tears of joy when he returned, she said.

“There’s so many girls in Canada and they had the confidence that I could help the team.”

Since that call, Buglioni has immersed herself in completing tasks and meeting performance goals assigned by her coaches, then checking in with them on a weekly basis.

The team, with some new players who’ve been added since the Lake Placid series, will play tune-up games in Europe to get reacquainted prior to its opening match on Boxing Day at the worlds against Russia.

Buglioni said pulling on the red Maple Leaf jersey will be the fulfillment of a dream she’s had since she was a little girl.

But it’s also the beginning of her quest to someday represent Canada at the women’s world championships and Olympic Games.

“I have my foot in the door,” she said, then mixes her metaphors. “I don’t want to take it off the gas.”