It was a unique mix of hockey and culture for Vernon 15-year-old Emily Clarke.
The Grade 10 VSS student is spending her days at the beach after a grueling schedule at the World Selects Invitational Under 16 Hockey Tournament in Budapest, Hungary.
Clarke and Anna Morrish of Kamloops were recruited by the Northern Alberta Hockey Association (NOHA) Panthers during the 2014 B.C. Winter Games in Mission, where they boosted the Thompson-Okanagan zone to a bronze medal.
The Legacy Global Sports tournament started with all the rosters being shuffled for five-on-five scrimmages to break the ice.
“It was like a multi-national game,” said Clarke who wore No. 89 for the Panthers. “I was in the third game and one guy watching said our game looked the fastest so the pace gradually got faster.
“I had a great time, meeting so many new people from all over the world, and seeing what kind of hockey they play.”
Clarke, a 5-foot-4 left winger, scored with Morrish assisting as the Panthers finished with a 4-1 loss to Slovakia in the game for fifth place.
The NOHA girls bowed 5-0 to Sweden Selects Blue in their opener.
“They were very fast, big and strong,” said Clarke. “We were trying to figure out things as a team and didn’t play our best.”
The Panthers then lost 5-0 to the eventual champion West Coast Selects of Michigan before stopping Slovakia in a shootout and losing 3-0 to Spartak of Moscow.
“They (Spartak) were scary; they were very aggressive. We had a good day we were all smiling when we beat Slovakia.”
D-man Hannah Bates of the Michigan squad took a two-handed slash to the back of the head from Svetlana Starovoytova of Spartak, who was suspended. The stick broke over Bates’ helmet and made a horrific thwap sound that echoed around the arena. There have been more than 350,000 hits of the incident since it was uploaded last week.
The Panthers avoided any such violence. Head coach Sarah Hilworth, a Vancouver native who played five seasons for the University of Alberta Pandas, was impressed with Clarke’s classy contributions.
“We had her with Anna Morrish and Baillee Werstroh,” said Hilworth. “We had Emily playing in almost every situation and she was a key member of our team. We had a rotating captain for each day, and Emily was a unquestionable pick to wear the A.
“She is a great leader and was able to help out all of her peers. I would say her leadership is her greatest strength as she was able to effectively communicate to all of her teammates. She was an absolute pleasure to have on the team as she always had a positive attitude and had a desire to learn.”
The Panthers, a team full of players from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, flew into Vienna and then continued on to Budapest for the annual tournament.
Clarke said she gained a new appreciation for B.C.’s ice facilities and expects to insert some of the European style into her game this season. She will play for the Midget A Female Salmon Arm Silvertips.
She was with Brent Magnus and the Sladen Moore Bantam Lakers, who lost a thrilling Okanagan Mainline final series to the Kamloops Mystix last season.
“I’m more a playmaker. My shot needs to be worked on. I’m a decent skater.”
Clarke began hockey at age eight and she eyes a collegiate scholarship. Her favourite player is Canadian Olympian phenom Marie-Philip Poulin. Clarke played Rep soccer for the Vernon U16 girls this spring.