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Christmastime in Scandinavia for pair of local ringette players

Two sisters from Wellesley will be representing Canada on the international stage in Helsinki, Finland this Christmas as they take part in a ringette tournament.

Sydney and Paige Nosal, both from St. Clements, made the national team in ringette and will be boarding planes for the Scandinavian country this week.

For Sydney, it is her first time playing on an international level for the Team Canada, after watching her sisters compete for their home country in previous years. Her play with the junior team will start with a Dec. 26 game against Sweden as part of a round robin before facing the Finnish team for a best-of-three match-up.

The 18-year-old says that the trip will fulfill a dream she has had since she started playing ringette 14 years ago.

“For me, it has always been a dream to be able to do that,” she said, adding that there is some extra difficulty with her supporters and neighbours watching her from back home. “There is a bit of pressure there, with all eyes watching us in a small town, but overall, it is really exciting and I am really honoured to be able to play.”

Adding some stress to the situation is the fact that she will be in Europe for Christmas this year, instead of around the dinner table with her family celebrating the holidays.

“There is going to be a lot of mental game going on, just missing my family and stuff like that,” she said, however her team is quickly becoming as close as a family. “We have all bonded really quickly, so it will be like having a second family over there. We’re all there and we are all missing our family Christmases, but it is going to be a new experience and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

The sport, which resembles hockey with some equipment and rule changes, is something that Sydney has been passionate about for a long time, and she credits the game for skills she applies to be successful in her everyday life.

“I love the sport, the speed of it, the intensity. It has taught me a lot outside of the sport like organization, dedication, commitment, sacrifice and I have been able to use those in my schoolwork and my everyday life,” she said. “It has been a really good thing for me, kept me busy and out of trouble – you had to be so on top of training. You know the girls are there because they love the sport.”

Sydney’s sister Paige will be hitting the ice with the senior team, and her trip will be taking a bit of a different format. She leaves a couple of days later, and will only be facing Finland rather than competing in a round robin. She faced Finland in 2012 at the world championship held in London, Ont. and says that win will really help at their next meeting.

“We actually went undefeated and won against Finland, who had been undefeated for over a decade,” she said. “It was nice because I had a taste of what the Finland team was like before playing them now. I am not going in blind.”

For the past few practices, Paige and the senior team have been getting their heads in the game. In Helsinki, ringette has a huge following, with passionate fans and loud arenas.

“At our training camps, our coaches had recordings of the drums and the noise that happens at games there, so when we were practicing, they would play that, just to get us used to it,” she said. “It is hard to hear on the ice sometimes when people are cheering like that, so I thought it was a smart idea. We don’t get that in Canada.”

Before she has even gotten on the plane to go play, Paige says she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from St. Clements residents and other ringette players in the area.

“The support back here is so great. I have already had a ton of people come and say good luck to me. I was running a clinic (last Monday) and the coach came up to me and told me they are having a party at her house where they are going to set up the webcast up on the big screen and we are all going to be watching us,” she said. “It is awesome. It is great to hear all the support and people wishing us good luck.”

She has been playing for 18 years, and now, at 22, she runs ringette camps and clinics for young girls who are getting into the sport or who want to improve. She even has some advice for girls who want to get to play for Team Canada in the future: perseverance.

“I would encourage them to stick with it. The biggest thing that helped me was coaching. When you have good coaching, it makes things easier,” she said. “I also really focused on getting involved in camps and learning to perfect those fundamental skills. You get that at camp. In practices, you have to work on your systems and things that will benefit your team. With girls that are just starting out in ringette, I really encourage them to find someone who knows the sport and works on those technical things.”

The sisters will be back in Canada in the new year. To watch Team Canada take on Sweden, the games will be broadcast live at www.youtube.com/user/ringettetv.

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