Sarah Steele won’t get caught looking ahead.
The Stratford native and her Team Canada teammates play Sweden today in Finland with a berth in the women’s world under-18 hockey championship final on the line.
“We obviously know we have a shot of making it to the final, but we can’t think that far ahead,” she told The Guardian Thursday. “We still have a task to complete tomorrow.”
Canada plays Sweden at 8:30 a.m. while the United States plays the Czech Republic in the other semifinal at 12:30 p.m. The winners play in Saturday’s final at 12:30 p.m. All times are Atlantic.
It would appear Canada and the States are on a collision course to the final. Both teams went 3-0 in preliminary play. Canada outscored its opponents 15-1 while the Americans held a 25-0 advantage.
The teams played a three-game series in August in Minnesota with Canada winning two games, including one in a shootout.
Steele is enjoying her time overseas. She said the off-ice highlight was the Christmas celebration.
“Our equipment manager and video guy dressed up as Santa and an elf and they came in and gave presents to everyone,” she said. “It’s really like a family atmosphere here.”
Steele has two assists in three games and is a plus-1. Her role varies from game to game, but the blue-liner has seen time on the power play and killing penalties. The team is rolling through seven defencemen, resulting in Steele playing with a variety of partners.
Steele said there were some nerves involved early in the tournament.
“I really think the series in August really helped with knowing that you are on a big stage and a lot of people are watching,” she said. “I think the bigger expectations come from myself and my coaches and just being reliable to the team.”
Steele said the team has a slogan: “Embrace the climb.”
“I guess we’re climbing up the mountain as we speak,” she said in a phone interview after Thursday’s practice. “We have a team activity afterwards and a mental skills session and then off to bed before the big game tomorrow.”