Olivia Cvar and the Manitoba under-18 female hockey team left the Canada Winter Games without a medal, but the five-foot-seven forward loved every moment of her time in Red Deer, Alta.
“The experience was so amazing. The environment was just crazy. The amount of volunteers and other athletes that show the same kind of ambition and love for their sport, it was just so awesome to be in,” the 18-year-old told The Interlake Spectator. “It was like a mini-Olympics and the way they treated you was unbelievable. It made you feel like a superstar and I’ll never forget it.”
Manitoba finished fifth in the 12-team event, knocking off Saskatchewan 5-3 in the fifth-place game on March 2. Cvar recorded the game-winning goal and a pair of assists in the contest to finish as the tournament leader in goals (seven) and points (11).
Cvar, who is from Gimli but now lives in Stonewall, also had a marker and two helpers in Manitoba’s tournament opener, a 3-0 victory over Saskatchewan on Feb. 24. She was held pointless in a 2-1 loss to Quebec on Feb. 25, but registered four goals in a 4-1 Manitoba win over New Brunswick to close out Pool A play on Feb. 26.
The quarter-final matchup against host Alberta was tough. Manitoba came out on the wrong side of a 3-0 decision as Sarah Wozniewicz had two goals and an assist to lead Alberta into the championship semifinals.
“It was really difficult with Alberta having that home-ice advantage, and lots of fans and support,” Cvar said. “There was lots of people from Manitoba, just not as much. It was a really quick game. Alberta was really fast and they wanted to win just as much as we did and a couple of bounces went their way more than they went our way.”
Manitoba bounced back in a consolation semifinal on March 1, defeating New Brunswick 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Kaila Powell. Cvar, who was in Red Deer with a trio of her Balmoral Hall Blazer prep hockey teammates, scored in the third period.
Capping off the tournament with another win over Saskatchewan made the trip home easier.
The bonds the Manitoba players formed at the Canada Games were on display over the course of the entire event.
“It really showed on the ice, we’d sacrifice everything in that game or in that shift,” Cvar added. “You just know that they have your back and that’s what the game is about, having trust and it really showed.”
Although Cvar and her teammates were focused on playing the best hockey they could muster, they also managed to check out other events such as curling, squash and badminton during their time away from the rink.