In an international exhibition match last Wednesday, the U of T Varsity Blues Women's Hockey Team fell 7-2 against China's Olympic Women's Hockey Team. The team was in town to play a few exhibition games in preparation for the Winter Olympics.
This marked the second time the teams had faced off against each other this season. Both teams played at fiercely competitive levels. “U of T played China in the fall. They were impressed with our style of play, and as a result, wanted to come back and play us again. Ontario has very strong women's hockey, so countries are aware that they can get solid games here" said Varsity Blues head coach Karen Hughes of China's decision to play Ontario teams for pre-Olympics practice.
Team China arrived in Ontario on Jan. 20 for part two of their pre-Olympic training camp. They played a series of six games against the Ontario Women's Hockey Association. “All the games have been tough," said Vesa Virta, China's goalie coach. "We've had two wins and two losses so far. The OWHA definitely plays at an Olympic level. They are as good as some of the best teams in the Olympics.”
Zhang Ben of Team China told the newspaper that her experience playing in Toronto has “been competitive, especially the OWHA. I expected the Blues to be much tougher. They do use their bodies very well, especially in offence”.
Virta said that Team China is bursting with ambition. "We're going to the Olympics with one motive: to win,” he said.
According to player Jin Fengling, top priorities for the team include winning, working together, and maximum preparation before the Olympics. “We've been training hard during this exhibition season," added Fengling. "The Varsity Blues and the OWHA have prepared us well with their competition.”