In the spring, there was a constant chant that followed Molly Box around the Pursuit of Excellence (POE) Hockey Academy in Kelowna, British Columbia. It came courtesy of her teammates Ariana Pinchuk and Tyra Death, who had both already committed to playing hockey for Dalhousie University.
“They knew I was looking still and they had this running joke- every time I see them they’d say ‘come to Dal, come to Dal, come to Dal,'” says Box.
In April, the decisions were final, and in September, all three rookies made the move across the country to play for the Tigers.
Hailing from Vernon, BC, Box moved out to Halifax because she wanted a new experience and a change from Western Canada.
“I wanted to be away and that’s what it meant for me, for something to be new and exciting,” says Box. “I needed to go away from what I’m comfortable with.”
Having Pinchuk and Death alongside her, however, has still made the defencewoman more than happy.
“That’s probably been one of the greatest things about coming here – that they’ve been here,” Box says.
Pinchuk, also a defencewoman, was the first of the three to commit to playing for Dalhousie back in December of 2016. She said that her decision was individual due to the uncertainty at the time of where her teammates would be playing.
“Tyra [Death] was kind of talking to them a bit and I didn’t know if she was for sure coming or not, so it was all kind of up in the air at that point,” says Pinchuk.
The Sherwood Park, Alta. native chose to move to Eastern Canada because she loves the East Coast, and she’s happy with how things have turned out with Box and Death along with her.
She says that it’s “way more comfortable having a group of friends you’re familiar with already. Moving in and living away from home, it’s nice to know people coming into this.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by her teammates, as Death agrees that they’re all adjusting well in the transition to university hockey.
Death, a science student from Grand Prairie, Alta., chose to study at Dalhousie because she wanted to play hockey in Canada and because of Dalhousie’s academic reputation, especially for medical science.
Although the 5’3″ forward has been sidelined for the month of September by a torn MCL and meniscus, she hopes to be practicing in full equipment in the next couple weeks.
Death also credits the Pursuit of Excellence program in easing the transition to university. In terms of travelling for hockey, workouts, and ice times throughout the day, “POE prepares you pretty well,” she says. “It’s a really busy schedule but it’s similar to this.”
Head Coach Sean Fraser agrees: “We know what we’re getting when someone plays [at POE] because of their schedule and because of the level they play at before they got here.”
In addition to the POE alumni, there are six other rookies on the team, hailing from Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The coaching staff expects the rookie class as a whole to have an impact during the season.
“We’re excited for the year,” says Fraser. “We think they’ll all be able to step in and contribute in many different ways.”
It’s highly unusual that the team has so many first-year players from Western Canada. This is the most they’ve had in one recruiting class, but it wasn’t by design. Nonetheless, the coaching staff is pleased with the results.
“Those were the players we were happy with in the recruiting process and wanted to add to our roster,” says Fraser, “and we were lucky enough to get them all.”