Lilydale's Madison Beck is living a dream.
The goaltender is currently in Obihiro, Japan as a member of Team Canada that will compete at the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championships January 5-13.
Following a team practise in Burnaby, B.C., December 30, Beck found a bit of time to chat about her journey. The following day, the team was to play an exhibition game, attend the Team Canada versus Russia game, and fly out at midnight New Year's Eve.
"The excitement just keeps growing and growing every day," said the 17-year-old goaltender. "I still can't believe that I've made it and that I'm going to be flying over to Japan. It just seems so crazy and incredible."
Team Canada will begin play against Sweden January 5 at midnight (AST) January 5 and 6. They will also play against the four-time defending champions from the United States January 7 at 4:00 a.m. and Russia at midnight January 8 and 9 to wrap up the preliminary round. The tournament closes with the gold medal game at 4:00 a.m. local time on January 13.
Beck, who is in Grade 11, and attending St. Paul's High School in Concord, New Hampshire, said she found out that she made the 23-player roster early in December.
"It was actually in the evening, I was walking through our student centre. I was basically waiting all day and every time a phone went off during class I kind of jumped and was checking my phone," she recalled.
"But this time my phone was ringing in my pocket and for a second I didn't realize what was happening. I pulled it out and I saw that Gord (Woodhall) was calling, the goalie coach, and my heart just kind of dropped and I ran away from everyone that was there and I just went into a hallway by myself and I answered.
"'Hello', he said 'do you know why I'm calling?' and I said yes, like really nervously, and then he told me congratulations. I cut him off and I said are you serious, because I didn't believe that I'd actually made the team."
She then had to try and focus on the next two weeks before heading home on the Christmas break.
"It was hard. I'm not going to lie, so I was just like get my work done, get good grades, stay focused, try to push through, it's going to be here really soon and my parents were just saying focus on school, because they knew how excited I was and how much I just wanted to get home and get this journey started," she said.
On the ice, "I made sure I focused more on the details and refined my skills so I could be the best that I could be when I came up here and then I made sure that I got workouts in to make sure that I was in shape for it."
Beck, along with playing for her school team, also plays for a club team called the Boston Junior Eagles.
"Our school season runs after American Thanksgiving to February," she said. "We play with the club team as well that starts in the beginning part of the fall. Then, if we qualify for the nationals (after playing in a State tournament played over American Thanksgiving), we will play in a national tournament in April.
"This year, for the second straight year, we qualified for nationals and this year's tournament will be played in California."
Making the national under-18 team meant that she was able to check another box on her goal list that she made when she was young.
"At nine I made this list because I knew I wanted to do big things and achieve these goals and then just finally I was ticking them off one by one and I was just hoping that one day I would make Team Canada and cross that off," she said.
"I knew that it would be hard to do and a long shot, but now it's just incredible and now that I think that I've made it here if I just keep working hard, I am just that much closer to actually continuing on with this program at the older level."
Earlier this year she was able to check off playing in her first international game.
She was one of 92 players to attend the Team Selection Camp in Calgary this past summer and after a few exhibition games, that number was narrowed down to 45 players that were selected to play in a three-game series against the United States.
Beck played in the game two of the series and stopped 23 of 26 shots in a 4-3 victory.
Another check mark came when she found out in November that she will be a member of Team Nova Scotia that will compete at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alberta, February 15 to March 3. The women's ice hockey competition itself will be played February 24 to March 2.
She soon hopes to be able to check off her first international tournament medal off the list.
The 2019 Team Canada edition will be trying to win their first gold medal since 2014. Since then they have won silver three times (losing to the United States all three times) and last year they won bronze.
"I think we have an incredible team this year. We definitely bonded quickly, even just being together for a short time," said Beck. "There's been a lot of laughs shared off the ice, and on the ice, we are all focused. We're all here to work and get better. We are paying attention to detail and I think we will be able to match up with any team that we meet."
Beck says that defence is the key to success.
"We need to come together as a team and protect our d-zone. Everything starts with the d-zone and if we don't let them score, we will have an opportunity to win," she said.
The team is carrying three goaltenders to the tournament including Raygan Kirk of Ste. Anne, Manitoba, and Mahika Sarrazin from Gatineau, Quebec.
"There wasn't a lot of time to get the money together to go. It is an expensive trip," she said.
A member of the community had put on a "go fund" me page to help send them, but unfortunately there just wasn't enough time. "It was amazing to see the community to show support like that and they were willing to do this for my family at holiday time."