Virden’s Dara Thompson helped Team Manitoba win its final game to capture seventh place at the National Women’s U18 Hockey Championships.
The Keystone Province squad beat Team Atlantic, 2-1, on Nov. 10. That earned the team seventh place and concluded a memorable experience for the daughter of Vaughn Thompson and Kimorie Lees at the prestigious tournament, which ran Nov. 5-11 in Dawson Creek, B.C.
“Winning against Atlantic in our last game was huge,” Thompson said. “It showed a lot of people that we are waiting to fight until the end. Manitoba was in every game that we played, and we battled hard. It was great to come to a tournament like this because every team was in every game and the compete level was high.”
The talented Thompson has committed to play next season for Calgary’s Mount Royal University at the U Sports level. She said competing at nationals was a great introduction for her to higher calibre hockey.
“All of the teams were fast, smart and strong. … It was a privilege to not only play against other girls who represent their province too, but who themselves played at the next level – for Team Canada,” Thompson said.
The forward contributed in various ways for Team Manitoba.
“Dara brought a strong defensive game to the team,” Team Manitoba head coach Maggie Litchfield-Medd said. “She was a versatile player, starting at centre then was slotting into wing without any hesitation and played that position with confidence. Up front, she forechecked strong and inside the dots caused turnovers and created chances for Toba.”
The head coach also praised the intangibles Thompson brought to the team.
“She had a calm demeanour on the bench that helped steady the team in tight games,” Litchfield-Medd said. “Her focus and dedication to hockey was showcased this weekend and we can’t wait to see how her rookie season at Mount Royal goes.”
Thompson appreciates all that her family has done to help her get to where she is in hockey.
“(My parents) took time off of work to be in Dawson Creek this past week to cheer on my teammates and I,” she said. “I cannot thank them enough for all of the hours that they have spent driving me to the rink or taking me to hockey camps all over the province. They are always positive and remind me how special it is to be a part of a team.
“My older brother Davis, who plays for the Winnipeg Freeze in the (Manitoba Junior Hockey League), has also been one of my biggest supporters. Whether that’s giving me rides to practice when I was younger or practicing with me on the ice, he has been a huge contribution to any success that I have had. It is awesome growing up in a household that loves the game just as much as I do. It makes the sport so much more meaningful.”
The 2023 national tournament will certainly be an important hockey memory for Thompson. She noted Team Manitoba got to explore Dawson Creek. That included taking pictures at the Alaska Highway Mile Zero marker and decorating cookies at Tim Hortons to give to supporters in the stands.
“Dawson Creek is such a welcoming city, and the community was so friendly,” Thompson said. “The tournament volunteers and businesses were amazing and put in so many hours to make this event possible.”
She said nationals was “an amazing experience” on and off the ice.
“From the atmosphere in the arena to being a part of a team – so special. I can truly say I enjoyed every minute. It was an honour and privilege to represent Manitoba and I made so many new friends along the way. The coaching staff was also incredible, and I felt that I learned so much from them. I worked really hard to make the team and now that it’s all over its bittersweet, but I am looking forward to getting back to the league and using what I’ve learned this past week with my AAA team, the Yellowhead Chiefs.”