It did not take long for Newmarket's Abby Lunney to make an impact with Team Canada.
Playing with the country’s U18 girls hockey team, she put Canada up in the shootout in their first game against the U.S. in the summer showcase series. The goal would stand as the decider, giving Canada the 6-5 win.
“When I scored that winner, it was just an amazing feeling, especially when my team came and gave me a big hug and everyone was just cheering,” Lunney said. “It just felt amazing, and that’s definitely going to be a time I’ll never forget.”
The local hockey star with the Central York Hockey Girls Association made her Team Canada debut this month, competing in four games for the summer series Aug. 14 to 20, tying for the team lead in points with five.
Making Team Canada was a major goal for the hockey player, who started out on a backyard rink with her family when she was three. She earned an invite to a selection camp to make this squad, and make her mark on the national stage.
“It was just amazing, everything about it. Putting the jersey on for the first time, getting to talk with different Olympians and professional women athletes,” she said.
She credited the team's coaches and support structures for helping her to excel in the four games, one versus Finland and three versus the U.S. Team Canada won all four.
“I learned a lot of new things at the camp, which I brought into my game,” she said.
Lunney has played her entire minor hockey career with the Central York Girls Hockey Association, with this upcoming season being her last one with the team. The association said although it has had other players make it to Team Cannada, Lunney is the first one to have been a lifelong panther, all the way from fundamentals to a player on the junior team.
“Abby is a shining example for our young Panthers. Abby has combined her passion for the Panthers with her commitment to the community, all while achieving her dreams of playing for Team Canada. We are so proud, Abby,” the team said in a news release.
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of lifelong friendships,” she said of her time with the Panthers. “I’ve had quite a few different coaches throughout my experience and each coach has brought me something different.”
With the end of her minor hockey career on the horizon, Lunney has plans to play for Nipissing University in North Bay after this season. But she hopes this is not the end of her time with Team Canada.
“My dream is to play for the Team Canada Olympic team. Hopefully, someday, that will come true,” she said. “I hope to coach and give back to younger athletes like my coaches did for me.”