Edge School student heads south to play for University of Wisconsin
Fourteen years of dedication to her sport has paid off for Erika Sowchuk. The 18-year-old, who will graduate from the Edge School later this month, will soon play for the University of Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team.
Sowchuk, who grew up in Fernie, B.C., began playing hockey at the age of four after spending hours at the rink watching her older brother play. She played most of her minor hockey in Fernie before transferring to the Edge School at the beginning of her Grade 11 year. Her idol growing up was Hayley Wickenheiser and playing Division I hockey in the U.S. has been a dream of hers for years.
“I love hockey and I have a passion for it,” she said. “I wanted to give myself the opportunity to accomplish my goals. It’s an all-around great school and it has an amazing hockey program. They’ve done really good in the past and that’s obviously an important reason I chose it.”
The Badgers is the second-ranked National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s hockey teams in the U.S., behind only the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Wisconsin advanced to the Frozen Four five of the past six years. The Badgers won the national title in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011. The team took second place in 2008 and again this past season after losing to Minnesota.
Meaghan Mikkelson, who won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, played with the Badgers from 2003 to 2007.
Sowchuk, who was also recruited to play for the Harvard and Princeton hockey teams, said that the Badgers’ coaching staff factored into her decision to play for Wisconsin.
Mark Johnson has been coaching since 2002. He played with five teams over the span of an 11-year NHL career and won gold with the famed 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic “Miracle on Ice” hockey team. He won his second Olympic medal in 2010 as the head coach of the U.S. women’s hockey team, who lost to Team Canada in the tournament final.
“He’s a hockey god,” Sowchuk said. “It’s going to be pretty special to play for him and I’m going to learn a lot from him.”
While the prospect of moving to a new country to attend school may be daunting for some, Sowchuk said that her two years at the Edge School has helped her prepare for the transition. She also has experience playing in a foreign country.
Two years ago, Sowchuk tried out for Hockey Canada’s Under 18 team, but was one of the last players cut. This year, she was able to crack the roster and won gold with the team at the Under 18 World Championships, which were hosted by the Czech Republic from Dec. 13 to Jan. 7.
“That was a dream come true for me,” she said. “It was really cool to be playing at the international level. I’ve never felt a sense of honour and pride like that before. (Wisconsin) is going to be a big step up from what I’m playing, but I already know what it’s like to play at the international level, and that will help me out.”
While Sowchuk is undecided as to what she will study when she heads to Wisconsin in the fall, she hopes that playing at the collegiate level will help her achieve her next dream, which is to make Canada’s U-22 team.
“It’s my hope and dream to stay within the Hockey Canada organization,” she said. “I want to play hockey as long as I can and I’m going to try to develop as much as I can.”