The Henderson twins will experience the Canada Winter Games together with the Alberta ringette team.
Kate and Lauren are a pair of 18-year-olds from the St. Albert Mission U19 AA belles who are in their 14th season playing on the same team after starting out in ringette at the bunny level.
The tradition will continue for the Ecole Secondarie Saint Marguerite d’Youville graduates at the Feb. 13 to 20 Games in Prince George, B.C.
“The Canada Winter Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity because it happens every so often and to play with my sister is great because we can share the experience together and make memories,” said Kate, a centre who plays forward for Alberta.
The Games are the highest level of ringette for the twins since the 2014 belle AA nationals, when Mission finished 14th out of 18 teams as the lowest of the four Alberta teams at the tournament in Regina.
“For most ringette players this is our mini Olympics so to speak. The experience in general will be much more fulfilling and sort of dream-like,” said Lauren, who entered the world ahead of her sister. “It will be a step up from nationals, not to say nationals is not hard on its own, but you’re pulling the top players from each province all with the drive to win gold. Guaranteed they’re the most competitive and hardworking girls out there.”
Lauren is thrilled to skate on a team as skilled as the Alberta belles.
“It’s just incredible. It’s such an honour to play with such a group of amazing girls. I couldn’t ask for anything better than to play with a group of girls as talented as the ones they picked for this team,” said the forward for both the Mission and Alberta teams.
Last weekend, Alberta outscored Team Saskatchewan 22-5 in two exhibitions at Servus Credit Union Place in preparation for the Games.
“We’re hoping to go for gold for sure,” said Lauren, who sat out both games with an upper-body injury. “Definitely our skill set is our strength. We’re very fast and we’re very smart with the ring.”
The twins are joined on the Alberta roster by Janelle Wilk of St. Albert, a centre with the U19 belle AA Edmonton Elite.
“All three of them are extremely intelligent players,” said Alberta head coach Kevin Harrison, the bench boss for the Elite.
“As for the twins, I don’t really think they’re really twins anymore because they’re definitely so uniquely different,” Harrison added.
“Lauren just brings that absolute passion and intensity, along with an unbelievable skill set as far as speed is concerned and her shot, but what sets her apart from the other players is just that constant intensity and passion. She can bring it every time.
“With Kate, it’s just her patience and the control of the game and how she can slow the game down and control the game, along with still having that speed and that shot.
“That’s what separates them as twins (in ringette) but they’re inseparable and they’re funny to have when they’re together.
Kate described her sister as a gunner who comes through in the clutch.
“Lauren is a shooter for sure. She is very aggressive. She is one of those players that when it comes down to crunch time you can look to her to get the win or the goal or whatever you need,” Kate said. “She has also been the team leader all throughout the years we’ve played together and everyone looks up to her.”
Lauren praised Kate’s ability to play any position.
“She is definitely a player I wouldn’t want to play against. She is very versatile. This is actually her first time playing forward. She has moved around from defence to centre and now to forward. You can put her anywhere and you can rely on her to do a good job. She makes the right plays and makes the right passes,” said Lauren, who is doing her prerequisite for business at the French campus at the University of Alberta.
After the Games, the twins will focus on nationals as the Mission hosts the belle AA provincials Feb. 27 to March 1.
The third final in three tournaments for the Mission was earlier this month in Lacombe, a 6-3 loss to the Elite to finish 3-2 overall.
Kate racked up five goals and led the team in assists with eight and points with 13. Lauren posted 10 points in the Central Alberta Sting tournament.
The Mission also placed second at the Bernadette Price Memorial in Saskatoon and won the Wood Invitational in Edmonton.
The loss to the Elite left the Mission with a 14-6-1 record against belle AA teams and an overall mark of 18-9-3.
“So far we’ve been very steady and consistent with our games. Hopefully we’ll come out of provincials as Team Alberta going to nationals,” said Kate, who tallied twice against Saskatchewan last weekend.