Jennifer Gardiner in action with Greater Vancouver Comets of the B.C. Female Major Midget League. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

HOCKEY: Olympic dreams for Surrey teen now with Canada’s U18 team

Cloverdale’s Jenn Gardiner a third-year star with Comets of B.C. Female Major Midget League

Cloverdale teen Jenn Gardiner is hoping to skate her way onto Canada’s Olympic hockey team one day, and her work ethic just might get her there.

“She has a good shot at that, no question,” said Mark Taylor, her coach with Greater Vancouver Comets of the B.C. Female Major Midget League.

”She’s a great kid and it’s been fun to coach her,” Taylor added. “She’s a very focused individual and puts in the work, at practice and off the ice in the gym, and you know, I think she really gets it. She knows what her potential is and where she wants to get to, and she’s put in the effort, for sure.”

Gardiner has led the Comets in scoring over the past two seasons, and now captains the team.

“Her first year, she won the scoring race with 34 points and then won it again last year with close to double that, and it’ll be interesting to see what she can do this year,” Taylor said.

Over the summer in Calgary, Gardiner played on Canada’s U18 national team in series of games against an American squad.

“It was a pretty big deal for me to be invited to camp among 40 girls from across the country,” Gardiner said. “And then they cut that number to 23 the following week, and I was among those 23.”

Canada’s U18 team is a stepping stone for those hoping to play for the senior national team.

“That’s my goal, to get there,” Gardiner said on Sept. 18, the day she turned 17.

In February, she’s a lock to play for Team BC at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.

A month before that tournament starts, she plans to fly to Japan to play at the U18 world championships.

“It’s very exciting, and definitely an honour to wear the maple leaf,” said Gardiner, a Grade 12 student at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

At age two, she started skating and soon got involved in hockey, following in her older brother’s footsteps.

“She tried figure skating, but there was no way she’d wear those skates,” recalled her mom, Diane. “She took lessons, but she would always wanted to wear hockey skates.”

While at A.J. McLellan Elementary, eight or nine of the boys in her Kindergarten class played hockey.

“That’s really where it started,” Diane said, “and a lot of those boys now play with her on the team at Tweedsmuir. They won the Surrey championship last year. It’s pretty cool.”

By the time she hit Bantam on a Surrey Falcons team of girls, she was on Taylor’s radar for a roster spot on the Comets the following season.

“The big thing for her at the time was to be more consistent and try to be a difference-maker every time she stepped on the ice,” Taylor said. “I think she had moments of greatness in her first year (on the Comets) and in Bantam, but there were some long spells where, if the puck didn’t come to her, she wasn’t really making things happen. To her credit, she’s really figured that out, how to be dominant with and without the puck, in a lot of different ways – on the back-check, breaking up plays, coming back and stealing pucks, and then getting in the transition part of her game. She’s really taken her game to another level, how to bring it every shift.”

Next winter, Gardiner is committed to play for the University of Ohio team.

“I’m looking forward to that, too,” she said before having to leave home for practice and dryland training.

“That’s how I celebrate my birthday,” she added with a laugh.

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Jennifer Gardiner scores for Greater Vancouver Comets of the B.C. Female Major Midget League during an exhibition game with Delta Hockey Academy (DHA) on Sept. 16 at Delta Planet Ice. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

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