Sarah (left) and Amy Potomak. The Aldergrove sisters both attend the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna. Sarah

Sarah (left) and Amy Potomak. The Aldergrove sisters both attend the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna. Sarah

Potomak aims big with Hockey Canada

From Aldergrove to Hockey Canada radar, Sarah Potomak continues to see her stock rise

There is no washing machine in the basement with ding marks from the constant barrage of pucks banging off of it like you hear in the stories with some elite hockey players.

Instead, there is a garage out back on the Potomak’s property in Aldergrove.

In that garage, there is a hockey net, and at quick glance, it becomes evident this net has seen its fair share of hockey pucks over the years.

The red is faded on the goal posts and the meshing is tattered in places, the result of pucks ripping through the netting.

Attached to the goalposts is a tarp, with strategic holes for shooters to aim for during drills, and black smudge marks blend in with the tarp’s white background from where the puck failed to find its target.

This is the Potomak shooting gallery and over the years, it has seen plenty of action.

Sarah Potomak began playing hockey at age six.

The fact she matriculated to the sport should come as little surprise considering her four older brothers all played the sport.

Potomak remembers watching her brothers — Matthew, Mark, Devin and Brandon — skating and playing the game, and she wanted nothing more than to join them.

The elder three are done in the sport, while Brandon plays in the Western Hockey League with the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Amy, the youngest of the six Potomak siblings, also still plays (see below).

Both sisters were helped by the fact their brothers let them tag along and played road hockey with them.

She also remembers the family splitting into two and playing some four-on-four on the ice.

For as long as Potomak can remember, playing hockey was her priority.

“My mom wanted me to do dance and gymnastics, but I just wanted to play hockey,” Potomak said with a laugh.

Potomak did relent and do one year of gymnastics, but that was more than enough to prove to her that was not the sport for her.

She first played with the Aldergrove Minor Hockey Association, before switching to the Burnaby Winter Club. With both, she was on boys’ teams.

Her first experience on a girls-only team was in spring hockey. And after she found out the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna — her youngest brother Brandon was attending the hockey academy — was open for girls, Potomak knew that was the place for her.

The Grade 12 student is now in her fifth year at the school.

And it was in Kelowna that Potomak began setting her goals.

“Ever since then, I have wanted to shoot for the stars,” she said.

The ultimate goal? To represent Canada in women’s hockey at the Olympics, with 2018 the target.

And this is no long shot.

Potomak is in Calgary this week, one of 58 players invited to Canadian women’s national team fall festival.

Potomak, who doesn’t turn 17 until December, is the second youngest player in attendance.

“This (camp) is going to be a good measuring test for her … just to see where she sits against the bigger, stronger and more experienced players,” said Mel Davidson, Hockey Canada’s general manager of the national women’s program.

“She is a solid, young player.”

Potomak has played for her country before, helping Canada win gold at the IIHF U18 women’s world championships earlier this year.

She also represented Canada’s U18 team in a three-game series versus the United States both in 2013 and then again last month.

In 2012, while playing for Team B.C. at the U18 national championships, Potomak led the tournament in scoring.

The first time Potomak pulled the red and white national team jersey over her head was a surreal feeling.

“All my hard work paid off as soon as I put that jersey on,” she described, calling it an honour and a privilege to represent her country.

James Emery/Hockey Canada

Sarah Potomak (#26) battles for position against the United States during a three-game exhibition series between the two countries’ U18 national team squads.

So how does a hockey player go from a small community like Aldergrove to being considered among the best in the country?

Potomak says it began in Kelowna when an increased focus in training.

The results quickly began to show and —despite being in just Grade 10 — she committed to one of the premier NCAA women’s programs, the University of Minnesota.

Over the past two seasons with POE, Potomak has scored 62 goals and 116 points in 79 games,

Potomak has always been an offensive dynamo, equally adept at scoring herself or setting up a teammate. For her part, she doesn’t score if she is playing the set-up man or the finisher as long as the other goalie fishing the puck out of the net.

“I like having the puck on my stick, I like to control it, control the game,” she described.

“Her skill speaks for itself,” said David Synishin, who joined POE this year as the director and head coach of their female program. He has previously coached at the university level.

“It is certainly fun to watch her and how skilled she is,” he said.

Potomak is five-foot-five and uses speed and pace to her advantage.

She is also very intelligent on the ice, adept at drawing defenders to her and then finding an open teammate, Synishin said.

What also stands out is her determination.

“She competes all the time, every shift matters,” Davidson said.


Playing in the shadow of such a talented sibling could be troublesome for some, but Amy Potomak is holding her own, and like her older sister, aspires to one day play for Canada.

“She is a really good role model and helps me a lot,” said Amy, who is two years younger but three inches taller than Sarah.

“It is nice to have her here (with POE).”

The sisters are both forwards and typically play on the same line.

Amy is a Grade 10 student at POE, and has followed her sister’s path, going from Aldergrove Minor Hockey to Burnaby Winter, Club, and now to Kelowna.

Last year, she had 26 goals and 54 points in 45 games.

Amy has also represented Team B.C. at the national championships the past two years, both times as an under-age player.

The sisters skate on the same line with POE.

“I just try and learn off her as much as I can,” Amy said.

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