As it turns out, next to the back of the net, the one thing Victoria Bach might be best at finding is a silver lining.
At a time of great upheaval in the women’s game – the season has been turned on its ear by the shock closure of the CWHL following the 2019 Clarkson Cup and subsequent formation of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, whose players have refused to play in the United States-based NWHL – Bach has managed to look on the bright side. You see, instead of viewing this as a lost campaign, Bach’s outlook is that this season, or lack thereof, is providing her with the one thing she may not have had otherwise: time. That’s time to get into the gym, time to work on puck skills, time to watch tape, time to work with coaches and time to perfect every little detail.
“It's nice because it's not often that you get a year to work on your skills,” she said.
Hey, she’s not wrong. That is one way to look at it. And probably not the worst way, either, because the reality is that Bach is arguably getting a greater opportunity to fine-tune her game than ever before, especially when you consider what a week in the life of the defending – or should we say final? – CWHL rookie of the year looks like. Monday, Bach can be found at a skills session with the Canadian national team. Tuesday, she’s practicing with members of the PWHPA’s GTA East contingent. That’s where she can often be found Wednesday and/or Thursday, too. Come Friday, she’s back with the national team for another skills session. And somewhere in between, she’s fitting in five days in the gym. And none of this is to mention the PWHPA Showcases. Bach has participated in a pair of those now and is slated for a third in mid-January, each providing her with a chance to test her mettle against top competition.
“Not only are we playing for something so amazing,” Bach said of the showcases, “but I think that it's helping our own games. It's bringing out the best in all of us, all of our talent.”
As far as talent is concerned, too, it appears Bach is only beginning to scratch the surface of her own gifts. And through the showcases, the time spent practicing with the PWHPA and at national team mini-camps, it looks as though the true breakout, if it hasn’t already happened, is on the horizon. The beginnings were seen last season when she earned a spot on the Four Nations Cup roster and she impressed enough throughout the campaign to get the call for the Canada-USA Rivalry Series last February. But one season after finishing second in CWHL goal-scoring – her 19 tallies were four fewer than Marie-Philip Poulin’s league-best 23 – Bach, a natural center, was moved to the wing and asked to play alongside Poulin and Emily Clark, a potential sign of big plans for the 23-year-old.
“I was super excited when I got to the camp to find out who I was going to be playing with,” Bach said. “I think for me, it's nice to finally get that chance to get the exposure and chance to play on the big stage. I know I was a part of the team last year, but being a younger player, last year was a learning year for me, getting to go to a couple of events. This year, to actually get the chance to be out there and actually play, kind of showcase what I can do, that was awesome. Helped with the confidence.”
Also helping her confidence? Her performance. In the opening game of the Pittsburgh double-header, Bach scored twice and fired four shots on goal. She followed that up with a one-shot outing in the second contest of Canada’s two-game sweep. And her two-goal, top-six-worthy showing in Pennsylvania is going to make it awfully difficult to deny her a spot not only on the upcoming Rivalry Series roster, but on the World Championship roster when the tournament gets underway in late-March in Halifax and Truro, N.S.
Making the worlds roster is indeed Bach’s goal for this season. It is, after all, what she says she spent the entire summer and the early portion of this campaign working towards. There is another, slightly more distant goal in mind, however: Bach wants to be there when the Canadian national team enters into centralization in preparation for the 2022 Olympics. So, what’s the path there?
“(The coaching staff) wants to see me keep on going on steady pace, doing what I'm doing,” Bach said. “And the thing for me is not getting too stressed about it, playing the game I know I can play. If I do that, hopefully everything will fall in place after that.”
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