The Daria O’Neill feed was perfect, slicing through coverage, right to Tatum Amy’s blade.
Then, as the Birtle, Man., native slid the puck home, her team’s bench erupted.
The Mount Royal University Cougars women’s hockey team had beaten the favoured University of Toronto Varsity Blues. In its first game at nationals, the club gained its first win and advanced to the U Sports national women’s hockey championship semifinals.
“As soon as [O’Neill had] the puck, I gave a stick tap and wasted no time to shoot it in the net,” Amy said.
“That goal was probably one of the biggest [highlights] of my hockey career.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget. Every time I watch it I get the same feeling I felt when I first put it in.”
The third-year forward was so wrapped up in the moment it barely registered, but luckily linemate Tianna Ko was right there to see it all unfold.
“Well I was laughing with [O’Neill] about this because […] I was still yelling at [O’Neill] to shoot the puck because I didn’t see [Amy] sitting back door,” Ko said.
“And so when she passed it I was thinking ‘What are you doing?’ but then I saw that [Amy] was there and then the puck went in and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited.”
Being involved in such a historic moment was huge for both players, setting the club up for what looked like a magical run to the national finals. Beating Toronto to open the tournament for Ko “proved to a lot of people that even though it was our first time at nationals we deserved to be there.”
But just a few hours later, what looked like a magic run in the making turned to heartbreak as U Sports announced it was cancelling the remainder of the national championship due to COVID-19 concerns.
Riding high after a historic win, the team was unaware of any discussions going on about cancelling the tournament.
But when head coach Scott Rivett brought the group together to tell the team what was happening, the dream suddenly ended.
“A lot of us were just hanging out, excited about our big win, until we started looking on social media,” Amy said.
“We didn’t want to believe it obviously. But when our coach called a meeting, it felt more real.”
Now the Cougars are left wondering about how far the club could have gone, but that doesn’t mean the players are dwelling.
Both Ko and Amy found a silver lining in the situation and are looking forward, not back.
“It was really disappointing because we were in a position to win the entire thing,” Ko said.
“So not knowing how it would’ve turned out sucks, but I think it’ll just motivate us for next season.”
With two more years left in a Mount Royal jersey, Amy, too, is looking toward next season.
She said the experience has changed how she’ll approach the game moving forward, and she’ll never take a game for granted.
“I think how the tournament ended it was a huge eye-opener for a lot of us,” she said.
“For me, every time I step on the ice I will play like it will be my last game.
“Nationals was the biggest stage I’ve ever played on, and for some girls that game was their last one with a Cougars jersey on, and they didn’t even know it.
“That win will be an experience none of us will ever forget, and I couldn’t [have] asked for better teammates to share it with.”
Despite the fact she’ll be able to pull on a Cougars sweater again, will have two more shots at getting to nationals and has the memory to look back on, Amy still wonders what could have happened if they had kept playing.
But the Manitoban sees the brighter side.
“I think one more thing that hasn’t left my mind is that despite the circumstances, I can’t help it but think about the ‘What if?’ and if we could [have] carried on and played,” Amy said.
“But, as athletes we are taught to always stay positive, so I choose to look at the good things and that’s the fact that my team is healthy, and we got to play one game that we will never forget.”