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Canada's Laura Stacey has an incredibly high ceiling

At 24, the Markham Thunder right winger is coming into her own on the international stage and her performance in Toronto at the Rivalry Series demonstrated just how dominant the youngster can be.

Game 2 of the women’s Rivalry Series between Canada and the U.S. belonged to Laura Stacey. The Canadian right winger set up her team’s first goal on a beautiful feed to Marie-Philip Poulin, then made an equally brilliant pass to Jamie Lee Rattray for what stood up to be the game-winner in a 4-3 triumph in Toronto. Not bad for someone who was technically on the fourth line.

But let’s look at this objectively and acknowledge that in a game featuring most of the best women in the world, someone had to play on the fourth line and Stacey’s trio with Rattray and center Blayre Turnbull gave the Americans fits all night.

“I just knew when I sent them on the ice, chances are we were going to play a shift in their end and chances are we were going to grind on them,” said Canadian coach Perry Pearn. “And that’s certainly what they did.”

Stacey’s all-around game was a sight to behold. The top playmaker on the CWHL’s Markham Thunder, her passing vision is elite and Rattray admitted after the game that even she thought Stacey was going to shoot on the rush that ended with Rattray burying her silky feed.

“We started playing together the past six or seven games in Markham and Laura’s pretty easy to play with,” Rattray said. “She works her butt off and we’ve been able to find some chemistry, so it’s fun.”

Stacey is the type of skater who keeps plays alive in the offensive zone and doesn’t shirk her duties defensively, either. A critical stick-lift in the third period thwarted what would have been a sure American goal, for example.

And of course, there are Stacey’s physical gifts. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 143 pounds, Stacey is tied with Natalie Spooner as the tallest player on Canada’s national team and Stacey’s great skating acumen means that excellent frame is moving in a hurry.

“That’s something I try to use to my advantage,” Stacey said. “My size and my speed are things I’ve been fortunate to be given. Having that longer reach and that bigger frame for driving the net and creating chaos – I do try my best to use that to my advantage.”

Not that it was always easy. While she has always been relatively tall, there was a point where young Stacey had to adjust to her new-found height.

“I definitely had a spurt where I was long and lanky and struggled with my size,” she said. “But I’ve tried to grow into my body and my size is a big part of my game.”

At 24, the Markham star isn’t the youngest on Team Canada, but she’s certainly on the younger end. The Dartmouth Big Green alum has already played in the Olympics and the World Championship, but she’s happy to soak up the lessons from Canada’s veterans.

“The leaders and the older girls on the team do an amazing job of showing us the ropes and showing us the way to win,” she said. “For myself, unfortunately I’ve been on the tough side of the stick so far in big tournaments, so it’s been huge for the leadership group to lift us up and show us that we can do it. I owe a lot to them for my whole Olympic experience; they definitely made me feel like family.”

As an impressionable youth, Stacey looked up to one of the most legendary Canadian players ever for inspiration and in recent years, she’s been able to hang out with her hero.

“Ever since I was a little kid, watching the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Cassie Campbell has been that role model,” Stacey said. “I never had a chance to play with her, but I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet her a ton of times and it’s not only the hockey player she is, but the female role model and the person she is off the ice is huge. She’s definitely someone I look up to.”

And while Stacey may be grinding in the Rivalry Series, it’s hard not to see her taking on a bigger role for Canada in the future: she already has a signature moment in the CWHL, having scored the overtime winner in last year’s Clarkson Cup.

The talent is there, the physical gifts are there and the drive is apparent. But the wins are always going to come first for her.

“Every time I come to an event, it’s a matter of playing my game and helping the team, regardless of what role that is at the time,” she said. “Whether it’s producing or blocking shots, I’m going to embrace that role.”

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