Hockey player gathers honors

A UVM women’s hockey player was recently honored for her performance for her national team at Olympic qualifying.

Sophomore defender Sammy Kolowrat joined the Czech Republic national team for the final round of Olympic qualifying in Arosa, Switzerland Feb. 9 to Feb. 12, as they attempted to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

According to Kolowrat, getting to Switzerland was “an absolute nightmare,” due to the weather conditions that week.

She did eventually make it to Zurich, but needed a couple days before the tournament to recover from jet lag, Kolowrat said.

The Czechs opened the tournament with a 5-0 win over Norway before edging out Denmark 4-3. Kolowrat had a goal in the Denmark game.

This set up a game against Switzerland, the reigning Olympic bronze medalists and hosts, in which the winner would qualify for the Olympics, something the Czech Republic has never accomplished.

The Czechs scored first on a goal by Robert Morris forward Aneta Lédlová, but Switzerland responded with four unanswered to qualify for the Olympics with a 4-1 win on home ice.

According to Kolowrat, the team’s inexperience hurt their cause against the battle-tested Swiss team. The team’s average age was 21.75, according to Elite Hockey Prospects, an online hockey statistics resource.

Despite a cultural stigma against it, women’s hockey is starting to catch on in the Czech Republic, Kolowrat said.

“The culture back home is still one where people say to me ‘You play hockey? Hockey isn’t for girls, you must be kidding,’” she said. “Now, there are a lot of young girls making appearances on the National Team and there are more and more girls starting to play.”

The lack of a strong domestic league doesn’t hinder this, Kolowrat said.

“Even though there isn’t a very strong or successful women’s league in the Czech Republic, girls are realizing that they can play and have a future playing hockey in different countries like America, Sweden and Russia,” she said.

Following the tournament, Kolowrat was named the tournament’s best defender.

“I was honestly shocked when they announced my name,” Kolowrat said. “Even though we didn’t make it [to the Olympics] this time, the award kind of validates that I did everything in my power and couldn’t have done something more on an individual level to get us there.”

UVM women’s hockey head coach Jim Plumer believes this will help Kolowrat’s confidence going forward.

“It’s a huge boost to her confidence, to have the weekend that she did,” Plumer said. “Even though her team didn’t qualify, to be named most outstanding defenseman is a great credit to her.”