Meghan Agosta was holed up in a hotel room for most of Canada’s women’s world hockey championship selection camp in late March.
After the Ruthven, Ont., forward hoisted the Clarkson Cup above her head with the Montreal Stars on March 25, she became extremely ill.
“Right after the final game, I had a really crazy headache,” Agosta said Wednesday. “I knew I didn’t get hit, but I knew I wasn’t normal.”
When Agosta arrived in Ottawa the following day to try out for Canada, it was apparent she could not go on the ice.
“As soon as they saw me they were like, wow,” Agosta said. “I guess I was a green colour.”
The 25-year-old could do little but sleep for the next few days while 28 players battled for 23 spots on the team.
Agosta is an eight-year veteran of the national team and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but veterans don’t necessarily keep their jobs on the team from one tournament to the next.
Three-time Olympian Cherie Piper was beaten out of a spot on this world championship roster by younger talent.
It’s a measure of Agosta’s talent that Canadian head coach Dan Church decided to bring her to Burlington when he announced his team April 1.
“I tried to get the rest and recovery I needed to be prepared if I made the team to do whatever it takes in the world championships,” Agosta said.
“It definitely means a lot, for them to take me even though I didn’t participate in selection camp. You can’t take anything for granted. There’s so many great girl hockey players out there that can take your spot at any moment.”
Canada had a day off from the ice Wednesday after concluding the preliminary round with a 2-1 record. The squad awaited the winner of a quarter-final between Finland and Sweden to determine their semi-final opponent Friday.
The defending champion United States (3-0) also earned a bye to the semi-final. The Americans meet the winner of the other quarter-final between Switzerland and Russia.
Agosta got on the ice with the Canadian team for a game before the tournament against Sweden last week and says she felt back to normal by the time the tournament opened.
Agosta set an Olympic women’s hockey tournament scoring record at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with 15 points in five games. She was named the most valuable player in the tournament.
A college star at Mercyhurst and a perennial finalist for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Patty Kazmaier Award, she lit up the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in her rookie year with the Stars this season. Agosta broke a single-season CWHL record for points with 80 in 27 games.
“I don’t think anyone in the world can skate as fast as she can,” said Canadian assistant captain Caroline Ouellette, who previously held the CWHL record for points with 71.
“When she turns the jets on, she’s gone.”
But Agosta underperformed for Canada at the 2011 world championship in Zurich, Switzerland. After leading Canada’s offence at the Winter Games, she didn’t score one goal last year.
“I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t the best tournament,” Agosta said. “It was kind of the worst tournament I’d ever played with Canada to be honest.
“I sat down after and thought to myself, what did I do this tournament that was different, what can I do that’s better? I think the next opportunity I had to represent Canada was at the 12 Nations and the Four Nations.
“I tried to work on those things I didn’t work on at the last world championships and I think it showed tremendously I was a totally different player.”
Church concurs Agosta was an impact player in both the 12 Nations Cup last summer and the Four Nations Cup last November, which helped her cause when it came to the world championship team this month.
“Meghan wants to be a dominant player here,” Church said. “She’s told me that.”
Agosta scored her first two goals of the tournament as Canada trounced Russia 14-1 to conclude the preliminary round Tuesday. One of them was on a penalty shot.
She might have won Olympic gold with Canada in 2006 and 2010, but Agosta has experienced just one world championship victory in 2007. The United States has won the last three gold medals at the world championship, beating Canada in the final every time.
“Nobody likes losing,” she said. “For us, we haven’t been successful in the past few world championships. The past is the past and this is a new team. We’re going to do whatever it takes.”