Danika Ranger already holds one distinction with Hockey Canada. She is the
only player to have been named Top Goaltender at both the Esso Cup and
National Women’s Under-18 Championship.
She shares another one with Michela Cava. The two are the only players to
have won a gold medal at Canada’s National Female Midget Championship –
Ranger with the Sudbury Lady Wolves in 2015; Cava with the Thunder Bay
Queens in 2010 – and the U18 nationals, something both accomplished with
Ontario Red a year after winning their Esso Cups.
“I actually didn’t know that,” says Ranger. “It’s pretty cool that I’ve got
two national titles and I ended up being top goaltender at both. That’s
very special to me.”
She could soon add another line to her bio should she enjoy similar success
with Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team. A gold medal at the 2017 IIHF
U18 Women’s World Championship would make her the only player to have a
trifecta of titles at the under-18 level.
It’s hard to believe that someone who regularly needs extra room in her
carry-on for the hardware she acquires has spent her share of time on the
outside looking in.
Of the 23 players representing Canada at the world championship in the
Czech Republic, Ranger is the only one who wasn’t invited to the team’s
Only a few months after her success at the Esso Cup she attended the
provincial camp for the 2015 U18 nationals. Ontario has two teams at the
event each year – Red and Blue – and Ranger’s name didn’t appear on either
“That’s what motivates me a lot,” she says. “I don’t take it as a letdown.
It’s more fuel to the fire. It gave me more drive, got me to work harder
and gave me something to strive for throughout the year. It helped me
So has big-game experience.
“The Esso Cup made me more comfortable in tougher situations and trying to
find my comfort zone in the game,” says Ranger. She made 19 saves in
Sudbury’s 2-1 win over the Red Deer Chiefs. “It’s definitely a more
difficult game and it made me a better goalie.”
Individual awards are chosen by Hockey Canada scouts. Their stamp of
approval was a confidence booster and proof to Ranger that she was good at
what she did.
After a standout 2015-16 season with the Durham West Lightning – one in
which she led the Provincial Women’s Hockey League in goals-against average
and save percentage – and a strong start this year, Ranger was off to
Regina with Ontario Red.
The accomplishment came with a new challenge: handling expectations.
Ontario Red had won gold at nine of the previous 10 tournaments.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure already, just being on that team,” says
Ranger. “But playing in the final prepared me for being [at U18 women’s
worlds], with the nerves, with the pressure, with the audience. It was a
great experience and it will follow me into the world championship.”
The scouts keyed in on her early in Regina, spreading the word to the
national team coaching staff.
“The more you watch her, the more you see the good things she does,” says
Troy Ryan, head coach of Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team. “I saw
how she competed and just found a way to stop pucks. Whether it was
technically sound or not, she found a way to win.”
The coaches and management staff are reluctant to put too much weight on a
single performance. With Ranger, though, there was a pattern.
“For me personally it was highlighted by her being successful and finding a
way to win gold medals,” says Ryan. “It’s just something that you can’t
ignore. If there’s someone consistent in net when those things are
happening, you got to play a little extra attention.”
What she showed at Canada’s National Women’s Program strength and
conditioning camp in May, its goaltending camp in June and this season with
the Lightning (a .956 save percentage through 10 games) simply reinforced
what she had already done on a larger stage.
“In doing a back-check on her we saw how familiar she is with winning,”
says Ryan. “In a short-term event you can’t really pass up those types of
Her steady presence – and stream of success – earned her not only a spot on
Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team but also contention as the No. 1
New or not, she’s caught on quickly both during goaltender sessions and in
the dressing room. When the veterans presented Ranger with her jersey
before the team’s first pre-competition camp, reality sunk in at the sight
of her name and number on the back of a Team Canada sweater.
“All the new players put them on [together] for the first time,” she says.
“It was such a special moment that my heart was racing the whole time
because I was so excited.”
Ranger then went out and allowed but a single goal in her team’s victory
over a Czech boys’ team.
Heartbeat steadied, it was time to get back to the business of winning.