In just three weeks, Ryan Gower will board a flight as he's off to Prince Edward Island for the 2023 Canada Winter Games, an event that features the best age-eligible athletes in the country competing in 20 different sports.
Gower, who hails from McCreary, will play with the Manitoba men's hockey team after making the roster. The team leaves on February 18 and they open their round-robin the next day against Team Quebec. Excited about the opportunity to represent the province, Gower said making Team Manitoba is an honour.
"It's a very special feeling, it's been a long process and a great experience," said Gower. "I'm looking forward to playing with some new and very competitive players. The Canada Winter Games only happen once every four years, so it means a lot that I will be playing in it."
Gower and the rest of Team Manitoba did get a taste of what they can expect as they played Team Saskatchewan in a pair of games last month in Saskatoon. Team Manitoba edged Saskatchewan in the first game, 3-2, before they came up short in a 4-3 game to wrap up the two-game set.
"Even though it was just an exhibition, the pace was really high and it was competitive," said Gower. "We're going to play them at the Winter Games, so we will know what they are like."
Following the opening game against Quebec, the team plays Saskatchewan the following day before wrapping up their round-robin on February 21 against Team New Brunswick. Before making his way to PEI, Gower will play in six more games with the U18 Rangers. One year removed from playing with the U15 club, Gower is quietly becoming one of the top defenders in the league with an offensive upside. In 36 games, Gower has one goal and 19 assists.
"It was a big change, players are a lot bigger and stronger in U18 compared to U15," said Gower. "With that said, I don't shy away from bigger guys, I try my hardest and I will do whatever it takes to help the team win."
Parkland dropped a pair of games over the weekend against Pembina Valley. Five of the Rangers' last six defeats have come by just a single goal as they continue to hold their own against the best teams in the league. With just seven games left on their schedule, Parkland has officially been eliminated from playoff contention, but that isn't taking away from the enjoyment that Ryan is having while representing the region.
"It's nice to play against the best of the best," said Gower. "It's good for my growth and we have a great group, we continue to work hard. We have a lot of character, we fight night in and night out, even though we aren't a playoff team."
Ryan is also hoping he gets the opportunity to make the jump up to the Western Hockey League in the next couple of seasons. The McCreary native has already signed his Standard Player Agreement with the Prince Albert Raiders and the Raiders organization has said in the past they believe Gower has an extremely bright future ahead.
Gower knows making the WHL is not easy, but he is ready to continue putting in countless hours of hard work so he can achieve one of his major goals.
"I'm very happy to be a part of the Raiders organization," ended Gower. "We will see what the future brings, I just need to keep working hard, getting better, and chasing my goals."