April 15th, 2024

Gosling cousins make women’s world hockey championship debuts together

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on April 1, 2024.

Forward Julia Gosling, left, and defender Nicole Gosling are shown in this handout image. They are cousins from London, Ont., and will make their women's world championship debut together in Utica, N.Y., where Canada opens against Finland on Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Hockey Canada Images-Heather Pollock *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Julia and Nicole Gosling agree they like playing with each other a lot more than playing against each other.

The cousins from London, Ont., have done both in their hockey careers. They’ve gone head to head in high school and college.

Since winning a 2019 provincial club title together with the London Devilettes, the national women’s program has occasionally reunited them.

Julia, a forward, and Nicole, a defender, will make their world championship debuts together in Utica, N.Y., where the Canadian team opens the 10-country tournament Thursday against Finland.

“It’s pretty rare to do something this extravagant with your cousin,” said Julia, 23. “I’m super proud of her and where we’ve come from. It’s also realizing how good we’ve got together even just playing with each other and against each other.”

“To do it together too is special, more so beyond us,” said Nicole, 21. “It’s special for our families to be able to see both of us make it at this level.”

The Goslings are coming off their senior years with their respective NCCA teams. Nicole and Clarkson were ousted in the women’s Frozen Four semifinal by eventual champion Ohio State, while Julia captained St. Lawrence to the final eight.

Clarkson and St. Lawrence are in the same conference, which meant Julia trying to beat her cousin to the net and Nicole trying to stop her.

“I’d rather her be on my team than playing against her for sure,” Nicole said. “It’s hard. She’s a big presence out there. She has a good shot, good hands, so you know she’s going to be a threat offensively. As a defenceman, I’ve got to be aware that she’s on the ice and try and shut her down.”

“She’s good at that,” Julia chimed in. “I don’t think I got around her this year at all. Her gap is really good. It’s hard to beat her on any move because she’s right there and she can block shots too.

“She’s always ready for the rush. In the offensive zone, she has a really good shot. She ended up scoring all the time against us.

“It makes me proud being her cousin even though it sucked getting scored against. Definitely wished she was on my team instead.”

Their fathers and twin brothers Paul and Peter, who didn’t play hockey but are University of Windsor football alumni, also prefer their daughters on the same side.

“We’re very fortunate, Peter and I,” said Paul, who is Julia’s dad. “It’s always great sharing the game, sharing the pre-game nerves, the excitement of the game itself and talking about it afterwards.”

Nicole’s father Peter admits feeling torn when his daughter and niece squared off against each other in college.

“It’s not fun. Well, it is fun. You want to see who is going to win this battle on this shift,” Peter said. “To me, it was stressful because both want to do well.

“It was always not the best time in the schedule, but at least now we’re rooting for both girls. You just hope they do their part defensively and offensively to be successful for Canada.”

Paul believes the cousins elevate each other’s game.

“If one scores, the other one wants to score,” he said. “Watching them play together, they’ve got a connection. They have a chemistry. Don’t know if it’s just the Gosling in them or what, but they just know how to find each other.”

Julia and Nicole were teammates on the Canadian team that won gold in the 2019 women’s world under-18 hockey championship. At 20, Julia was the youngest player invited to try out for the Olympic team in the summer of 2021.

How she handled getting cut from the team before the Winter Games in Beijing impressed Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan.

“After not getting selected and her being disappointed, the way she handled it was big,” Ryan said. “She took some disappointing news and used it for some positive. She came back to me a number of times and asked me what she needed to do to have an impact.

“One of the knocks on her in the past has been her skating and she’s continued to work on that in college.”

The national team brought Julia and Nicole together again in December for a pair of Rivalry Series games against the United States in Kitchener and Sarnia, Ont.

The cousins also scored their first international goals for the national team in the same game, which was Saturday’s 8-2 pre-tournament win over Finland in Kingston, Ont.

The 2024 world championship starts Wednesday at the Adirondack Bank Center, but Canada’s first game isn’t until Thursday.

Julia and Nicole both say they were shy as youngsters and let sisters do the talking for them. They agree hockey, and its leadership demands, brought them out of their shells and also cemented their relationship.

“It’s pretty crazy how you can change over the years and I think sports is huge for that,” Julia said.

Their alternating theme of teammates and frenemies may continue if Professional Women’s Hockey League teams draft or sign them.

“The odds are probably against us playing on the same team. With six teams, I don’t know,” Julia said. “My family is always talking about ‘you and Nicole have to be on the same team.'”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2024.

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