It's been a crazy few weeks for Caitlin Kraemer.
After her record-breaking performance at the U18 women's world hockey championships last month in Sweden, the Waterloo native has been living a sudden celebrity life back home.
"It's been very overwhelming, and it hasn't really slowed down," Kraemer told CityNews Kitchener.
"I think it will slow down now, but I've been meeting lots of little girls and lots of cool people. It's been a really cool experience overall."
The attention, and getting recognized in public a lot more, caught the 16-year-old off guard a bit.
Kraemer said she didn't anticipate the number of people paying attention to the tournament, where she riddled off 10 goals – a tournament record for a Canadian, putting her ahead of Marie-Phillip Poulin – and brought home a gold medal for Canada.
She also set the record for the fastest ever hat-trick scored at the U18 women's worlds, potting three in 6:44 during the first period of the gold medal game. For good measure, Kraemer added a fourth in what was a 10-0 shutout over the host Swedes.
Since coming back, Kraemer's made a number of appearances.
Of note, she – and Team Canada teammate and Kitchener native Ava Murphy – got to drop the puck before last week's PWHPA Showcase game at the Aud, featuring many players she grew up looking up to, like Brianne Jenner.
"That was definitely really cool," Kraemer said. "I met a lot of girls there, took lots of pictures. That was definitely a cool experience."
Her performance didn't come as a shock to her coach back home.
Chad Campbell, coach of the U22 AA KW Jr. Rangers described her as humble, a very good teammate and a consistent, hard working player on the ice with "no quit in her."
"On the ice, I've never coached a player like her before," he said. "She's skilled, she moves the puck quickly, her shot release is quick."
Kraemer was named captain of the Rangers ahead of the season.
"We have a young group, lots of rookies," she said. "It's been a fun season, definitely a neat experience being with such a young group."
They're middle of the pack in the Provincial Women's Hockey League, but have eyes on finishing strong, getting into the top six in their division and competing for a championship.
Kraemer admits she still has a lot to learn, more specifically on the communication aspect of being a leader, describing herself as more of a "lead by example" type of captain.
Campbell first said Kraemer was quiet, but added she's coming out of her shell in that regard.
Right now, she's a student at Resurrection CSS. But upon graduation, Kraemer already has plans in place, committing to the University of Minnesota Duluth beginning in the fall of 2024.
"The whole recruiting process was pretty overwhelming, but I had lots of support from family and friends, and I'm very happy with my final decision," she said. "Duluth just stuck out from the start, just with their team culture and coaches. It all seemed like a place where I would develop as a player, but also as a person, and just have lots of fun."
But no matter where she goes, the experience at the worlds will stick with her.
"I probably go through the photos four times a day," Kraemer said, adding she loved how close the team became throughout its gold medal run, laughing to keep the energy high and stress low.
"The team coaches were all amazing, and our group atmosphere was a big standout from the whole tournament," she said.
"I miss my teammates a lot. It was a great experience, and one I'll never forget."