Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Edge Of Glory

I had the privilege of watching some excellent hockey played by some of the best young ladies that Canada has to offer this weekend as I attended the 2013 Female World Sport School Challenge at MTS IcePlex in Winnipeg. If last weekend's Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest was a good starting point for the next Olympians, these women are definitely on the track to represent Canada at some point in the future. There was a ton of skill and talent on display all weekend, and HBIC is proud to have been at the event to see some excellent hockey!

The round-robin was played over Thursday and Friday as the eight teams worked their way through the tournament. Group A saw Okanagan Hockey Academy from Penticton, BC take top spot with eight points. Edge School For Athletes from Calgary, Alberta finished with seven points, St. Mary's Academy from Winnipeg, Manitoba finished in third-place, and Fort Frances High School from Fort Frances, Ontario finished in fourth.

Group B saw the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy from Kelowna, BC land in top spot with a perfect record. Shaftesbury High School of Winnipeg, Manitoba ended up in second-place in the group. Rothesay Netherwood School of Rothesay, New Brunswick grabbed third-place while Banff Hockey Academy finished fourth in Group B.

With the standings set, the top four teams would play off in a 1-vs-2 crossover to determine which teams would play in the gold medal and bronze medal games on Saturday, while the third-place teams from each group would play for fifth-place and the fourth-place teams in each group would play for seventh-place.


The Fort Frances Muskies and the Banff Hockey Academy would meet on Saturday morning for seventh-place. Banff jumped out to a quick start as they peppered Fort Frances goaltender Calie Clendenning with shots early on. That quick start paid off as Banff's Alexis Westergaard got the team on the board on the powerplay just short of six minutes in. Banff would double their lead before the first period ended as Brittany Erickson chipped a shot over Clendenning's left pad during a scramble that found the back of the net while on the powerplay again. Special teams played a large part in Banff's first period 2-0 lead.

Livia Lucova would make it a three-goal for Banff lead 8:11 into the second as she beat Clendenning. If it appeared that this game might be a blow-out, things started to change midway through the second as Fort Frances found their legs. Shilo Beck used a powerplay to break the shutout as her shot found its way behind Banff goaltender Andrea McDonald, and the deficit was only 3-1. However, Alexis Westergaard killed Fort Frances' momentum by finding some room to restore the three-goal lead. And 3:26 later, Alena Fiala made it a four-goal lead as she slides a puck behind Clendenning to give Banff Hockey Academy a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.

The third period was played fairly conservatively by Banff considering their four-goal lead, but Fort Frances did chip away. 5:51 into the final frame saw Jessica Coran find twine behind McDonald, and Banff's lead was now 5-2. Banff, though, wouldn't let any other goals by, and they skated to the 5-2 victory and seventh-place in the tournament.


Rothesay Netherwood School and St. Mary's Academy met up for the fifth-place game as both schools were looking to get back in the win column. The problem, however, was that St. Mary's Academy came out wth fire in their eyes, and they didn't let up. If it wasn't for Rothesay goaltender Marlene Boissonnault, the final score could have been counted by touchdowns.

St. Mary's opened the scoring at 9:06 when Saige Patrick chipped a puck behind Boissonnault. They doubled the lead at 18:49 when Kelly Matarazzo's shot found twine in the Rothesay net. St. Mary's threw everything they had at Rothesay in a 16-4 shots margin.

Just 5:18 into the second, Jenna Thompson's booming slapshot from the point on the powerplay settled in the net, and St. Mary's had a three-goal lead. Jordan Zacharias added another goal with a minute to play to give her three points after two periods, and St. Mary's was up 4-0 in goals and 36-7 in shots Again, Marlene Boissonnault was fantastic in keeping the walls from crumbling in on Rothesay.

Randi Marcon made it 5-0 just 3:53 into the third period. Jenna Thompson added her second goal of the game at 9:44. Captain Danielle Krzyszczyk notched a powerplay goal at 12:01 to make it a 7-0 game, and there were whispers of a shutout for Annie Chipman. Those whispers, though, may have been a little early as Rothesay used a powerplay of their own to break the shutout. Brittany Carroll snapped Chipman's shutout with 6:24 to play, but the game was out of hand at that point. St. Mary's took their foot off the gas as they captured fifth-place in the tournament with a 7-1 victory.


In the first semi-final game, the Shaftesbury Titans suffered a 3-0 loss to the Okanagan Hockey Academy to put them into the bronze medal game. Their competition would be the Pursuit of Excellence as they fell 6-4 to the Edge School for Athletes in the second semi-final game. Shaftesbury and POE play solid defensive hockey and have excellent goaltending, so the bronze medal game looked like it might be a low-scoring affair. Sara Besseling got the nod for the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy while Rachel Dyck earned the start for the Shaftesbury Titans.

These two teams played a great game with a fast pace. Both goaltenders were sensational in protecting their nets, and the scoring was, as expected, low. Neither team recorded a goal through the first 40 minutes, but Shaftesbury had been getting pucks to the net as they led in shots by a 15-7 advantage.

It looked as though we might have a chance at a goal as Pursuit of Excellence's Sarah Potomak was hauled down on a breakaway. The puck went back to center ice, and Potomak was granted the penalty shot! Potomak broke in and went to the backhand, but Rachel Dyck moved with her, forcing her to try to spin to the forehand to put the puck past Dyck. It wasn't to be, though, as Dyck held her ground and the scoreless tie carried on.

Just minutes later with Michela Esposito in the penalty box, Pursuit of Excellence finally found a way past Rachel Dyck. Halli Krzyzaniak's point shot with a pile of traffic in front hit twine, and Pursuit of Excellence was up 1-0 with 8:29 to play. With time against them, Shaftesbury mounted a furious attack, including pulling Rachel Dyck with two minutes to play, as they looked to score the equalizer. Sara Besseling denied all shots thrown at her, though, and the final buzzer would give Besseling the shutout and, more importantly, the Pursuit of Excellence would claim the bronze medal!


The gold medal game would feature the highest scoring team in the Edge School for Athletes looking to avenge their round-robin shootout loss to the Okanagan Hockey Academy. These two teams play excellent transition hockey, moving the puck well and capitalizing on the mistakes made by their opposition. Based on how close their first game was, it was expected that these two teams would be separated by a goal at the final buzzer as they matched up fairly evenly. One team would skate off the ice with silver medals while the other would bask in the glory of a championship!

Surprisingly, special teams played a big part in this game as Okanagan found out. Alyssa Erickson and Hannah Miller were in the box when Daria O'Neill scored on the 5-on-3 powerplay at 4:49 to put Edge up 1-0. Just 28 seconds later, Alex Serpico fired a shot past Okanagan Hockey Academy goaltender Hayley Dowling, and Edge was up 2-0 very quickly. Edge goaltender Emma Pincott would ensure that score held true through the remainder of the period. It could have been a larger deficit had it not been for Hayley Dowling in that period as she saved nine of eleven shots fired her way.

The second period saw the rough play of the first period carry over as there were seven more penalties called and one more powerplay goal. The first goal of the second period, though, came at even-strength as Emily Monaghan gave Edge a 3-0 lead at 12:19. But a slashing penalty to Celine van der Molen at 18:15 sent Okanagan to the powerplay, and they would make it count. Alexa Ranahan's shot found a gap through Emma Pincott, and the powerplay goal with 31 seconds in the middle frame would send the teams to the dressing rooms with Edge leading 3-1.

Both teams came out in the third period and played tentatively which didn't make sense considering Okanagan trailed by two goals. Okanagan, though, would press with five minutes to play, and they were rewarded at 17:04 when Hannah Miller fired a goal past Pincott. Okanagan needed one more goal in the final three minutes to tie the game up, so they played the odds and pulled the goalie. The pressure worked as they pinned Edge in their own zone for over two minutes, but Edge caught a break when Karly Heffernan hit the empty net with 53 seconds to play to put Edge up 4-2. Still needing goals, Okanagan left the net empty, and Edge iced the game 29 seconds later when Cassandra Vilgrain added another empty-net goal. Edge skated to the 5-2 win to capture the gold medal at the first Female World Sport School Challenge!

The tournament All-Star trophies were handed out by Mark Chipman, owner of the Winnipeg Jets, as the following girls were recognized for their great play throughout the tournament.

FORWARD: Cassandra Vilgrain - Edge School for Athletes
FORWARD: Sarah Potomak - Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy
FORWARD: Hannah Miller - Okanagan Hockey Academy
DEFENCE: Halli Krzyzaniak - Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy
DEFENCE: Marie-Jo Pelletier - Rothesay Netherwood School
GOALIE: Rachel Dyck - Shaftesbury High School Hockey Academy

To the victors go the spoils, and the Edge School for Athletes are the winners of the first Female World Sport School Challenge! With the victory, they'll be able to hang the banner in their arena and they can display the championship trophy in their trophy case! A quick skate around the rink as they hoist their trophy drew a lot of cheers from the crowd as the girls celebrated, and the ladies finally got down to business as they showed off their golden wares. In a rather cool moment, Karly Heffernan was told her #23 jersey would be collected for display at the Hockey Hall of Fame! How awesome is that?!?

Congratulations to all the girls who participated in the first Female World Sport School Challenge. All of you should be proud for the exceptional display of hockey put on this weekend, and while there can only be one winner, everyone collectively made this first Female World Sport School Challenge extremely special.

I do want to thank the tournament volunteers who helped me out when I was lost and guided me back to the right path. They were invaluable, and they deserve a little recognition as well. I also want to thank Kevin Bathurst for setting me up with media credentials so I could witness the exceptional hockey being played by these eight teams. Thank you, Kevin, for allowing a little radio station like UMFM the chance to attend this prestigious event.

Finally, a big congratulations goes out to Edge School for Athletes from Calgary, Alberta - your 2013 Female World Sport School Challenge champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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