Friday, 2 March 2018

The Big Tournament

It's a monster-sized weekend of hockey in the city of Winnipeg when it comes to women's hockey. You're probably already aware that the Manitoba Bisons will host the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West Final, so there's that three-game series to check out if you have some free time. It should be incredible hockey as the best defensive team in Canada West comes to town to play the second-best offensive team. However, out in west Winnipeg, there's another tournament happening that started yesterday that features six of the best female prep hockey schools this continent has to offer as St. Mary's Academy hosts the 2018 Female World Sport School Challenge at the BellMTS IcePlex all weekend long!

Among the many in attendance at yesterday's game, a handful of scouts from various Canadian and American post-secondary institutions were on-hand to watch the games as those scouts keep an eye on talent they've already recruits as well as looking at potential future picks from some of the younger players on these prep hockey teams. Schools who already have commitments from players include Providence College, Union College, Quinnipiac University, Bemidji State, and St. Cloud State among the many NCAA schools who have found their next stars while schools such as the University of British Columbia, the University of Ottawa, and the University of Manitoba have commitments at the U SPORTS level. Needless to say, there are some outstanding and talented players at this tournament, and there should be no shortage of highlights as the six teams look to claim the gold medal!

Shattuck St. Mary's won the gold medal for the last two years, but a scheduling conflict prevented them from the three-peat this season as they'll miss the tournament. Also missing from previous years is the Pursuit of Excellent Hockey Academy and the Edge Hockey Academy who were a couple of heavyweights when it came to winning medals. While their absences will be noticed, there are some outstanding programs coming in to replace them. I'm excited to see the new entries who will compete this year as Gentry Academy from St. Paul, Minnesota and the Balmoral Hall Blazers from Winnipeg join the St. Mary's Academy Flames, the Minnesota Revolution, the Banff Hockey Academy Bears, and the Thunder Bay Queens at this year's event!

Having watched the six teams kick off the tournament yesterday, I can honestly say there are a few stars already emerging. While these scouting reports are not going to be written into stone as anything could change over the next few days, I was impressed by a number of the women at this tournament already. In saying that, here are who stood out on Day One of the tournament:
  • Bailey Burton (GEN): The Providence College recruit was absolutely lethal with her shot, and she put her speed on display with incredible acceleration whenever she hit open ice. She had three points in Gentry's opening game in the form of two goals and a helper.
  • Grace Heiting (GEN): Burton's winger, Grace Heiting is a Union College recruit. Heiting's speed and stickhandling are unparalleled, and she's a force out there despite her diminutive status. I expect Grace to be one of the leading scorers by tournament end after she recorded two assists and a goal on Thursday.
  • Sidney Shyiak (BAL): The University of Regina recruit might be one of the best forecheckers in the tournament. She's fast, she's relentless, and she's very disciplined with her stick when it comes to stick checks. She didn't hit the scoreboard in her first game, but she was a nightmare for the defenders when she came over the boards.
  • Sarah Dennehy (STM): The 2019 grad has all the makings of a complete player - great stickhandling, outstanding speed, and very good without the puck in terms of reading situations and getting to scoring areas. Keep an eye on Dennehy as she may be a highly sought-after player in the future!
  • Annika Scurfield (BAN): The 16 year-old captains the Banff team, and she does it all. Great in the corners and along the boards, good vision in both zones, excellent puck control and passing abilities, and a ton of speed to spare. She'll have post-secondary suitors lining up once she's ready to graduate.
  • Krista Scurfield (BAN): Annika's younger sister, the 14 year-old Krista skates like a seasoned veteran as a defender. She's fast, she picks her spots to jump into the play well, she back-checks like a demon, and she's very aggressive. She didn't look out of place at all playing against women who were four years older than her, and her future looks amazingly bright.
  • Kaylee Grosjean (TBQ): Thunder Bay's Kaylee Grosjean is a blur down the middle when it comes to covering ice north-south. While her stickhandling may not be on par with other women on this list, it isn't far behind. She's fast, she wins a lot of puck battles, and she has a lightning-quick release.
  • Adrianna Brehm (MIN): The netminder was stellar in a loss today, but she was the only reason it wasn't five- or six-goal deficit. Agile, flexible, and possessing great vision to see through traffic, Brehm played much bigger than her stature.
Make no mistake that any of these players could have had just one good game. Again, this isn't a scouting report that anyone should adhere to since it's based on one day of play, but I was very impressed with these eight players in their debuts in this year's edition of the Female World Sport School Challenge. I assume they will continue to have an impact over the next three days as all six teams battle for the gold medal, so we'll see who comes out on top on Sunday!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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