The Zone Two U16 AA Blaze Ringette team, representing as Team Alberta, have returned as champions from their national tournament.
Their victory marks the first occasion since the inception of the Zone Two U16 AA team that the group has taken home the National title.
Head coach Wes Clark said it was a unique and exciting experience to spend so much time on the ice in such a short period of time, competing against the best of the best.
“Everything started out on Sunday (April 3) with an opening ceremonies and then our first game was against Nova Scotia on Monday morning. We got off to a slow start, they scored on us right off the bat,” said Clark. “That was the only game we trailed in … (That) afternoon, we played Saskatchewan and we won that game.”
The next day, Team Alberta played against the number one seeded team from Quebec, defeating them and continuing on to square off against the Calgary Matrix.
In a repeat result of their match in Alberta’s provincials, Team Alberta beat out the Matrix and continued forward. In the afternoon of the same day, Team Alberta took down one of Ontario’s three competing teams to emerge from the round robin with a 5-0 record.
This gave Team Alberta a bye to the tournament quarterfinals.
“On the championship side of the tournament, if you lose you’re out, if you win you continue. That Thursday afternoon game was a very important game for us and we came against Team Ontario,” said Clark. “They are a very talented squad and we had a really good game. We had a great start, then we ran into a bit of penalty trouble and they got back into the game. The game finished 7-6 in our favour.”
Going into the semi-finals, Team Alberta was up against the Calgary Surge – another rematch from Alberta’s provincial tournament.
The Calgary Surge was beaten by Team Alberta in the final game and placed second in Alberta.
“It was probably one of our strongest performances (at nationals), we beat them 4-1 and just played really, really well as a team,” said Clark.
The finals were held on April 9, which saw Team Alberta squaring off against Team New Brunswick – both teams having run the tournament gauntlet undefeated.
“Even though we had a great start to the game and went up to an early 5-0 lead, because of the talent on their side, they clawed back in the game and forced it to overtime.”
Team Alberta came out victorious in overtime, concluding the game with a score of 7-6.
“I’m so proud of the girls. It’s the longest tournament that they were a part of throughout the season. Normally when you play a tournament, it would be Friday, Saturday (and) Sunday, and this one was Sunday until the following Saturday.”
Among the 15 girls playing for Team Alberta are Addy Hough and Chloe Gregory from Standard, as well as Karley Clark and Tessa Galandy, from Strathmore.
During the national tournament, Team Canada scouts selected an all-star team from competing athletes, who were recognized with a jersey.
Among the 18 teams in the tournament, more than 270 players were present. A total of 12 girls were scouted as all-stars. Three were selected from Team Alberta including Karley Clark, Madi Rice and Talisa Cowley.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times