Midget AA team heading to nationals
The Sudbury Midget AA Lady Wolves are going to the 2014 Esso Cup (National Midget Girls Hockey Championships), and they did it in style.
The local crew assured themselves a trip to Stoney Creek with a 1-0 overtime win in the semifinal over the Whitby Wolves. The victory, coupled with a 2-1 Stoney Creek win over the Thunder Bay Queens, meant that Sudbury would snag one of the two Ontario slots that were available, given the presence of the host team in the provincial final.
But with their main goal behind them, the Lady Wolves added provincial gold to their resumé, blanking the Stoney Creek Sabres 3-0 in the championship affair. Short-handed goals by Karli Shell and Taylor McGaughey gave Sudbury a 2-0 lead after two, with Victoria Pitawanakwat adding some insurance on a breakaway tally early in period three.
From there, goaltender Stephanie Pascal continued her rock-solid weekend, posting her third consecutive shutout in whitewashing the team that had claimed the Lower Lakes league championship two weeks earlier.
The real drama, however, came earlier Sunday morning as Sudbury and Whitby went to overtime, deadlocked in a scoreless tie. Given that the teams had twice before played to 0-0 draws this year, the unfolding of events was not all that surprising.
With quality chances few and far between, the script would be written midway through the first overtime session. On a close play that might have been offside at the blue-line, Whitby broke in on a three-on-one, only to be stymied by a lovely pad save from Pascal.
Just over two minutes later, a chipped puck would spring rookie forward Mélisa Kingsley, with the soft-handed freshman gaining just enough separation on the Whitby defence to tuck in a backhand that would hit the goaltender and trickle home, punching the northern girls' ticket to nationals.
Despite an emotional victory, the Lady Wolves regrouped quickly, overcoming some early penalty problems in knocking off the Sabres.
"The girls were really, really prepared," said coach Tim Stortini.
"They were determined to achieve their goal of winning this championship. They had a job to do and they realized it. I think the maturity of the veterans that brought the younger kids along, their determination to be successful, was really key."
Sudbury will open play at the Esso Cup next Sunday, facing the Weyburn Gold Kings (West) in their first game at noon. Ironically, the midget girls merely had to follow a trend that had been set for them twice on Sunday by the Sudbury Atom A Lady Wolves.
Playing just ahead of the elder clan on the exact same ice surface as the midgets, the atoms set the tone, picking up OWHA gold. The Atom A crew needed a pair of third period goals from Lauren Fearn and Savannah Crossthwaite in stopping the Markham-Stouffville Stars 2-0, with Kristen Mrozewski recording the shutout in the morning semifinal.
The championship affair proved to be much more wide-open as Sudbury built up a 5-1 third-period lead before holding off a late rally by the Burlington Barracudas, chalking up a 5-3 win.
Defenceman Elise Belanger led the way with a two-goal effort, with singles coming from Jenna Lachance, Kelsey Dunn and Fearn. With four tournament banners already safely tucked away at home this year, the Atom A team knew that an appearance in the championship tilt was realistic this weekend.
"I think we had high expectations for ourselves," said head coach Mark Crowder. "We had a lot of success this year. The girls know their jobs. As long as we can keep them focused and doing that, we're OK."
That said, Crowder did make note of one other competitive advantage that was apparent many times over the weekend.
"Girls take a knock for their shooting in hockey, but there's not too many girls on our team that can't pick the top corner," he said.
"And there's a few of them that can really rip it. We worked on that quite a bit." The Lady Wolves' tandem were the only two of the 11 local squads to make it through to the semifinals on Sunday, with several teams knocked out late on Saturday.
The rosters for the two gold-medal-winning teams are as follows:2013-2013 Midget AA Lady Wolves: Karli Shell, Taylor McGaughey, Jamie Ricci, Stephanie Legault, Lily Vescio, Meagan McGaughey, Kennedy Lanktree, Jenna Gough, Victoria Pitawanakwat, Sydney Walker, Marley Patterson, Shelby Small, Megan Burt, Mélisa Kingsley, Deidre Debassige, Stephanie Pascal and Danika Lefrancois.
2013-2014 Atom A Lady Wolves:
Kristen Mrozewski, Alison Symington, Sabrina Crossthwaite, Alexie Olivier, Katelyn Lee, Breanna Coyne, Andrée Ouellette, Jenna Lachance, Emma Dyer, Paige Crowder, Morgan Leduc, Elise Belanger, Lauren Fearn,Chloe Leduc, Kelsey Dunn and Savannah Crossthwaite.