So, how do you go about eating an elephant?
The Tillsonburg Nichols Gravel U14 Twisters came up with several theories when riddled by their coaches before last weekend’s annual Tillsonburg Ringette Tournament.
‘Use a big fork’ wasn’t the right answer.
“We got all these different answers,” smiled coach Ron Gasparetto. “Coach Dwayne and I, we said, ‘well, no, you eat it one bite at a time.’”
After their second win Saturday, dispatching Niagara Falls 7-2, the coaches again stressed how it’s possible to accomplish a task if you break it down into smaller tasks.
“We said, ‘Hey girls, guess what, that elephant’s half gone.”
The Twisters, who went on to win all four tournament games, finished with a 2.00 GAA, scoring an average six goals per game to take the U14 division gold medals Sunday evening.
“We pride ourselves on our defence – we’ve got a real strong defensive corps,” said Gasparetto. “Our first commitment every game is to let in the least amount of goals possible. We would rather win 2-1 than win 9-8. So kudos to our four defencemen. And our goaltending has been fantastic for us all weekend.
“You’ve also got to put the ring in the net and our forwards really stepped up. It was all forechecking. Our girls committed to not allowing that team (Cambridge in the finals) to come out unchecked, and a lot of the game was spent in their end.”
“It was a good all-round effort,” agreed coach Dwayne Nichols. “We’ve got a good, solid team. There’s no weak links – all of our lines are strong.”
Tillsonburg Nichols Gravel 2, Cambridge 1
Lauren Cowan beat Cambridge goalie Alexxus Newman one-on-one late in the first period, weaving across the slot to her backhand for a top-shelf breakaway goal.
“I think that picked up the momentum for us,” said Nichols. “Once we got the goal we knew we could take them.”
Katie Becht added to Tillsonburg’s lead at 9:45 of the second period, and it turned out to be the game-winner.
Cambridge netted a late goal with 2:42 remaining, after a brief stint of sustained pressure, but that only seemed to refuel Tillsonburg’s offence as the Twisters hit a crossbar and a post in the final minute.
“Cambridge is a great team and they have ferocious checkers as well,” said Gasparetto. “Desperation makes you do incredible things and it really showed there (just before Cambridge scored). They really showed what they’re made of… they’re first in their (Eastern) division. You could tell they were hungry for it, and their goaltender was unbelievable – we threw everything at that goalie… everything.”
Tillsonburg’s response after Cambridge made it a one-goal game was just what the coaches were looking for.
“We’re relentless on this team,” said Nichols, “once they know they have to hold off another team. They’re relentless – they just keep pushing.”
The Twisters worked a couple set plays late in the final minute, which they didn’t convert but pulled off flawlessly. Erin Klassen, cycling the ring around the perimeter and behind the net several times, caught Cambridge off guard leaving it for Madison Bennett, who was in position to rip a hard shot just over the crossbar.
“We definitely practice that play,” nodded Gasparetto. “A couple of the girls cycle the ring really well for that open drop pass.
“We knew that goalie was good – we said to them, ‘nothing’s going to come easy with this goalie.’ She defended the bottom of the net really well.”
Twisters scoring: 1. Lauren Cowan (Olivia Moore); 2. Katie Becht (Lauren Cowan).
Tillsonburg Nichols Gravel 11, St. Thomas 2
Twisters scoring: 1. Stephanie Parker (Hayley Martin); 2. Alexis Blakley (Stephanie Parker); 3. Katie Becht (Jaden Nesbitt); 4. Katie Becht (Olivia Moore); 5. Hannah Bosma (Madison Bennett, Jaden Nesbitt); 6. Hayley Martin (Stephanie Parker); 7. Lauren Cowan (Katie Becht, Olivia Moore); 8. Hannah Bosma (Madison Bennett); 9. Stephanie Parker; 10. Alexis Blakley (Lauren Cowan); 11. Erin Klassen (Madison Bennett).
Tillsonburg Nichols Gravel 7, Niagara Falls 2
Twisters scoring: 1. Alexis Blakley; 2. Katie Becht; 3. Katie Becht (Olivia Moore); 4. Hannah Bosma; 5. Olivia Moore; 6. Katie Becht; 7. Hannah Bosma
Tillsonburg Nichols Gravel 4, Cambridge 3
Twisters scoring: 1. Lauren Cowan; 2. Alexis Blakley; 3. Erin Klassen; 4. Olivia Moore (Katie Becht).
Coach Nichols noted the U14 Twisters are 6-4 in league play.
“We also went undefeated in the London tournament and won gold,” said Nichols. “It’s a talented team. We don’t play looking for the superstar, we all play equal. Everybody’s involved.”
“A lot of great individual players, but all of them know that no one is better than the ‘collective team,’” said Gasparetto.
“We’ve got real high aspirations for Regionals this year… to medal high. We’ve got the girls to do it.”
But that, of course, is another elephant.