Winning a provincial U19 A ringette championship this year was great.
Winning an Eastern Canadian U19 A championship was even better for Tillsonburg's Allison Sage and Victoria Hanson, playing for the St. Marys U19 Snipers (Team Ontario) in Mississauga, April 17-20.
Teams were greeted by Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallum during the official opening ceremonies. A skills competition followed that same afternoon for each age division – a great way to get things started. Fastest Skater on Team Ontario U19 was Emily Neubrand (Mitchell). Winner of the Three-On-One Shootout for Team Ontario U19 was Alli Sage, Brenna Athill (Exeter) and Ellen Westelaken (St. Marys). The rest of the team was in the cheering section and fun was had by all.
In round-robin play, Team Ontario defeated 4-Cities (Quebec) 6-2. On Day 2, Team Ontario skated past Team Quebec 9-4 and beat the hosts, Mississauga, 8-2. Team Ontario shut out Team Nova Scotia 6-0 on Day 3, but were edged by GCRA (Gloucester-Cumberland) 3-2 in their fifth game of the tournament to finish the round-robin with a 4-1 record. First in their pool, Team Ontario received a bye into Sunday's final.
"Our first game was only 2-0 at the start," said Sage. "We had to get all our jitters out. But I think we were just prepared and we all knew what we wanted to do and we all just played so well together. To have scores like that, I think we played really well."
"We came out basically flying, 100 per cent," said Hanson. "We knew our hardest games would be our first two games. We were playing Team Quebec and Team 4-Cities (Quebec), and from there we played Nova Scotia. They were a strong team, but didn't necessarily have the depth or experience we did. A little younger."
"Those two games prepared us," said Sage. "We knew we had to play our best. If we had started with some of the weaker teams we might have slacked off, so I think it probably helped us a bit."
After the Nova Scotia game, Hanson said the teams were starting to figure out how differently each province plays.
"They were astonished by our ability to shoot and how fast, hard and accurate our shots were as well. Allison had like 16 goals in the tournament – I think there was five or six of our girls were in the Top 10 for scoring. They were really surprised at how good we were at shooting.
"A lot of times we ended up scoring the first goal, which we really didn't do at provincials. So we had a lead, so even if we slowed down a little, the other teams just couldn't keep up."
Their streak ended against the Ottawa-area team.
"We knew we had a spot in the finals," said Sage. "And they knew if the won, and one of the other teams lost, they would be in the finals. I think they had more to play for than we did."
"It was not a good game for us and it humbled us a little bit," Hanson admitted. "At that we were beating teams by four, five or six goals. We played them (GCRA) Saturday afternoon, that was our last round robin game. We realized we really needed to kick it up a notch if we wanted to take the gold. It was our fallback moment.
"The other teams didn't know our style and basically they would pack in the triangle. Our shooters would shoot right through. It took a while for them to adjust and when they did, we were too far ahead. Gloucester knew they had to push out and go more man-on-man and zone, and watch our main shooters. So we had to adjust by cutting into their triangles and making some moves. That was something we didn't really do because it was something we didn't do all weekend.
"But it helped on the Sunday. The Quebec team was ready for us in the final, started pushing out on our shooters, and that's when we started cutting in. So they thought they were prepared for us," Hanson laughed. "But then we changed it up again."
Team Ontario won the Eastern Canadian U19 A championship handing a 7-3 defeat to a very aggressive, physical Team Quebec. A hard-fought game from start to finish, the Team Ontario girls focused on their task, while enjoying should be an unforgettable experience – the experience of a lifetime.
"I think it went really well," said Sage, recalling the championship victory. "I think we were really pumped. We weren't nervous, we have a lot of fun in the changeroom, music playing, laughing, and talking about what we had to do."
Sage score five in the final and finished as the tournament's No. 1 scorer.
"We played with our three set lines and I think we clicked better," said Sage. "We scored a goal on them in the first minute and a half, something like that. I think it was 4-1 at the end of the first period.
"We were all really pumped, but it felt like it did when we won provincials. That night we all got together and we were celebrating and it all kind of hit us then. Once you step back and think about it.... we just won Eastern Canadians.
"I love the nailbiters... but I was really proud of our team and how we dominated the weekend. People were asking us, 'which Ontario team is the one that's been crushing everybody this weekend.' Everybody was talking about it. I was really proud that we were able to make a showing for our province like that."
Being held in Mississauga, it was like Team Ontario had home ice with a lot of support and a very large cheering section. Numerous family members and friends attended to cheer the girls on.
"We had a really strong weekend," summed up Hanson. "We played as strong as we could, and just the whole environment of Eastern Canadians, it just feels so great to be there with the best of the other provinces. There's no better feeling than representing your province at this level."