Tillsonburg's Taylor Campbell and the Cambridge Turbos came close to winning the National Ringette League championship in her first two NRL seasons.
In her three seasons with the Turbos, Campbell reached the national stage three times – finishing third in 2013, second in 2014 (losing 7-4 to Ottawa in the final), capped by the 2015 championship.
On Saturday, April 4, the Turbos were able to hoist the NRL trophy in Wood Buffalo, Alberta (Fort McMurray) when they defeated Richmond Hill 6-2 in the finals.
"It definitely felt really good to finally finish the way that we planned every year, and to finally come out on top," said Campbell. "It was a long time coming and I think it was well-deserved. It was good for us to finally get it."
Cambridge had finished the 2014-15 NRL regular season with a league-leading 24-2-2 record, which ranked them ahead of Ottawa and Edmonton in the 14-team league. Cambridge and Montreal received byes into the NRL championship tournament (March 30-April 4) along with Edmonton and Calgary. The remaining four spots were determined by a series of best-of-three Eastern Conference playoffs.
Cambridge opened the Wood Buffalo tourney with a 6-3 win over Waterloo on March 30, then blanked Richmond Hill 8-0 on the 31st with Campbell's second goal of the tourney making it 7-0 in the fourth period. The Turbos got by Ottawa 7-4, Calgary 8-7 and Montreal 10-4 (including Campbell's third goal).
"We were doing very well, on the top, feeling very confident. Then Pitty (Meghan Pittaway), our goalie, got an injury on Thursday (against Calgary). That put us down a notch. It was a little scary because we were doing so well. Our backup goalie didn't actually come to the tournament, so we brought a goalie that practiced once with us, and had never played a game in the National Ringette League before. So it was scary, but we had confidence in her.
"She (Tessa Seeley) stepped up and played the game against Montreal. She played really well and held us in the game."
Cambridge, already assured a spot in Saturday's final, had one remaining round-robin against Edmonton.
"It kind of took some weight off our shoulders going into that game, even though we still played to win."
Edmonton defeated Cambridge 9-4 on Friday, April 3, while Richmond Hill edged Waterloo 8-6. Richmond Hill needed overtime to get by Edmonton 4-3 later Friday, setting up Saturday's Cambridge-Richmond Hill final.
"We didn't find out until just before game time that Pitty was playing. So I think that definitely boosted our confidence, but our backup did play well for us, so I think either way we had good confidence going into that game."
Tied after one period, Cambridge had a 2-1 halftime lead. Second-half goals from Paige Nosal, Jackie Gaudet (both Gaudet sisters – Jacqueline and Jennifer – played in the tourney), Elyssa Jasper and Sheri Adams clinched the national title for Cambridge in a 6-2 victory, ending a six-year drought. It was Cambridge's first Canadian Ringette Championship since 2009.
Campbell, 20, plans to return next season to help defend the title along with most of her Turbos teammates.
"I've only heard of two girls who are retiring, and one is taking a year off. In that sense, I don't think the team will change that much. A lot of the stronger girls are coming back because there's Team Canada this year."
Campbell, ranked 17th in NRL scoring (28 GP, 17 G, 59 A, 76 PTS), has been invited to Team Canada tryouts, and a shot at playing in the senior World Championships, Dec. 28, 2015 to Jan.4, 2016, in Helsinki, Finland. Canada has won silver medals in the last four consecutive World Championships going back to 2004, last winning gold in 2002.
"I have yet to make a decision if I'm going (to tryouts)."
The selection committee, consisting of Team Canada's coach and assistants, invite 50 players from the 250 NRL players across the country. Campbell will have to make her decision by April 18 – the first round of tryouts begin May 2.
"I think if I go, it's just for experience, for future years," she said, noting the strong competition among Canadian forwards.