These past two weeks, the female athletes on the Lacoka midget Warriors hockey club have been in a whirlwind of travel and hockey.
And while it was enormously busy and at times heartbreaking, the entire experience is likely something all involved will remember.
The club spent a week in the golden horseshoe region of Ontario as the club played in an international March Madness tournament March 9 to 11, hosted by the Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association.
“Our manager, Tracey Grant, found the tournament and with several of our players in their final year of minor hockey, everyone was wanting to take a trip that would be memorable,” explained head coach Ron Klinger.
“Tracey put in a lot of work getting the team into the event along with scheduling flights and all of the sights and sounds the team got to take in while we were down there. She deserves a lot of credit for doing what she did.”
The team left for Toronto on March 7 and won an exhibition game 3-0 over a local club March 8 before opening the tournament the next day. The Warriors defeated a team from Tampa Bay 4-2 and earned a 1-1 draw against Leaside Karatsu in the tournament March 9. It then posted a 3-0 win over Leaside Villarin March 10 to wind up in first place after the round robin.
Lacoka played its semi-final that night, facing Leaside Karatsu once again only to lose 1-0. The Warriors though captured the bronze medal with a 2-1 win over a team from Chatsworth, Ont.
“The teams were very similar to the level we play here and all of them were pretty competitive and fairly even,” Klinger said.
“The games were far shorter than we are used to, so early on by the time we kicked into road gear, the game was over. That said, the girls played some really good hockey with the busy schedule and the team being short a couple players. It was just heartbreaking to lose the semi-final, as the only goal came when one of the girls was backchecking and the puck hit her and bounced into the net.”
And while the games were important, the entire team enjoyed the rest of what Klinger called “a hockey holiday.”
The club paid a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CN Tower, Rogers Place (home of the MLB Toronto Blue Jays), the iconic Kingston Public Market, Clifton Hill’s attraction park plus the nearby thrilling Niagara Falls.
“The hockey part was good, but this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and experience for most of these girls, so I think everyone would feel it was worth doing it,” added Klinger.
The Warriors busy season continued when the club returned to Alberta March 13, as the team had to jump right onto the ice the next night for the start of its league semi-final series versus Whitecourt. Despite a slow start, likely due to jet lag, the girls managed a 6-4 win March 14 in Whitecourt and won the series March 16 at home with a 2-2 tie.
That put them into the best of three league final and the team put up a valiant effort, but lost in Stettler March 17 4-3 in a shootout then 4-1 at home March 18. And while some were emotional over the loss, the club took some solace in that they will play for a provincial title this coming weekend in Lac La Biche while Stettler will not.
“With playing 11 games over two weeks, the girls simply ran out of gas at the end. The girls held on for as long as they could,” Klinger said.
“A few days off now will be good for the girls and, since we don’t know much about most of the teams at provincials, we will go in and play our game at our pace and hope things go our way.”