Highland Storm girls earn provincial gold
|By Matthew Desrosiers - Editor | April 16, 2015|
They were the perfect storm.
The best Midget B Girls hockey teams in the province didn’t know what hit them after the Highland Storm went a perfect 6-0 in the all-Ontario championships to win gold.
“It feels awesome,” said team coach Dan Marsden. “I’m just so excited for them. They had hurdles … collectively as a group of girls, I couldn’t ask for a greater bunch to coach.”
The team travelled to Mississauga for the tournament, which ran from April 10-12. Twenty-four teams competed in six pools, representing every region across Ontario. And when the last buzzer sounded on Sunday’s gold-medal game, the Storm were crowned Ontario champions.
“We got everything out of the girls we possibly could,” said Marsden. “They’re bruised, banged up, sore and tired.”
Going into the tournament, the team’s coaching staff stuck with the same message they’d been preaching all year.
“If we can move our feet, control the puck, put pressure on their end, capitalize on chances and shut them down, we’ll be fine,” he said. “That’s been our mantra all year.”
Marsden said the girls were aggressive and unrelenting. Each player elevated her game.
Despite their perfect record, the road wasn’t easy. In both of the team’s first two games, they fell behind early.
In Game 1 against the Mount Brydges Cougars, the Storm fell behind 1-0 in the first period while killing a penalty. It wasn’t until the third that they were able to tie it up on a goal from Kelsey Maracle. Alicia McLean later scored the game-winner, earning the team their first win of the tournament.
Game 2 against started off the same, but once again the girls found a way to storm back. Maracle again tied it late in the first period. While killing a five-on-three powerplay in the second period, Erin Little blocked a shot from the point. She jumped on the loose puck for a breakaway, short-handed goal that put the team ahead 2-1. Two more insurance goals would net the girls another win, this time 4-1 over the Ravens.
The Oakville Hornets were next. This time the Storm opened the scoring with a goal from Kenndal Marsden. Little scored again, and Brynn Meyers added a third to send the girls into the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win.
Now into must-win games, the Storm kicked it into another gear, defeating the Blythe-Brussles Crusaders 4-0 in the quarters. The team earned another shut-out win in the semi-finals, beating the tough Schreiber North Stars 4-0.
In the gold-medal game, the Storm faced off against the North Bay Ice Botlz.
“Teams that peak at the right time find a way to win,” said Marsden.
The once again, the girls did exactly that.
A scoreless first period behind them, McLean put the team ahead with a wrister halfway through the second. They kept up the pressure, and McLean scored again in third, putting the team up 2-0.
Despite mount pressure from North Bay, Kenndal Marsden put in the Storm’s third goal. Storm goalie Connor Marsden turned away all remaining chances, and finished the championship game with her third consecutive shut-out.
“Every game had its own nuances of how we were able to withstand an offensive barrage from the opposing team,” said Marsden. “Every girl elevated her level of play. It was the key to our success.”
“From our goalie having an outstanding tournament to the stellar defensive play we had, and our offensive capabilities that produced on those chances … things happened at opportunistic times that gave us advantages.”
And the girls capitalized.
Marsden thanked his co-coaches, as he called them, the parents, and the community that rallied behind the team and came out to Mississauga to cheer them on.
“It’s something the girls will remember forever.”
In their regular season, the Storm’s record was an impressive 40(wins)-1(loss)-6(ties). They won their league championship in March, despite some controversy and adversity. Twelve of the Storm girls played for the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Red Hawks team that reached OFSAA this year. Between the two teams, the girls played 72 games.
The provincials marked the end of the Highland Storm girls hockey program, at least for now. The program was built around this core group of girls who now are graduating high school and moving on. Without enough players, the program will not be able to ice a team next year.
For the girls who have been playing together these last 10 or 11 years, Marsden said it was the perfect way to end.
“It’s excitement, elation. It’s happy and sad. There’s a lot of emotion for what was accomplished, and also for it being over. It’s unbelievable. Words can’t describe what these girls have accomplished.”
“But they did.”
MATTHEW DESROSIERS is the editor of The Highlander.