If Team Canada is in need of some goaltending prospects for the women’s hockey tournament at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, they only had to look as far as the Memorial Sports Centre last weekend to see some of the top netminders of the future.
This season’s edition of the Fort Frances Girls Hockey Association’s Bantam and Midget tournament was a tightly-contested affair all three days, but none more so than in the medal rounds Sunday afternoon, where those between the pipes stole the show.
The biggest match-up for the local fans on hand was the bronze-medal game in the Bantam division that pitted a pair of Fort Frances teams in the Energy Fitness Wild and Skates & Blades.
It took a shootout to decide the winner, but in the end it was the Wild who captured the bronze 2-1 thanks, in large part, to some clutch saves by goalie Kate Parsons in both regulation time and the shootout.
“I was really nervous going into it because both of the girls who shot on me [Madisyn DeGagne and Shilo Beck] are on my other team and they usually get goals on me in practice,” noted Parsons, who celebrated her 14th birthday on Sunday.
“But I also kind of knew what to expect since I face them a lot, so that helped,” Parsons added.
Beck scored for Skates & Blades while Amy Penner had the lone Wild goal in regulation time, which set the stage for the shootout, where Claire Sandelovich and Madyson Weir both solved Blades’ netminder Calie Clendenning to give the Wild the bronze.
“We’ve faced them a lot this year and we’ve always had some good games,” Wild coach Jim Parsons said.
“We had a 1-1 tie with them on Saturday, as well, and that just shows you the parity of the two teams.
“Both teams fought hard and it could have gone either way, but in the end we were able to get the win,” he added.
The gold-medal game in the Bantam division also featured a stellar goaltending performance as CJ Ecker stymied all three Thunder Bay McDonald Bears shooters in the shootout to give the Dryden Petro Pass Warriors a 2-1 victory.
Ecker’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for a goal by Jenna Langlais with just over a minute left in regulation with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, which tied the game at 1-1.
“It’s not very often that you are able to come back like that in the late part of the game,” Warriors’ coach Rick Lindquist said.
“We were able to call a time-out there to get a couple of the girls rested up, and it was a do-or-die situation there so the puck wasn’t going to be coming out.”
Warriors’ captain Martina Wintle scored the lone goal in the shootout to give her team the gold.
Carly Velti netted the lone Bears’ goal early in the third period.
The BDO Stars, the third Fort Frances team that took part in the Bantam division of the tournament, missed out on the medal round with a 2-1-1 record.
Meanwhile, the best performance between the pipes Sunday arguably came in the gold-medal game of the Midget division at the ’52 Canadians Arena.
Thunder Bay Sharks’ netminder Rebecca DiBiagio withstood a barrage of shots from the Thunder Bay Sabres to help her team claim a 1-0 victory.
The most impressive sequence from DiBiagio came during the late stages of the third period, when she made half-a-dozen saves off of face-offs in her zone to keep the shutout bid intact.
“She played amazing all weekend long,” Sharks’ coach Janine Landry lauded.
“She’s always very good out there, and we’re very happy to have her playing with us instead of having to face her,” he added.
The lone goal in the Midget final came during the second period as Teddi Horst headed up the ice on a beautiful end-to-end rush before firing a shot that beat Sabres’ goalie Emily Behse to the glove side.
In the Midget bronze-medal game, Marie-Pier Recine netted a pair of goals to give the Southdale Stars (Winnipeg) a 4-0 victory over the McDonald’s Hurricanes (Thunder Bay).
Southdale had ousted the Pharmasave Wildcats (Fort Frances) in quarter-finals, with Jenna Mazur notching a pair of goals to help the Stars skate away with a 6-0 victory.
Overall, the tournament saw a number of tight games over the weekend, which is something Skates & Blades’ coach Larry Beck feels bodes well for the future.
“I know that in our division [Bantam] if you saw a three-goal lead in a game, that was considered to be quite a blowout,” he remarked.
“The whole region has girls that are working hard and they are all really competitive,” Beck added.
“Everyone has come a long way in regards to hockey and that’s really nice to see.”