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Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018
Motivated Lady Wolves set sights on 2019
by Randy Pascal

There should be no lack of motivation this week as hundreds of young local female hockey players begin the process of assembling the rosters for the 2018-2019 Sudbury Lady Wolves bevy of teams.

As has been tradition for a little while now, SDGHA tryouts begin within days of the conclusion of the OWHA (Ontario Women's Hockey Association) Championships, which wrapped up Sunday in the GTA.

For the second straight year, however, there was no cheering to be done, from a Sudbury perspective, on semi-final Sunday. Not a single one of the 11 participating Lady Wolves teams advanced to the final four of their bracket. For an organization that often needed two hands to count their streak of consecutive years returning at least one medal winning team, this is definitely something of a dry spell.

And one can rest assured that it's a skid all involved will be anxious to end 12 months from now.

It wasn't as though there weren't some very close calls. Icing a team that is still only graduating a total of two players from their current roster, the Midget “AA” Lady Wolves finished second in their pool before squeezing past the Sault Ste Marie Wildcats 4-3 in their cross-over game.

This is where an earlier 2-1 loss to the Chatham Outlaws really hurt, with coach Jay Duncan and company forced to battle the Brampton Canadettes, the top ranked team that would eventually go on to win gold. The Sudbury defensive effort was there, but they simply could not convert at the other end of the rink, losing 1-0.

Unfortunately, like many girls hockey teams, the Midget “AA” crew could see their offense come and go at times this year. “Our team can score, but we don't have a lot of scorers,” conceded Duncan at the team's final pre-provincial practice last week. “It's by committee. If we get some goals, bang in rebounds, that kind of stuff, we will be OK.”

Second year midget Lauren Hancock fully agreed.

“On our line, we don't have a natural scorer,” she said. “We're not the type of line that scores a lot of nice goals, they're always messy. We always have someone shooting, someone driving the net.” While the host team to the 2019 Esso Cup had been in the mix of the top ten entries or so in the province, pretty much all year long, there was even more reason to believe that a medal performance was possible.

“Making it to the final of the LLFHL playoff weekend (two weeks ago) really helped bring our confidence up,” noted defenceman Crystale Trottier. “But provincials are different. It's a bigger weekend. The games are more important, especially since it could be our last tournament of the year.”

They were not the only local team to come painfully close.

The Sudbury Bantam “B” Lady Wolves were coming off a big post-season showdown win in Temiscaming Shores late last month, entering the OWHA playdowns as the fifth ranked team in the province. They looked every bit the part, reeling off three straight round robin wins to advance directly through to the Saturday evening quarter-final.

And as is so often the case in girls hockey, it was another one goal affair, as the Sarnia Lady Sting edged the Lady Wolves 2-1. Abby Lanteigne netted the only Sudbury goal in the loss, while Carley Burton and Julia Hayes found the back of the net in a key 2-1 win over the Lambeth Lancers that had secured the Northern Ontario girls one extra game.

Competing in one of the tougher divisions of the annual event, the Sudbury Bantam “AA” Lady Wolves took two of their three round robin games, getting through to the round of twelve, before dropping a 3-0 decision to the Mississauga Chiefs.

The Sudbury Peewee “BB” Lady Wolves needed a big 5-4 win over the Lambton Attack in order to secure their playoff spot, but could not take it any further, beaten 3-1 by the Smith Falls Cubs. The Peewee “B” Lady Wolves registered a tight 2-1 win over the Grand River Mustangs and tied the Orillia Hawks 1-1, but could not overcome a lopsided loss to the Ayr Rockets.

Like most of the local entries, the Sudbury Atom “A” Lady Wolves were not outclassed in the least, playing to a scoreless draw with the Etobicoke Dolphins, trimmed 3-2 by the Belleville Bearcats and losing by a pair (3-1) to the Stratford Aces. Olivia Ball scored twice for the Sudbury contingent, with Vivian Rondina chipping in with a solo marker of her own.

It was a decent enough conclusion to the season for a squad that featured a near even mix of first and second year atoms. At this age, part of the challenge for the Lady Wolves teams lies in simply attracting female talent that continues to suit up with the boys squads. Ten year old Ava Bois had no trouble finding some very good reasons to make the switch this year.

“Last year, we got beat a lot by the girls,” she said. “They were doing nice passes, and they had a couple of really fast skaters on their team who could really dangle.” Pitted against boys teams in their Nickel District Hockey League regular season play, the Atom “B” girls still need to find a way to approach OWHA tournament play in the same manner they tackle the challenge of playing in their own backyard.

“What we have seen, and our coaches have seen, is that we're a lot more aggressive with the boys than against the girls,” noted Lady Wolves' veteran Kynlee Cresswell. “They've been asking us why we do that, and we honestly don't know why. We're just not aggressive enough with the girls.”

Yet another team to fall by the wayside by virtue of a tie-breaker, the Sudbury Atom “C” Lady Wolves closed off with a 6-1 win over the Clearview Icecats. Despite combining that with a 3-3 tie with the Wallaceburg Lakers, the team still found themselves outside of the playoff picture, looking in.

The road to change that picture, across the board, begins in earnest, later this week, at arenas right across Greater Sudbury.

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