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Lady Wolves back on the ice - but no tryouts in sight

Tryouts for the Lady Wolves' teams have not yet begun. In fact, there is very little indication from the OWHA (Ontario Women's Hockey Association), or any other governing body of minor hockey, that game competition, as we would have known it through most of 2019-2020, is imminent.

Of course, that is not about to stop the hopefuls, returnees and newcomers alike, from making sure they are ready to go on a moment's notice.

Defenseman Carissa Baron is one of a very small handful of members from the Sudbury Midget AA Lady Wolves team of one year ago that is likely to be back with the same squad, if and when there is a new season.

While the pandemic would throw her and her former teammates a curve ball, the 15 year-old grade 11 student at Bishop A Carter Catholic Secondary School was determined to take another swing with the sport that she loves.

"It definitely was tough, because we did end the year early and missed a big tournament - our provincials," said Baron, whose commitment to family went a long way towards her decision to remain in Sudbury for at least one more year, while many others ventured south.

"Even though it was upsetting, I tried to make sure I continued to train off-ice, to stay in shape and stuff, just tried to keep going and keep my head up."

Having spent the bulk of her minor hockey days on boys teams, Baron would be subjected to the internal tug of war, balancing off the benefits of both sides of the equation as she enjoyed her second year with the Lady Wolves program last winter.

"I missed the body contact from the boys hockey, but overall, I really loved the jump over to girls hockey," she said. "It was good. It was a bit of a difficult transition, at first, only because I went from body contact (boys minor bantam) to not being able to hit."

"I found myself having trouble holding back a bit - but it was a nice change, not having to worry about getting crushed into the boards. I improved a lot with my heads-up hockey, making the right passes at the right time, knowing when not to pass, just taking advantage of those nice up-ice outlet passes."

"At first, I was a little bit skeptical," Baron continued. "But getting used to the girls and making friends was really nice. Just being in a different environment, I found, was good. I found myself getting better faster. I was playing with girls who were the same caliber as me, and not trying to catch up to the boys."

Joining Baron on the ice with one of the midget groupings of Lady Wolves' talent, Kianna D'Attilio has spent most of her life within the girls association. Drawing motivation from the boys, however, is relatively easy for the cousin of OHLers Damien and Zacharie Giroux.

"I see the way that they shoot - it's crazy," said the 15 year old grade 11 student at E.S.C. l'Horizon. "They've been helping me out. I think practicing with them on the rink helps my game. They are very good at scoring."

"And their drive inspires me to stay motivated, to try and be like them."

It is no big secret that within the women's game, scoring is always a hot commodity. Everyone knows it, including D'Attilio. "Last year, I worked a lot on my scoring, getting pucks to the net, being more shifty on the ice," she said.

"I think I definitely improved with that. My shot is a little more accurate now that it was before. That comes in handy."

Like Baron and the bulk of young athletes, D'Attilio saw her world turned upside down in mid-March. "It was just weird, going from having hockey five days a week to having nothing, sitting at home and not knowing what to do with yourself anymore."

A member of the Sudbury Midget A Lady Wolves this time last year, the smooth-skating winger is hoping to make the jump one level up this winter. "When I heard that things were going to start again, I got right back into it, taking shots, trying to get to where I was, even better," she said.

"I really didn't have a hard time with the skating, but puck-handling, I find, is so different when you're in the garage compared to being on the ice."

Now, just a few workouts in, tryouts cannot come soon enough.

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