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Ringette ramps up at rinks across the province
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It’s been quite the busy stretch for the sport of ringette locally.

Sure, coming off almost two years of more inactivity than activity due to Covid, pretty much any action might make things seem busy.

But with the Laurentian Voyageurs away at provincials, the Northeast Regional Tournament being hosted in North Bay, and at least one other Sudbury team heading to Ottawa for all-Ontario playdowns, safe to say that wasn’t your typical mid-March stretch for ringette in Sudbury.

Looking to maintain some momentum after re-starting the winter pastime on campus just three years ago (following an absence of five or six years), the L.U. ringette brigade had to find a way to piece together some sort of pre-tournament preparation as they made their way south earlier this month.

“It’s tough to compete against the teams that are down south because teams like Laurier and Waterloo and Western are all very close together, so they will play each other throughout the year,” noted Katie Vandeloo, a 20 year old Richmond Hill native, currently in her third year of Sports Administration studies in Sudbury.

“The only opportunity for us, really, is to play Nipissing, which is why we had three exhibition games against them.”

In fact, during a normal year, the Voyageurs might attend a fall tournament in Oshawa and maybe a February event in Guelph, with the University Challenge Cup often squeezed in between over the Christmas break.

Not this year – a fact that clearly played into the expectations that the team might carry into their one and only truly competitive outing of the winter. “Going into this, we knew that we were not as prepared as some teams with a lot more experience,” said Vandeloo, who netted four goals in six games, finishing behind only Dominique Baldasaro (7) and Avery Blanchard (5) in team scoring.

“Our mindset was to have fun, hopefully win a few games, maybe turn some heads.”

That they did – and it wasn’t only the victories over Nipissing (4-3) and Trent (10-5) that had university ringette folks talking. “The Laurier game shocked some people,” said Vandeloo, her team falling by a 4-3 margin. “Even though it was a loss, it was a win in our books, just because we played such an amazing game.”

“I think everyone was really thrilled with how we all came together.”

Rounding out the 2021-2022 Laurentian roster are Ainsley Campbell, Morgan Kirk, Darienne See, Teagan Hirsimaki, Jenna Gilchrist, Tes Hale, Thea Meulensteen, Kylee Lapalme, Emily Mussio, Madison Norman, Addison Gravelle, Hailey Mackenzie, Jade Lockie, Amanda Mayer, Danika Lachance, head coach Harry Hirsimaki, manager Margaret Gilchrist and trainer Sarah Heaney.

Building something of a foundation, the Voyageurs may well be looking for the next wave of aspiring post-secondary talent to come from the Sudbury Swift U14A entry that made their way to the nation’s capital over the weekend.

“Two years ago, we were all excited to go to provincials and then it got cancelled,” noted co-captain Yasmine Ahmed at practice last week, the team selecting three separate team leaders, ironically one from each of the three local associations which combined to form this squad (Sudbury, Valley East, Walden).

“So this year, it was really exciting to find out that we were actually able to go.”

Making the trip that much better is the bond the girls have been able to form, doing so against the backdrop of a roller-coaster season. “This is, so far, my favourite team I’ve played on,” said Ahmed. “I know a lot of people from past teams and some new people that I have only seen before.”

“We have group activities planned: a movie night, a board game day – and we also have meal plans where people can bring food and cook in their hotel room and then we can all east together.”

Still relatively new to the sport, Valley East native Payton Foucault is thrilled that she finally accepted the invitation to try out. “I was asked to play on the provincial team, but I wasn’t really interested in it because it was only my third year of ringette,” she said. “I didn’t know that I would make such good friends.”

Furthermore, Foucault has expanded her base of ringette knowledge across multiple positions, thanks in part to the keen eye of head coach Tina Duguay. “I used to be a forward my first year but ever since coach Tina put me on defense, I’ve gotten way better and now feel that it’s just what I’m used to.”

Another newcomer to the team, 12 year old Kienna Bracken is equally proud of her defensive acumen, given that as a centre, she is expected to play very much a two-way game, mixing in some scoring with a solid understanding of how to separate an opponent from the ring.

“If they have a lot of pressure on their stick, then it’s much harder to do,” said the proud member of the Walden Ringette Association, who first started with the sport when she was six or seven, part of the bunnies division.

“But if they don’t have as much pressure on their stick, then you can easily check it. It all depends on the person and how they are holding their stick.”

Looking forward to her first weekend away with a crew that includes Mackenzie Coufal, Joslyn McLaughlin, Danielle Levasseur, Brooke Olivier, Allaya Bisaillon, Jenna Provincial, Deirdre Kenwell, Jacqueline MacMillan, Zoe Howard, Madison Troscinski, Sophie Savignac, Jade Toner, Josephine Dodds, Bree Bomhower and staff members Tina Duguay, Angele Savignac, Shelley Ahmed, Shayne Troscinski and Bradie Grainger, Bracken summarized the excitement of the final practice quite well.

“I’m looking forward to hanging out with all of my friends again.”

The weekend of March 11th to the 13th would see no less than 15 local house league teams make their way to North Bay, site of the 2022 Northeast Regional Ringette Championships. The Valley East Open (18+) B division crew started slowly, sandwiching a 3-3 tie with Thunder Bay between losses to both West Ferris – Spykerman (11-8) and West Ferris – Johnston (7-5), but managed to turn things around in the playoffs.

A 5-1 semi-final win over Thunder Bay secured the Valley squad a berth in the final, where they settled for second place with only Marc Pilon finding the back of the net for the local entry.

At the other end of the spectrum, the U14 Walden Major Drilling team was firing on all cylinders in North Bay, reeling off six consecutive wins, including a wild 8-7 triumph over Sudbury in the semis and a more controlled 9-1 thumping of Iroquois Falls in the final.

The Walden lineup, which features some crossovers to the U14 A provincial squad, is comprised of Abigail Minto, Avan Wyatt, Cora Dippong, Sophie Blais, Alison Bulman, Alyssa Mayer, Ella Kurtis, Jade Toner, Gia Rocca, Kienna Bracken, Mackenzie Coufal, Brooke Lanovaz, head coach Tania Minto, assistant coaches Andre Blais and Brad Bracken, trainer Christina Dippong, manager Jennifer Lanovaz and junior coach Karleigh Dippong.

The team warmed up for the northern event by capturing a tournament just weeks earlier in Niagara Falls.

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