The ringette season ended early, which is not to suggest that the likes of Avery Blanchard, Kylee Lapalme, Jessica Willis and Zoey Landry were not kept busy this past winter.
Not only were the local quartet key components of Team Northeast which competed at the 2020 Ontario Winter Games in Orillia, but they also gathered on a regular basis, with a host of teammates from Sudbury, Walden, Valley East, and even North Bay, all members of the Sudbury U19 "A" ringette team.
Local product Erika Poirier was also part of the Ontario Winter Games squad, but opted to compete with the Richmond Hill "AA" competitive team this year at the provincial level.
"We're a really close group of girls who have been playing together for a long time," noted Blanchard, speaking to a core of talent with the U19 "A" crew. "More than half of us here have played together. The team bonding at practices, and even outside of practices, is important."
"Off the ice and on the ice, you have to have that trust. We all feel connected."
The friendships would come in handy, as the Northeast crew struggled to find the win column in Orillia, even as the local contingent were figuring notably in the offensive production of the team.
Both Mayer and Blanchard found the back of the net as the Northeast reps suffered an opening game 8-5 loss to Team United. Blanchard and Poirier were among the four goals scorers in a 10-4 loss to Team Southern, with Mayer chipping in with an assist.
Poirier netted her second tally of the tournament as Northeast closed out the event versus Team Eastern, with Zoey Landry drawing an assist on that goal. And though the going is tough when the girls face what is effectively the top "AAA" talent from across Ontario, their return to the Sudbury team pits them more regularly against adversaries who are more their equal.
"I think, with this (Sudbury) team, we have to play our game and not drop down to the level of some of the teams," said Blanchard. "We have to be the team I know that we are. There are definitely teams around our skill, teams that are right with us."
Joining head coach Sarah Ciammaichella and assistant coaches Sam Odorizzi and Jessica Honse behind the bench, Desiree Leclair is grappling with the challenges that come when one makes the move from player to coach.
"Not being able to do it myself is the toughest thing," said Leclair. "Even if it's in my head, trying to communicate it with them, getting them to understand what I am trying to get them to do, is not easy."
A 24 year-old native of Valley East who played competitively in levels ranging from "A" to "AAA", Leclair is encouraged with what she is seeing of this Sudbury team that she worked with for the very first time this year.
"There is a lot of talent on this team, with individuals coming from different groups," stressed Leclair. "They are starting to mesh as the season goes on. They all bring something different to the team. They know what we expect from them, and they communicate well with each other about what they want."
"They want to win, they want to learn, and they want to have fun."
The roster for the Sudbury U19 ringette team includes Amanda Mayer, Avery Blanchard, Bobbie-Ann McCulloch, Cydney Tinkham, Jessica Willis, Kaitlin Pace, Kaitlyn Hinksman, Katrina Locking, Kylee Lapalme, Kristin O'Brien, Madison Laframboise, Megan Watson, Mel Brouse, Taylor Gilchrist and Zoey Landry.