Both Northern Blades women’s hockey teams, the single-A and double-A, are heading to Burnaby for the provincials and there is a good chance that one, if not both, will make it through the finals and be heading on yet another road trip to the Western Shield Championships in Calgary in three weeks’ time.
The Northern Blades will be facing two Vancouver-based teams, the Delta Force and Fleetwood. They will also be facing a team from Armstrong and Fort St. John and the competition that the Blades feel will give the single-A the toughest competition will be from the north.
Fort St. John won the provincials last year but the Blades think that was only because of their own attitude going into the final game.
“We beat them in the round robin 3-0 then in the finals we sat on our heels too much thinking we were going to win,” says A Blades captain Jennifer McGill. “We were a little cocky in the final game, we were the better team and they even thought so. It can be anyone’s game and we learnt that last year.”
Because the Blades are the only women’s hockey team outside of minor hockey, where there is only one team in the BDC Flyers, they don’t have to compete in a zone competition to make it to provincials so going there is something that they have planned for and have waited for since the beginning of the season.
“Provincials is really what we look forward to all year,” says McGill. “We talk about provincials from the day of tryouts right through. This is ultimately our bottom line goal to win this and go to the Shields and neither team has been to the Shields yet because we didn’t have a second team last year and we lost the final game so we are really looking forward to one of the teams or both of them going. All of these girls tried out in September and 30 players were chosen and divided up between the two teams, the single-A and the double-A, so we are really going to be in the thick of the competition and should have really good results.”
Heading to provincials means another road trip but road trips aren’t a new thing for the women’s hockey teams. That is what they do every time they play a game and that is pretty much what they have to do even for practice. But for the girls, who range in age from 13 to 40 it’s a pain and it’s costly but it’s every bit worth it to be able to play the game they love to play.
As two teams that are made up of the best of the best from as far south as Williams Lake, as far east as McBride, as far north as Chetwynd and as far west as Terrace you might wonder how a team can have confidence when they don’t see each other very often, at best once a month.
“I think one of the benefits of not playing together often is that when we do we are very focused, we have systems and our breakout and everything, it forces us to really concentrate and use our time very wisely when we are together,” says McGill. “Because we only see each other once a month and we are really excited to see each other and to play hard. I think our team is very focused on this weekend and that is a real asset. We’ve really enjoyed playing together and because we go away and play in these regular leagues, the men’s rec C league or the women’s rec league we come to this and we love the level of hockey and the intensity of it and we have been really successful this year because of that.”