HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: Seven months ago, 68 young girls tried out for the Kanata Rangers U13 BB hockey team.
Head coach Martin Savard and four independent talent assessors put the players through a variety of drills covering six hours over three days. It was a daunting task.
In the end, 15 skaters and two goalkeepers became U13 BB Rangers and started the unknown journey that finished Sunday with an Ontario championship.
Ranked as the No. 1 U13 BB team in the province for most of the season by the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association, the Rangers were unstoppable at provincials, scoring 19 goals, allowing only four and winning a combined six round-robin and playoff games.
The Rangers qualified for the gold-medal game by defeating Huron Heat 3-0, Haldimand Rivercats 5-1, Lindsay Lynx 4-0, Owen Sound Ice Hawks 3-2 and Sudbury Lady Wolves 2-1. The championship game was particularly special for Savard as the Rangers posted their third shutout in a 2-0 decision over Gloucester-Cumberland Stars.
“We knew Gloucester well and it was bittersweet. We liked those guys. We did a fund raiser together with them,” Savard said in a phone interview. “For us, the result was a big deal, having two teams from Ottawa in the final. Usually, there’s a Toronto team. But to play them in the final made that extra special.
“You need a winner and a loser, but they (Stars) are a class act. They are well coached (head coach Tony Fellbaum) and have great kids. It was fun, just two Ottawa teams fighting for provincial glory.”
The Rangers U13 BB team played an 18-game regular season (eight games were lost because of the pandemic) in the city’s AA division, finishing fifth out of 12 teams with an 8-5-5 win-loss-tie record. But in four tournaments, they won two championships and reached a third final.
Savard was over-the-top proud of his young players.
“Our expectation (at the Ontario championship) was to make sure the girls have the time of their lives,” he added. “It’s hard enough to get there. The girls wanted to win, not have any regrets and the outcome will be the outcome.
“They were unbelievable. They really stepped it up. The girls and parents were aware we were ranked No. 1 because of our tournament results and strength of schedule.”
Savard classified his group of girls as ‘a tournament team’ as they loved to play two games a day in multi-day tournaments.
“They’re familiar with the pace and know what to expect. My girls are disciplined and really wanted it. It’s amazing to see them take ownership. There’s lots of dedication and pride. They were focused and ready. All the credit goes to them.”
The Rangers’ U13 BB talent was deep, which allowed Savard to rotate his lines throughout the provincials.
“It was a long process,” Savard said, reflecting on the tryouts and team selection. “It was a daunting task. But the results showed we did a good job and picked the right people at this level. Lots of good skaters showed up.
“They did it. They were an amazing group of girls. The coaching staff was happy it was part of the journey and happy to see them grow. The girls came up big and took it themselves. Once they made provincials, they made their new goal. It was theirs. They did it for themselves. We (coaches) were just passengers on their train.”
Meanwhile, Ottawa and area teams also won two other silver medals and four bronze medals at the Ontario championships, which attracted 450 teams and was held over four days in Brampton, Etobicoke, Mississauga and Ajax.
The Gloucester-Cumberland Stars reached the girls’ U13 C final, but lost to Sudbury Lady Wolves 3-2 and earned the silver medal. Kemptville Storm also were silver medallists in the girls’ U11 C division, following a 5-2 loss to Ilderton Jets.
The bronze-medal winners were: Kanata Rangers, girls’ U13 C; Nepean Wildcats, girls’ U15 AA; Ottawa Senators, women’s U22 AA; and Ottawa Ice Cats, women’s senior AA.
RECORD-SETTING BRONZE MEDAL FOR NEPEAN RAIDERS U18 AAA HOCKEY TEAM
The Nepean Raiders U18 AAA boys’ hockey team made history at the Ontario Telus Cup Central Canada championship by winning the bronze medal, the first time a Hockey Eastern Ontario team has earned a podium visit at that provincial tournament.
After posting three wins, a tie and one loss in the round robin against champion teams throughout Ontario, the Raiders dropped a close 6-5 decision to Mississauga Reps in the semifinals, but rebounded to win the third-place game and the bronze by the same score over Guelph Gryphons.
“We will all remember the ‘21/’22 season as we navigated through the pandemic and became a family,” Raiders’ head coach Jerrett Defazio posted on Twitter. “Congratulations fellas on a special season. I wish you much success in hockey and life.”
Three Raiders received individual awards during the Central Canada championship: Luke Posthumus, top scorer; HEO U16 AAA Player of the Year Cole Beaudoin, top forward; and Nick Larkin, top defenceman.
In the round-robin, the Raiders defeated Huron Perth 8-3, lost to Toronto Nationals 7-4, downed Guelph 10-2, outscored Sault Ste. Marie 9-2 and tied Mississauga Reps 4-4.
TEAM HOMAN CAPTURES SIXTH ONTARIO WOMEN’S CURLING TITLE
For the first time this season, Rachel Homan’s Ottawa Curling Club rink experienced the thrill of victory in the four-player game, after a rare season of being shut out from the championship game.
Homan, whose best result in her eight previous competitions this season was a third, started slow, but finished strong to win her sixth Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship with a 6-4 win over Carly Howard of the Mississauga Golf and Country Club. The provincial championship was delayed for two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and staged in Thornhill.
With the eight-end final deadlocked at 2-2 after five ends, Homan broke the game wide open, scoring three points in the sixth end. But Howard fought back with two in the seventh to make it 5-4. Homan used the hammer for one in the eighth to secure the victory.
It looked like Homan was headed for another troubled competition at the start, when she conceded her opener 8-2 to Ottawa Curling Club’s Lauren Mann and took a 5-4 loss in the third draw to Katelyn Wasylkiw of Whitby. In the second draw, Homan defeated Howard 7-2.
But after her second loss, Homan won her last four round-robin games to finish in first place and received a bye into Sunday’s final. She defeated Danielle Inglis of Mississauga 8-6, Susan Froud of Alliston 5-3, Calissa Daly of Oshawa 10-1 and Hollie Duncan of Woodstock (skipped by Sherry Middaugh of Victoria Harbour) 5-2.
KAITLYN AND KELSEY YOULDON STAND OUT AT RINGETTE NATIONALS
The name Youldon is synonymous with success in ringette and sisters Kaitlyn and Kelsey were front and centre again at the Canadian championships in Calgary.
The former Nepean athletes played prominent roles for different teams. Kaitlyn helped Calgary RATH complete an undefeated season at 20-0 and win the National Ringette League division at the nationals. Kelsey was named a second-line all-star for the Waterloo Wildfire, was selected Ringette Canada’s Top Forward over finalists Kaitlyn Youldon and Emily Chenier of Gatineau Fusion and also was a finalist for MVP.
Kaitlyn Youldon assisted on the only two goals of the first period as Calgary RATH defeated Edmonton WAM! 5-1 in the NRL gold-medal game. During the champions’ five first-round and three championship-round games, Kaitlyn combined to score six goals and added 10 assists.
In 20 regular-season NRL games, she tied for second in total points with 24 goals and 24 assists for 48 points. She was second in goals scored to NRL scoring champion Chantal St-Laurent of Gatineau Fusion with 25.
The NRL honour role also included defender Julie Vandal of Gatineau Fusion as a second-line all-star and Chenier as the toughest competitor. Vandal also was a finalist for the Top Defence award.
In the age-group awards, Alex Violette of Outaouais Extreme tied for second in scoring with seven goals and seven assists and was named to the second-line, all-star team, while Team Ontario/Gloucester-Cumberland Devils’ Morgan Forrest (forward) and Janie Thauvette (defence) were named first-line and second-line all-stars respectively.
After going 1-4 in the first round of U19 play, Team Ontario/Gloucester-Cumberland dropped to the consolation round, where it swept three Western provincial teams – Saskatchewan 3-2, Manitoba 4-1 and British Columbia 5-2 – for the gold medal. Taylor Forrest had a team-high three goals and 12 assists for 15 points in eight games.
The Team Ontario/Gloucester-Cumberland U16 team finished the first-round at 4-1, won its first game in the championship round, but lost to eventual champion Team Alberta 7-6 and was eliminated. West Ottawa was 1-3-1 in the first round and lost its only championship-round game.
Morgan Forrest of the Devils was the top point scorer in the first round with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) and second during the championship round at eight points (five goals, three assists). Teammate Maya Howard was first in points in the championship round with one goal and eight assists for nine points.
Nepean Ravens’ Emma Kelly was a finalist for the NRL rookie-of-the-year award. The Ravens had a first-round record of 1-3-1 and 0-1 in the championship round. The top-three point scorers for Nepean were Allison Biewald (9-9-18), Molly Lewis (8-9-17) and Kelly (11-5-16).
DAVID SHTEYNGART HAS SUCCESSFUL INTERNATIONAL FIGURE SKATING DEBUT
Gloucester Skating Club’s David Shteyngart made a successful double debut in figure skating on the weekend at the Egna Spring Trophy – Golden Skate competition in Egna, Italy.
Competing in his first junior-class and initial international competition, he placed fifth overall with 167.65 points, which was 16 points higher than his season-best domestic score.
Shteyngart skated his best short program of the season and scored 65.81 points for a fourth-place ranking in the field of 11 starters. In his free-skating program, which had six triples, he had some errors and was seventh.
“David had a very successful international junior debut at the Egna Spring Trophy, competing against some seasoned juniors, who were on their way to compete at Junior Worlds in Estonia this coming week,” Gloucester Skating Club coach Darlene Joseph, who also attended the competition, wrote in an email.
“It was a great experience and learning opportunity. Now, he knows what it feels like and what will be required to compete with the best in the world at the junior level.”
NATIONAL BRONZE MEDAL FOR DIVER KATE MILLER
Kate Miller of the Nepean-Ottawa Diving Club won the bronze medal in the women’s 10-metre platform competition at the Canadian Winter Nationals diving championships in Saskatoon. She scored 284.45 points and narrowly missed the silver medal, which was taken by Eloise Belanger of CAMO at 285.60.
Miller also placed eighth on the three-metre springboard at 244.15 points.
Miller, 17, had earlier been named to this year’s senior national team based on her performances during the 2021 season and 2022 evaluation camp. She will also be a strong contender to represent Canada come the Nov. 25-Dec. 4 FINA World Junior Diving Championships in Montreal.
SOCCER DEFENDER VANESSA GILLES SCORES AGAIN FOR TEAM CANADA
Ottawa’s Vanessa Gilles was back in action for the Canadian women’s national soccer team for their “celebration tour” stop in Vancouver on Friday evening, scoring her side’s second goal of a 2-0 victory in a friendly match with Nigeria.
After making her presence known as fierce defender in capturing Olympic gold this past summer, the 26-year-old has now scored two of Canada’s past three goals. The centre-back’s aerial skills have proven to be a big weapon for Canada off set pieces, with both her goals coming off her head.
Team Canada will face Nigeria in the second leg of their friendly series Monday night at 10:30 p.m. ET. Their next major international tournament will be July’s Concacaf W Championship in Mexico, which serves as a qualifier for both the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.
Gilles now plays professionally for National Women’s Soccer League expansion franchise Angel City FC after spending four seasons with Bordeaux in France. She’ll return to Los Angeles for a pair of NWSL Challenge Cup matches prior to her team’s April 29 regular season kickoff.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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