Lady Mountaineers win inaugural national tournament
The Edge Mountaineers ladies prep team made a little bit of history recently by winning the inaugural Female World Sport School Challenge (WSSC), which was held in Winnipeg, Man., Feb. 21 to 24.
It is the second WSSC medal for the Edge School this year, as its boys midget AA Gold team won the varsity bronze medal in January.
“We were fortunate to be invited and it was a great feeling to win,” said Mountaineers head coach Scott Fukami.
“The girls had to fight to earn it in the semis and the final, but it was a great challenge and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
The WSSC was hosted by St. Mary’s academy and sponsored by Hockey Canada.
It featured teams from across the country including Fort Francis, Ont., and Rothesay, N.C., as well as the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) from Penticton, B.C. and Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy (POE) out of Kelowna, B.C. The latter two play with the Edge in the Junior Women’s Hockey League (JWHL).
The Moutaineers opened the tournament against Okanagan. Alex Serpico, Cassandra Vilgrain and Darla O’Neil all scored for Edge, but Okanagan beat the Mountaineers 4-3 in a shootout.
Edge won its next two round-robin games handily, 7-1 over St. Mary’s and a 14-3 with Fort Frances, and defeated POE 6-4 in the semi-final. The win set up a re-match with Okanagan for the gold medal.
O’Neil and Serpico each scored in the final, as did Emily Monagham. Forwards Karly Heffernan and Vilgrain both added empty-net goals to seal the win for the Mountaineers. Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman was on hand to present the Mountaineers with their gold medals and Vilgrain was named to the tournament’s all-star team.
Airdrie’s Emily Power was one of nine Rocky View County area players on the Edge’s gold medal team and said the shootout loss to Okanagan paired with the win in the final has added another facet to a rivalry that has been developing all season between the two teams.
“They’re a great team and they bring out the best in us,” Power said. “I feel like we played well and came through when it counted.”
The Mountaineers returned home with their medals and the honour of capturing the first ladies WSSC title. Fukami said the tournament has been another step forward in growing women’s hockey at the amateur level in Canada.
“It was important for us to be there, especially it being the first one,” Fukami said.
“With it being a Hockey Canada event, it’s on the national stage and to win the first one was special. A lot of people in and around Winnipeg talked about how good the hockey was.”
Along with exciting on-ice action, the tournament also had some star power behind it. Jennifer Botterill served as the event’s ambassador. Botterill retired from competitive hockey in 2011, but during her 15-year career she played for Canada at four Olympics Games (1998 – 2010), winning three gold medals and one silver. She also medalled in eight World Championships over the course of a decade and played in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the NCAA with the Harvard Crimson.
While Power was unable to attend the banquet that Botterill spoke at, she said having a hockey legend involved in it is an inspiration for all the players.
“The girls who went said it was amazing and that she was a real eloquent speaker,” Power said.
“She’s a great role model and a lot of players look up to her.”