The St. Albert Mission are skating to the Canadian Ringette Championships as the second-best U16AA team in the province.
Last weekend’s eight-team tournament in Spruce Grove determined the five qualifiers for the April 5 to 11 nationals at Ottawa and the Mission is one of them as silver medallists.
Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Zone 2 Blaze in the championship final left the Mission with a 4-2 mark at provincials and an overall record of 39-7-2.
"There are so many strong ringette teams in Alberta so it's quite the accomplishment to be in the final two," said head coach Joel Lajoie.
The Mission opened the scoring in the final with two early goals. However, with a couple of tough penalties, Zone 2 knotted it up and with five minutes left made it 4-3.
A shorthanded effort by Sydney Fevin tied it at four, but Zone 2 replied shortly after with the winner.
"Both teams played a quick, aggressive game and it was close throughout. We just ended up on the wrong side of the score," Lajoie said.
The Mission’s round-robin scores in pool A were wins of 5-4 against Calgary Force and 8-1 against Edmonton Elite and the 2-1 loss to Calgary Tenacity.
The playoff run to the final included victories of 4-2 against Sherwood Park Power and 6-5 in overtime against the Force.
After the physical quarter-final against Sherwood Park, the Mission jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead against the Force and were up 4-2 at the half.
The Force eventually pulled even before notching the go-ahead marker with three minutes to play.
The Mission responded as Amy Bamber potted the equalizer on a set play with netminder Taylor Wright pulled for the extra attacker with 1:40 remaining in regulation time and the winner was sniped by Nyah Bodnarchuk early in sudden death.
"It was a physically and mentally demanding weekend for these athletes and our girls never quit," Lajoie said. "The coaches are extremely proud of our athletes. They gave it everything they had."
Tenacity finished third, followed by the Force, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove Grit, Calgary Peak and Edmonton.
The Mission, 14-0 in the Black Gold League, were silver medallists at the Michelle Vandale Memorial Spirit of the Winter Tournament in December at Langley, B.C. and gold medallists at the St. Albert Turkey Ring in October, Bernadette Price Memorial Tournament in November at Saskatoon and Esso Golden Ring in January at Calgary.
The Mission roster features nine players from last year’s unsuccessful provincial bid for nationals.
"We feel we have a team that can make a lot of noise at the tournament," Lajoie said.
Fourth place was the order of finish for the U19AA Mission at provincials last weekend Spruce Grove.
Sunday’s playoff losses of 8-1 to Calgary Strike and 8-2 against Spruce Grove Riot dropped the Mission into fourth place in the nine-team draw as the top three teams qualified for nationals in April at Ottawa.
“We played so hard in the round robin to get to Sunday we just had nothing left in the tank. Couple that with some injuries and we were gassed,” said head coach Eric Lavoy. “I’m very proud of the players. They played hard this weekend and an AB4 finish is a good finish to the season as our path to Sunday was a hard road based on the schedule. All the teams we played were higher ranked than us.”
The No. 7 Mission finished 3-3 overall and in the round robin beat the No. 6 Zone 2 Blaze 4-1, lost 3-1 to No. 2 Calgary Blade, doubled the No. 5 Riot 6-3 and edged the No. 3 Central Alberta Sting 4-3 for third place and a semifinal berth against No. 4 Strike.
The championship final was 5-4 for Strike against Blade.
The Mission ended the season at 20-18-4.
Two losses on day one of provincials left the U14AA Mission scrambling to make the semifinals.
The No. 2-ranked Mission rebounded Saturday with wins of 8-1 against the No. 9 Edmonton Elite and 1-0 against No. 4 Calgary Red to finish 2-2 last weekend in Spruce Grove after falling short 5-2 to No. 7 Calgary White and 4-2 to No. 6 Calgary Blue.
The No. 1 Zone 2 Blaze, No. 3 Red Deer Rush, No. 4 Calgary Red and Calgary White tied for first at 3-1 for playoff spots as well as berths at westerns later this month in Prince George, B.C.
Calgary Red beat Calgary White 4-2 for the championship and it was 3-2 for Zone 2 against Red Deer for bronze.
The result against Calgary Blue eventually put the Mission in sixth place out of nine teams as both squads shared the same round-robin record.
“We had one day (Friday) where we were just not sharp enough. It happens in sport as all of these teams at the 14AA level are very competitive,” said head coach Darcy Owen.
The Mission’s overall record is 29-13-3-2.