St. Albert ringette players will get a second shot at becoming national champs next week after their first try was denied by the pandemic.
The St. Albert Mission U19 AA ringette team is headed to Calgary this April 3-9 for the Canadian Ringette Championships. This is the first time nationals have been held since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the team’s players qualified for the championship back in 2020 at the U16 level but didn’t get to go as the 2020 championship was cancelled, said St. Albert Mission head coach Eric Lavoy. Those players are pumped to have this second shot at nationals.
“It’s an opportunity to compete with the best teams across Canada,” Lavoy said, and to potentially bring home the St. Albert Mission’s first national medals since 2015.
Lavoy said the Mission squad will compete against 17 teams in a five-game round-robin before moving on to the playoffs.
“We have a really deep team,” Lavoy said of the squad, with three lines packed with defensive and offensive potential.
Lavoy said the team played through more than 50 games this season on top of managing school and jobs, and has been training every week in preparations for this tournament.
“I’m so proud of these ladies.”
Bellerose Grade 12 student Brooke Maurier plays defence for the St. Albert Mission and will be playing in next week’s tournament. She has been playing ringette since she was five and was part of the U16 team which qualified for nationals in 2020.
“It still sucks [the cancellation] ended up happening, as we were super good that year,” Maurier said.
“I know everyone’s super excited to go because no one has ever been to nationals before.”
Maurier said the St. Albert Mission played a lot of practice games last summer to shake off the rust from the abbreviated 2020/2021 season (where they played maybe six games), and persevered through pandemic safety measures such as masking and physical distancing.
Grade 12 Paul Kane student Janine Lajoie plays forward for the St. Albert Mission and has played with most of her teammates for her entire ringette career.
“There’s been a lot of drive and motivation to make this year count,” she said, especially for those players for whom this will be their last year with the team.
“I think we’re all pretty pumped up to go to nationals and get ‘er done this year.”
Team captain and University of Alberta nursing student Jamie Stolk is ready for what is technically her second trip to nationals, having played two games as a substitute/affiliate player for a different team at a previous championship. Stolk said she is glad to be able to put one last season under her belt with the St. Albert Mission, having felt bored and directionless during two years of pandemic-related sports shutdowns.
Stolk said the team has been doing spin classes, strategy sessions, and on-and-off ice practices to prepare for the tournament. While they have strong competition ahead of them, she said the St. Albert Mission are definitely medal contenders.
Maurier said this had been an emotional season for her, as it might be her last year of playing ringette as she heads into university. Stolk is also leaving the team, but hopes to try out for the Canada Winter Games this summer.
Lajoie said it is the bonds of fellowship she has forged with her teammates which have kept her playing ringette all these years.
“All 17 of those girls are friends I’ve had forever,” she said, and she hopes to carry those friendships with her in the future.
Nationals begin April 3 with an online opening ceremony. Games begin April 4. Visit calgarycrc2022.ca for details.