For the second time in three years the Western Wind is heading off to the Atlantic Bantam AAA Female Hockey Championship.
The Tyne Valley-based Wind downed Central Storm 4-1 Sunday in Tyne Valley to sweep the best of-five championship series in three games.
“It was a really close league; not much discrepancy from first to third,” acknowledged Wind head coach Kyle Fraser. The Wind edged the Storm 2-1 in double overtime in the series opener and took the second game 3-2 in overtime before finishing at home with a little bit of breathing room. Gracie Gaudet, Kristyn Taylor, Hilary Shea and Chloe Gallant scored for the Wind in the series-clincher, and Cyriah Richard was in goal.
So now the Wind, which has players from Summerside to Tignish, has to quickly get ready for Atlantics which open April 4 in Clarenvillle, NL. The team held a planning meeting Monday night to discuss fundraising, accommodation and travel arrangements and practice schedule.
With ice time getting scarce, Fraser said the girls will focus primarily on off-ice conditioning, a ramped-up cross-fit routine and team bonding. He’s hoping to arrange a couple of exhibition games just prior for departure for Newfoundland.
“It’s something that was never expected at the first of the year, but the team played really well,” the head coach said of the wind’s march to the final
They captured first place in the three-team P.E.I. league with 12 wins, seven losses and eight ties. Their 32 points gave them a six-point cushion on the Storm. First place gave them a bye to the championship final. While they awaited the outcome of the Central Storm-Mid-Isle Wildcats series the Wind played a pair of exhibition games against an idle Halifax team. “It definitely helped,” Fraser assessed. “It wouldn’t be good going into the final not having anything (games) under our belt. It was actually good getting the competitive juices going.”
Each league team played interlocking games with teams from the New Brunswick league and Fraser said the Western Wind managed a winning record against their NB counterparts.
The team played in three tournaments, losing in the semi-finals in overtime twice.
The Wind welcomed 30 girls to try-outs last fall and 17 were selected.
About half of the members of the team won a provincial championship in Peewee last year.
“This group of 17 girls came together early on. I guess we started the process early of working hard and they had a good attitude,” he said. “We developed a couple of philosophies we wanted to take into this season, and I guess we gained momentum as the whole season went on.”
Coaching assistants are Wil O’Brien and Hayden Pridham. Todd Clark is team manager.
Fraser said the team is eagerly looking forward to Clarenville. “A good experience for them.”