Defenceman Jillian Romaine of the Western Warriors works on her shot during a drill at a team practice Sunday at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex.
— Submitted photo
No matter what unfolds at the Hodder Memorial this weekend, the host Western Warriors are excited about playing hockey at a higher level.
“I’m pretty excited about it because I’ve never played in this type of tournament before,” Warriors forward Becky Maher said Monday.
“It’s a pretty high level of hockey and I’ve never had the chance before. Last year we didn’t have a team, so this year it’s pretty exciting that we have a team in the race.”
Maher, a 17-year-old Reidville native, expects the Warriors to hold their own when they play host to the 2014 Atlantic Female Midget Hockey Championship in Deer Lake.
The right-handed shooting forward, who can play either wing, is one of the Warriors’ alternate captains. She admits the team didn’t play up to par at the beginning of the season, but things got a lot better as the season progressed. She’s confident in the group of girls assembled for the quest for a medal.
Winning silver at the provincial level after losing 4-3 to the Central IcePak (Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s representative this year) in the final showdown earlier this year was a boost to the team’s confidence, said Maher.
“It was a heartbreaking loss to Central because we knew we could beat them, but we just didn’t have any luck and that’s just how it is,” Maher said.
Second best in the province is one thing, but now the level of hockey is faster and the competition is a tad tougher.
But that’s exactly what has this team so anxious to get the tournament underway, she said.
“I just wanted to see what calibre of hockey is going to come out of the other Atlantic provinces and see how we’re going to fare against them,” she said. “I know we can do it, but with the pressure ... I hope we can keep things together.”
She’s quick to point out that having the girls keep their cool at all times will go a long way.
“We just have to calm down a little bit and slow down the play and not rush into it,” she said. “As a team, we just have to work together and get the puck moving quick and stay deep down behind the net so we can get some shots.”
“If we were in another arena and we didn’t have very many fans it would be totally different, but fans are what keeps us going,” Maher added.
“So hopefully they are loud and present in the stadium to keep us going if we get down, and if we get up they can help us get even further.”
Goaltending will be one of the keys to keeping the team in the hunt. That responsibility will rest on the shoulders of Samantha Hann of Kippens and Brianna Brophy of Pasadena.
Both netminders have heard the familiar phrase ‘defence wins championships,’ so whoever coach Don Tulk puts in the crease will have to be on top of their game.
“Rebound control is a big thing for me,” Hann said.
“I always try to keep the rebounds very minimal. I try to cover the puck up as much as I can or put it in the corner.
“I just have to play my hardest and don’t give up,” she added. “I need to stay into the game, stay focused and try to keep my teammates focused.”
A 16-year-old Level 2 student at Stephenville High, Hann said she’s been waiting for this tournament all season.
“I’m so excited for it — I can’t wait,” she said. “Being able to play at this level of hockey and play with these amazing girls I am playing with is just great.
“We’re all really excited for it. We’re just going to stay focused and try our best. Go at it as best as we can,” she added.
Jillian Romaine, a 16-year-old Cormack native, is one of the defenders expected to build a wall in front of the goaltending tandem.
“You have to play hard, and use your strength and ability in the corners to knock them off the puck to get it to the forwards,” Romaine said, noting that moving the puck up the ice quickly is going to be very important with so many skilled players lining up against her.
She has never seen any of the other teams except the IcePak, but insists the Warriors are ready.
“Our expectations are to stay positive, skate hard and just try to have a really good weekend,” she said.
For a complete Western Warriors roster and tournament schedule see the Scoreboard on page 10 of today's Western Star.