Midget Lady Wolves book their ticket to Provincials
by Randy Pascal
For a group of seven graduating Sudbury Midget Lady Wolves and their teammates, the disapointment of pre-Provincial elimination has been averted.
Completing their minor hockey swan song this spring, the Sudbury "AA" girls booked their ticket to the All-Ontario championships in April after edging the
defending national silver medallist North Bay Ice Boltz 2-1 for a second consecutive game.
With a win in North Bay already under their belts, the local ladies were surprisingly tentative in the opening period Sunday at the Gerry McCrory
Countryside Sports Complex. That would cost them as speedy Maria Dominico found an outside lane and shelved a shot over the shoulder of Sudbury
netminder Stephanie Pascal with just seven seconds remaining in the opening period.
Thankfully, the goal only seemed to inspire the Lady Wolves, killing off a penalty early in the middle stanza and then taking control of the game.
Kennedy Lanktree tucked home the tying goal midway through the second following a scramble in front of Danika Ranger, with linemate
Karli Shell scoring the game-winner just 1:34 later.
Shell stepped out of the corner and spotted an opening, five-hole, drilling home the goal that assured the Sudbury Midgets (Armstrong/Stortini) a first
place finish in the double round robin series that also includes the second Sudbury Midget "AA" team under the guidance of Daran Moxam.
From there, the homeside continued to use a strong forecheck to bottle up the Boltz, limiting the visitors to just 15 shots on net over the 39 minute
encounter. Ranger finished with 23 saves on the 25 shots she faced, with Pascal, for her part, turning aside 14 of 15.
"We knew they we're going to come out and fight and battle, and that's exactly what they did," noted coach Tim Stortini after the game. "I thought
that we were a little nervous in the first, knowing what's on the line and knowing the situations that have existed the previous two years."
To that, the Sudbury victory snapped a three-year skid in which the crew from North Bay had eliminated the Lady Wolves representatives from contention
at Provincials, with the 2012-2013 Ice Boltz moving on to claim the Ontario title last April.
But with both teams balancing their playdown schedules with the playoff encounters that are part of the LLFHL (Lower Lakes Female Hockey League)
post-season play, challenges are presented.
Coming off a pair of weekend games against the Whitby Wolves prior to facing Sudbury certainly did not make things any easier for the visitors. "We knew
that they might be a little tired in the third," said Stortini.
"We had to be aggressive, we had to be skating, and we had to keep the tempo up throughout the entire game." With their berth at Provincials secured, the
Midget "AA" Lady Wolves will turn their attention to their LLFHL Central East semi-final series against the Toronto Aeros this coming weekend.
The teams faceoff in game one Saturday afternoon in Parry Sound, travelling to the Seneca Arena for game two on Sunday. As for the Sudbury coaching staff,
there remains some work to be done, as always.
"We have to get better everwhere," said Stortini. "Our defensive zone coverage, we want a little more improvement there. And coming out of our own zone,
we're always working on that with the girls. We are happy with the power play - the puck movement there is very good."
With the Ice Boltz retooling, this year, with a young and talented team, Sudbury held the upper hand through most of the year. The Lady Wolves trailed
only Whitby in league standings, posting a record of 18-2-2, with North Bay nabbing fourth place with a record of 12-5-5.
Following a 3-1 loss in North Bay in their second game of the season, the Lady Wolves proceeded to remain unbeaten against their rivals through the
next five matchups, winning four of those games.