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Thursday, May. 24, 2018
Bantam Lady Wolves hope for repeat performance
by Randy Pascal

The bar has been set high for the 2017-2018 Sudbury Bantam "AA" Lady Wolves.

Coach Jay Duncan and the '16-'17 crew enjoyed one of the more successful seasons in recent memory for a Sudbury "AA" team at that age bracket, highlighted by a berth in the LLFHL (Lower Lakes Female Hockey League) Championship Weekend.

Though a number of those players have since moved on to the Midget "AA" squad this fall, there remains a core of veterans who will be looking to lead a whole slate of newcomers down a similar path this winter.

That said, patience might be a virtue, especially in the early going. "There is usually a minor/major gap at the beginning of the year, or maybe an A/AA gap," noted 14 year old returnee Lauren Fearn.

"By November, everybody will be gapped up, so I don't think it will be a problem. It seems like it's kind of a similar team, so I think we can have the same type of success." Fearn joins the trio of Chloe Leduc, Kelsey Dunn and Jenna Lachance as girls who have already benefitted from a year at the bantam "AA" ranks, including the type of exposure that comes from entering the Stoney Creek Showcase later this month.

"I feel that most of the girls have gone to tournaments like Stoney," said Fearn. "They're just not used to the scouting. The key is not to be worried about the scouts, just play your game. Play as a team, not as one player - that's what the scouts are looking for anyways."

Of course, that doesn't allow for a whole lot of time for incoming head coach Mike Lachance and his staff to ensure that the collection of talent that they have now assembled can put together a semblance of something that appears to be a co-ordinated effort on the ice. Time for the vets to step up, yet again.

"We take on more of a leadership role this year," noted defenceman Jenna Lachance. "We've got to help out all of the players that are new to the systems the coaches are introducing. As an older player, you have more confidence, so you play a little bit better, not as scared on the ice, with all of those big girls."

While the calling card of the '16-'17 Lady Wolves was likely a highly balanced approach to their attack, Lachance sees a different route that the current group will need to travel, in order to reach similar heights.

"Last year, we pushed offense quite a bit," she said. "This year, it's more defense to push our way forward to offense. And coach really likes to skate us. We definitely would be happy with finishing top ten in the Lower Lakes, and making it back to Championship weekend."

In order for that to happen, the goaltending will need to pick up right where standout Mireille Kingsley left off. Thankfully, the team is more than comfortable to be tackling that challenge with the tandem of Kiana Trottier and Kristen Mrozewski as the last line of defence, even as they make the jump to the bantam "AA" ranks for the first time.

"I'm finding more speed coming down the wings, and their shots are a lot harder, so I have to be prepared for that," said Mrozewski. "I think the players are getting smarter now, so I have to watch my angles and my depth in the net. The girls can shoot now and pick the corners."

Like each and every one of her teammates, Mrozewski has already started to assess those areas of her game that require the most attention. "I find that I do pretty well on high shots, so now I'm going to have to start working on the low shots, dropping to my butterfly even quicker."

The Sudbury Bantam "AA" girls are back competing in the LLFHL again this year, hoping to secure some home games in Northern Ontario (the '16-'17 team played their home games in Vaughan as a compromise to being accepted into the loop).

Either way, Mrozewski believes that this is the league that the Lady Wolves need to be facing, with regularity. "I think it's good going up to play other girls teams. Then when we get to other tournaments and provincials, we're not as surprised to see the really good teams."

The 2017-2018 edition of the Sudbury Bantam "AA" Lady Wolves assembles a lineup that also includes Elizabeth Laberge, Emilee Pelletier, Tessa Favero, Ashtyn Denomme, Aoife Mahaffy, Emily MacIsaac, Breanna Coyne, Elise Belanger, Arijana Tuttle, Kayla Thompson and Ellee Lacasse.

They will travel to Stoney Creek the weekend of September 22nd to 24th, with the Midget "AA" team heading down this coming weekend for their second competition in as many weeks.

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