A very busy week for the Midget AA Lady Wolves
by Randy Pascal
It's been quite a week of news for the Sudbury Midget "AA" Lady Wolves, and it goes far beyond the team being awarded the 2019 Esso Cup
National Midget Female Hockey Championships just over 24 hours ago.
Coming off a somewhat sluggish 1-1-1 weekend in Lower Lakes Female Hockey League (LLFHL) play at the end of October, the Lady Wolves recorded a
solid 3-0 win over the first place Etobicoke Dolphins Saturday in Sudbury.
The team received goals from Katie Chomiak, Deseray Zazulak and call-up Elizabeth Laberge, with goaltender Mireille Kingsley
backstopping the crew with a shutout as Sudbury improved to 3-1-2, good for fourth place in the nine team Central Division loop.
The team enjoys another weekend of home cooking, with a busy schedule ahead as the Lady Wolves faceoff against the Barrie Sharks this Saturday
evening at Countryside, before battling the Sault Ste Marie Wildcats in a pair of encounters on Sunday.
Part of the reason that call-ups were required was due to the absence of team captain Madison Laberge. The smooth-skating defenceman was a
member of the gold medal winning Team Ontario Red squad, competing at the 2017 National Women's Under 18 Championships in Quebec City.
Laberge and her teammates bounced back from a 1-2-0 record in round robin play, just barely squeezing through to the final four by virtue of their
head to head victory over Alberta (2-0). The win was bookended by defeats at the hands of both Team Atlantic (2-1) and Team Ontario Blue (3-1).
Once they were through to the medal round, Ontario Red turned it up a notch, blasting British Colombia 6-1 in the semi-final game and earning some
payback against their provincial counterparts, stopping Ontario Blue 3-1 in the final.
A member of the provincial U16 team over the course of the past few years, Laberge was selected for the U18 team following tryouts in early August. "I wasn't too
surprised that I made it, because I felt good at tryouts," she said. "I was surprised I was on Team Red."
Historically, Team Red is considered the "A" selections coming out of the Ontario tryout sessions, with the next best players in the province selected to
form Ontario Blue.
A grade 11 student at Confederation Secondary, Laberge has verbally committed to the St Lawrence Saints NCAA Division I program, recruited
largely on the basis of her offensive prowess.
"I can see the ice a little more than a lot of people," she acknowledged. "I've got speed, so I can gain the zone. I try and decide whether to jump in
based on how long I've been on the ice. If I've been on for a long shift, I wouldn't particularly choose that time."
Working on her shot, as well, throughout much of the summer, Laberge has been a constant scoring threat for the Lady Wolves in both league and tournament
play. And yes, the call-up who fared quite well in her absence is, in fact, her younger sister.
While Laberge will have to wait until the 2019-2020 season to begin her post-secondary careers, a pair of her Sudbury teammates are heading off together,
beginning their adventure next September.
Forward Kiana Verbiwski and defenceman Makayla Blanchard have both signed on to join the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleues once
their careers as Lady Wolves come to a close in the spring.
"I was looking at schools that had my program (Social Work), and this was in French - and I like the east coast," suggested Verbiwski. The 17 year
Collège Notre-Dame student has learned, after years at the rink, not to take her hockey for granted.
"I'm just so grateful that I am even going to play," said Verbiwski. "You realize that after midget, you may not get the chance to keep going. I'll never
stop being grateful, it's like Thanksgiving every day."
The fact that she will be joined in New Brunswick by a fellow CND student and Lady Wolves' sidekick was something of an added bonus. "I wasn't looking at
being scouted, I was just playing for fun, and then it just happened," explained Blanchard. "That was cool."
"At first, I wasn't really into it, I wasn't sure I wanted to go away. But then I thought about it, and thought I should at least really see what it was
all about. I didn't want to miss out on something that I might really like."
While Verbiwski has no family at all in that area, Blanchard will get a chance to play, hopefully, from time to time, in front of her grandparents from
Tracadie, some three hours north of Moncton.
The fact that both young women will continue to study in their native language added one extra positive dimension to the decision. "I hadn't really
thought about it, that much, going to study in French," said Blanchard.
"But once I thought about it, it occured to me that I might not be able to learn as well in English, because I've been taught in French my whole life."
Of course, for those who do not age out after the 2017-2018 campaign, the motivation to remain in Sudbury became that much stronger with the announcement
of the Esso Cup being awarded to the Nickel City in two years time (more on that story tomorrow).