The Central Alberta Sting’s U14AA team is going into this season in search of another trip to the Western Canadian Final.
The Sting are coming off a season during which they won provincials and earned a bronze medal at Westerns, a season which, according to new Head Coach Lee Caine, was pretty impressive.
“Last year was the first time in the history of our association that they represented our province as team Alberta,” said Caine, the former coach of the U16 AA team.
The Central Alberta Ringette Association is now in its 11th year of existence.
The Western Canadian Final is the pinnacle of competition for U14 teams in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and B.C., and teams have to win their own provincials in order to compete at that level.
“Last year they won provincials, they had an exceptional year. They went onto Western Canadian Championships and they won bronze. I think they were pretty pleased with the result,” said Caine, whose daughter played on the U14 team last year.
He added that, from a parent’s perspective, the team probably should have been in the gold medal game, but they lost an overtime heart breaker to Team Manitoba, who eventually went on to win it all, in the semi final.
“It’s tough to follow that up but at the same time we have five returning players,” Caine said.
This season, the team has a total of 17 skaters that includes seven players from Red Deer and 10 from Lacombe.
The Sting play in the U16A division of the Black Gold League, which runs from Central Alberta all the way up to the northern part of the province. They play league games against other U14AA teams as well as U16A teams from as far north as St. Albert.
“It’s kind of like going one age group up,” Caine said, adding the U14 girls tend to be competitive with their older counterparts.
“Generally speaking the AA girls do fairly well against the U16A teams. They might lose to a couple of the top teams but the games tend to be pretty comparable.”
The Sting kicked off league play last Sunday with a loss against the St. Albert U14AA team, though it was a close one with the score ending 5-4.
“At U14AA I still refer to it as developmental. We’re still going through a process. On our team we’ve got five returning but the rest of our girls haven’t played AA ringette before so it’s a step up. The speed leaves less time to think an make decisions and I think it will take a while for us to get into that,” Caine said, noting he did see a lot of good things from his players during the game.
“We’re going to be in the mix when it comes to February,” he said.
February is when Ringette Alberta holds their provincial tournaments, which this year will be hosted by the CA Sting organization.
“League play doesn’t affect anything for us. It’s basically just preparation for that.”
The Sting will also compete in several tournaments throughout the year, including their own Icebreaker Tournament in December, and tourneys in Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond, B.C.
Western Canadians will also be held in Richmond this year and the Sting will be itching to be a part of them.