By Zachary Cormier
The Central Alberta Sting U19AA team have been on fire as of late.
Central Alberta’s top level ringette team are coming off an excellent month in January that saw them claim a pair of back-to-back gold medals in two of the country’s most prestigious tournaments.
“We’re heading into provincials and the team’s playing strong,” said Head Coach Jackie Lunn about her team’s performance this month.
Lunn said the Sting have seen their fair share of ups and downs this season.
“We started off fairly strong, had a little bit of a slump there at Christmas time. So it’s nice to get our slump over with before provincials,” she said.
The Sting kicked off their hot streak early in January at the Esso Golden Ring tournament in Calgary.
“That was when they just came off their slump, so we were a little worried about them. But they played strong every single game,” Lunn said.
The team only lost a single round robin game at the tournament; a 5-3 loss to Calgary Blue. The rest of the tournament was smooth sailing as the team claimed victories over the Zone 5 Grit, the Edmonton Elite and Calgary Red and the St. Albert Mission to advance to the final, where they would play Calgary Blue.
“The girls had a lot of fight and came together nicely,” Lunn said of the final game, which the Sting won 5-1.
“It was probably the biggest turning point of the season because they adapted well, never gave up and they came back to win.”
According to Lunn, the Golden Ring was a big tournament to win.
“It’s a very prestigious tournament.”
Spurred on by their win in Calgary, the Sting looked to continue their success at the end of the month when they headed to Winnipeg for the 2016 MB AA Voyageur Tournament.
“We started off with a little bit of a rocky start. We had one of our offensive players that we rely on pretty heavily get the flu and miss the first four games,” Lunn said.
Despite that setback though, the team proved to be very strong in the round robin, again posting a 3-1 record.
“The girls all played strong even though we were down our full team. They seemed to adapt really well and didn’t let it bother them.”
The team won their first game of the tournament 6-2 over Regina, claimed a 5-1 victory over Calgary Blue and a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Elite before falling 8-5 to the Winnipeg Angels in their final round robin game.
Even though they lost to the Angels in the round robin, the Sting’s performance in the other games was enough to earn them a chance at redemption in the first versus second championship game against Winnipeg. It was an opportunity they weren’t about to miss.
“Winnipeg is a very talented team. They’re an excellent, fast team. They started out controlling a lot of the last game,” Lunn said.
The Angels jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period. But the Sting would not be defeated.
“We ended up battling back and tying it up in the last five minutes of the game and forced overtime.”
Central Alberta used the momentum from that two goal comeback to take the fight to the Angels in overtime and eventually Kristen Demale managed to bury the winner.
After their wins, the Sting will now turn their attention to provincials, which they will be hosting in Lacombe and Red Deer later this month.
“The game plan is to win provincials, for sure,” Lunn said.
With six Albertan U19AA teams off to the Canadian Ringette Championships in London, Ont. later this year, the Sting will be competing for the chance to represent as Team Alberta.
“The top-seeded team out of provincials will go as Team Alberta,” Lunn explained.
In order to do that, she said, the team is going to have to focus.
“We’re just focusing on our game and the other teams are just going to have to adapt.”
Alberta’s U19AA Provincials will take place the weekend of Feb. 25th to 27th in Lacombe and Red Deer.