Determined Lady Tritons face steep odds at hockey nationals

Determined Lady Tritons face steep odds at hockey nationals

Determined Lady Tritons face steep odds at hockey nationals

Peter Mallett, Staff writer ~

You can’t blame the Lady Tritons coach, PO1 Dave Hillier for taking a “realistic” approach to this week’s women’s national hockey finals at CFB Borden.

After all, his team has a smaller player pool to draw from than the competition, little ice time, few organized games, and will be without their usual head coach. So the players and coaching staff know their chances of triumph at the Canadian Armed Forces Women’s National Hockey Championship, March 19 to 24 at CFB Borden, are minimal at best.

 “To be brutally honest, the girls having fun and being enthusiastic about playing hockey is all that really matters,” says Hillier. “The true meaning of this competition is all about bonding, camaraderie, meeting and competing against other women hockey players from bases across the country.”

The Lady Tritons placed fifth at last year’s nationals and haven’t registered a win at the tournament since 2014.

They open the round robin play against CFB Ottawa on March 20 (result unavailable at press time) and then play two games March 21 against CFB Halifax and tournament host CFB Borden before their final preliminary round game on March 22 against Cold Lake.

While they are determined to earn a berth in the March 23 semi-final round of the five-team tournament, the Lady Tritons are well aware the deck is firmly stacked against them.  Unlike most teams at the national finals, the Lady Tritons are constantly hamstrung by a small player pool, and the even bigger handicap of getting the players released for games.

“With us it’s a situation of anyone who wants to be part of this team and is able to come with us,” says defenceman MCpl Anita Kwasnicki. “Other teams can pick and choose from much larger player pools.”

When the Lady Tritons do manage to get some playing time in against other local women’s teams it’s not in an organized league with standings and an organized schedule, but just an ad-hoc schedule of exhibition games.

Last week head coach Bob Clark, a senior analyst at Fleet School who has coached the team for the past five seasons, announced he would not be attending the tournament due to commitments, and that PO1 Hillier and injured forward A/SLt Sarah Halfkenny, another assistant coach with the team, would be taking over duties behind the bench.

“I’m definitely disappointed; you spend the season building the team and you’re looking forward to seeing them compete and then you learn you won’t get to see it,” said Clark. “With the lack of numbers and player availability combined with many other factors it obvious that a lesser group of athletes would have cleared out their lockers long ago and walked away from playing. What an amazing group of ladies we have on this team.”

At their final practice March 16 at Wurtele Arena, before they headed to Ontario, just eight players attended and they had no goaltender.

Despite the cascade of events working against them, that spirit of determination and pride of representing the base in a national championship wasn’t lost on The Lady Tritons defence man MCpl Joanne Lyster.

“We are always underdogs, but we will still have a chance at success if we concentrate our efforts on defence, buy into what our coaches are saying, and play as a team,” said MCpl Lyster.

The players and coaching staff say they are all hoping to continue building the team after the nationals conclude and wanted to spread the word that they are looking for all players of varying skill levels to come out and join them next season.

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