As host of the Under-18 National Women’s Hockey Championships, British Columbia knows there is added pressure that comes with playing in front of a home crowd.
“Obviously there is a little more pressure, because there is going to be more fans in the stands rooting for [us], but we just have to play our game,” said Team B.C.’s captain, Lauren Spring, following the team’s exhibition match on Sunday versus Quebec, where team B.C. lost 4-3 to shootout.
And while B.C. will embrace the crowd support, its players and team personnel have raised the stakes on themselves.
“We just need to turn up and compete, that’s where we have struggled, and we are so close,” said Spring, who will be playing in her third U-18 tournament.
British Columbia has failed to reach the medal rounds in five national championships since winning bronze in 2005.
Spring has experienced firsthand B.C.’s history at past events, and says the team aims to prove they belong in the playoffs on Saturday. B.C.’s first test is tonight versus Saskatchewan as preliminary action begins today.
“Last year going in we beat Alberta, and it kind of went downhill from there. But this year we have the team to compete, and I think we can go a long way,” said Spring.
“I think we are a very good skating team, we work well on the walls, so we are just going to have to use that as our strength,” she added.
At the 2011 Championships in Saguenay, Que., B.C. beat Alberta 2-1 to start preliminaries, but losses to Ontario-Red and Manitoba knocked them out of medal contention.
Head Coach Sylvain Leone says the team B.C. has brought to Dawson Creek is one that can make a statement.
“The main thing is they are ready to perform well in front of a home crowd and give the best B.C. performance that there has been in awhile,” said Leone, who admits the pressure of playing in B.C. is present, but is only going to help the team prepare for their first round-robin match versus Saskatchewan.
“I’m quite certain the first three or four shifts are going to be quite nerve-racking for the girls, but I also know we’ve talked a lot about playing shift by shift, focusing only on our performance and not worrying about fans or anything else,” he said. “Once we weather the storm of the first few shifts I think we’ll be fine.”
Leone says the tournament format – with only two of four advancing from both pools – makes every game important, and B.C. has to play as if every match is for the championship.
“You’ve got no room for error, there is only three games in the round robin, you lose the wrong game to the wrong team and you’ll be on the wrong side of the tie-breaker.”
With Team Atlantic and Ontario-Red in the same pool as B.C., Leone knows that a loss to Saskatchewan would immediately put his squad behind the eight ball.
“We start off with Saskatchewan and I can guarantee that if either team loses that game they will be in tough already to make the medal rounds,” he stated.
Six-time champion Ontario-Red is a perennial gold medal contender, and Team Atlantic comes in ranked fourth after narrowly missing out on a bronze medal at the 2011 Championships.
“If we come out on the short end against Saskatchewan, we need to beat Ontario [Red] to get those points,” said Leone. “So for us we don’t look at anything past Wednesday night.”
B.C. and Saskatchewan take to the ice at 7:00 p.m tonight at the Encana Events Centre. Other preliminary games held today are Alberta vs. Manitoba, Team Atlantic vs. Ontario-Red, and Ontario-Blue faces Québec.
Lauren Spring – Captain of the BC team
Third year, lots of experience,
“It’s a great feeling knowing that your province is here backing you up the whole way through,”
“Obviously there is a little more pressure, because there is going to be more fans in the stands rooting for [us], but we just have to play our game.
“I feel like we are strong going into the tournament.”
“We just need to turn up and compete, that’s where we have struggled, and we are so close. Last year going in we beat Alberta and it kind of went downhill from there, but this year we have the team to compete, and I think we can go a long way,”
“We just have to play every game like it’s our final game, and leave nothing on the ice,”
“I think we are a very good skating team, we work well on the walls, so we are just going to have to use that as our strength,”
Younger team as a challenge.
“Getting the nerves out of the way all the girls started to perform and I think we are ready to compete, we’ve worked hard for this,”
Facing teams in their pool.
“You can’t worry about that, you just have to go out every game and compete,”
Getting nerves out of the way.
B.C. it’s one of our better teams in terms of team speed.
“We fully expect to get the same support we have always gotten in small communities, and as long as we’re in B.C. it’s home,”
There is some added pressure, half a dozen players that have been here before,
“It’s fair to say B.C. has struggled in the national event in the last four or five years,”
I won’t say pressure to win, but the main thing is they are ready to perform well in front of a home crowd and give the best B.C. performance that there has been in awhile
“It’s there but it is helping everyone prepare,”
“We want to take better care of our rink, we got a little bit sloppy in our own end,
“The intensity and competitiveness at this level is not like what they play at home,”
The biggest adjustment for them is being ready to play like it is the final minute of some provincial championship.
“We showed some character coming back, but we lost, and it’s got to sting,”
“Sure we came back but we only played about two periods and a bit, and that won’t be remotely close to good enough.”
“You’ve got no room for error, there is only three games in the round robin, and you lose the wrong game to the wrong team, and you’ll be on the wrong side of the tie-breaker,”
“We start off with Saskatchewan and I can guarantee that if either team loses that game they will be in tough already to make the medal rounds,”
Ontario-Red is a perennial medal contender.
So all three teams know that’s the top team in our division, I think every team would be considered an underdog coming in against Ontario,”
Atlantic has always come in with a strong team,
“We just need to take one game at a time and don’t look past it,”
“If we come out on the short end against Saskatchewan, we need to beat Ontario to get those points, so for us we don’t look at anything past Wednesday night.”
Hopefully surprise Saskatchewan with our team speed.