The Red Rockets were the winners according to the scoreboard, defeating the Avalanche 3-2 in the Whitehorse women’s hockey league finals at the Canada Games Centre on Thursday.
But the success of the league has made everyone a winner, say most players.
“It was a fabulous inaugural season for women’s hockey,” said Rockets captain Cheryl Rivest. “Years ago it was always you practice and play against the boys, went away for a couple tournaments—and that was it. But this has been great, and it’s been fun throughout the season—and that’s been the emphasis.”
Being the only women’s league in the territory, the four teams had varying skill levels on the benches. However, the discrepancies in skill became harder to detect and the more experienced players stood-out less and less as the season progressed.
“Our team really came together throughout the season,” said Rockets’ Emilie Nugent. “At first we were all individuals ... A few of them were new to the ice, so it was an individual effort. But as the season came along we learned to play together as a team and that’s what helped us win this.
“Annie (Morrison) is one of them. When she first stepped on the ice she could barely stand on skates, now she’s out there and all over the place. She’s shooting the puck at the net and she’s improved so much—I’m so proud of her.”
In the finals, Rocket Chantal Rivest racked up a hat trick.
The Rockets’ second and third came in the final period, with passes spouting out from the corners to Chantal Rivest in front.
“We really needed to start skating instead of doing fancy stuff,” said Chantal Rivest, speaking of the finals. “Go back to basics and actually getting shots off instead of looking for the fancy pass. I guess you could say we got smarter.”
Picking up assists on the Rockets’ goals were Jennifer Russel and Cheryl Rivest. Georgie Townrow and Nancy Campbell scored the Avalanche’s two.
“At the beginning of the season we were, like, ‘Let’s play for fun, let’s have fun, guys,’” said Chantal Rivest. “As all the players start to improve it became more like, ‘Let’s have fun, but let’s win this too.’ It’s kind of nice to see.”
The Avalanche advanced to the finals with a 2-1 win over the Fury the previous night. Tied 1-1 with less than a minute to play in regulation time, Anna Pugh scored, giving her team a ticket to the finals.
Karen Pearson scored the Avalanche’s first goal to tie the game.
“We’re happy we won last night against the Fury, who’s been winning all season,” said Avalanche centre Pamela Morrisey. “They may have lost one (game in the season)—basically they dominated the league.”
The Rockets flew into the finals with a 4-3 win over the Steelers March 26. Chantal Rivest was absent from the game, but Cheryl Rivest scored a goal.
“We were just picking up speed,” said Cheryl Rivest. “It’s bragging rights for the rest of the year ... Don’t forget, it could be a really long summer.”
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