It may be a bit early to celebrate Christmas, but not for the AAA Central Plains Female Capitals after the team finished fourth out of 16 teams at the U-19 2012 Minnesota Thoroughbreds Thanksgiving tournament in St. Paul, Minn., on the weekend of Nov. 23-25.
The team plays out of Portage la Prairie, but its members come from as far away as Laurier and Winnipeg. The Caps are coached by Ferdi Nelissen and play in the AAA Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League (MFMHL).
This is the third year in a row the Caps have travelled to St. Paul to compete in the tourney but this was the first time they made it to the semi-finals.
The Capitals started the tournament off great, winning their first game 2-1 against the Keweenaw Storm from Michigan. Assistant captain Megan Tully of Portage la Prairie had a goal and an assist while team captain, Courtlyn Oswald of MacGregor scored the other. Picking up assists for the Caps were assistant captain Chantal Gamache from Laurier, Hannah Dalrymple from Elie and Madison Dreger from Oak Bluff. Goalie Elisha Oswald from Waldersee picked up the win in net, stopping 16 of 17 shots.
The team’s second 2-1 win came against the St. Mary’s Academy Flames from Winnipeg. Sheridan Oswald of MacGregor and Gamache each scored a goal , which combined with great goaltending from Winnipeg’s Robin Thiessen, who stopped 16 of 17 shots to give the Caps the win.
The team won its third game of the weekend 2-1 against the host team, the Minnesota Thoroughbreds. Taylor Boehlig of MacGregor and Gamache netted the goals in this outing and Oswald picked up the win in goal. The Caps battled hard against the older and very aggressive host team and ended up outshooting them, too.
The Caps finished first in their pool, which qualified them for the championship rounds. They played their first semi-final game against MFMHL rival Westman Wildcats, from Brandon, tying 1-1. Dreger scored the Caps’ lone goal in the third period as the Caps battled back to force overtime.
Thiessen was once again solid in net for the Caps through the five-minute overtime period but Westman scored in a shootout to win the game by an official score of 2-1.
The Caps faced the 2011 tournament winners, the Pursuit of Excellence (POE) from Kelowna, B.C., in the third-place playoff game. Even though the Caps lost 5-0, they displayed a solid second and third period effort against one of the elite hockey schools in Canada.
The coaching staff of Central Plains was extremely pleased with the players and their efforts. It was a graduate result for players in their final year of eligibility with the team: Dreger, Jordan Robertson from Treherne and Breanna Murner from Sanford, Autumn Garnham from Portage la Prairie, Megan Tully and Gamache.
"This was by far our best finish. We have been very competitive over the years, winning and tying a few games, but have never finished better than third in our pool before. This was a great accomplishment for the girls and the program," Nelissen said.
The tournament winners were the Shaftesbury Titans from Winnipeg, who beat Westman 2-1.
Sandra Murner is a community correspondent for Sanford. She can be reached at email@example.com.