There’s a neighbourhood rivalry atop the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League’s Winnipeg Free Press Division.
Though the River East Kodiaks have nabbed the top spot with a 16-0-1 record (heading into their Jan. 25 game against Lorette), the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes have given their North Kildonan neighbours a run for their money.
The Buckeyes (13-2-3) are 0-2 against the Kodiaks this season, having suffered losses of 3-0 and 1-0 earlier this season. They’ll have a chance to get rolling entering the postseason in their second-last game of the year, as the teams are slated to meet one final time at the Gateway Recreation Centre on Feb. 6 at 3:30 p.m.
"In practice, we talk about River East. When we’re playing other teams, we talk about River East," said assistant coach Dean Findlay. "But we’ve got to make sure we don’t lose focus on the other teams we have to beat before we get to River East."
Defender Anna Haley stressed playing the Buckeye brand of hockey is what’s advanced Miles Mac to this point, so they need to stick with it.
"We can’t get psyched out," said Haley. "We’ve got to play our game."
The Buckeyes are blessed with an embarrassment of riches between the pipes, as Danielle Quaye (8-1-1, 1.39 GAA and two shutouts) and Robin Thiessen (4-2-1, 1.07 GAA and one shutout) both rank among the league leaders in all major statistical categories while splitting games fairly evenly.
"Our goalies have been solid throughout the whole season," said Findlay. "We don’t ride one hot goalie because they’re both hot goalies. That might change in the playoffs if we get a little deeper.
"The girls play the same way in front of either goalie."
Thiessen, who joined the team after backstopping the champion Balmoral Hall Blazers to a division title last year, also tends goal for the Portage la Prairie-based Central Plains Capitals AAA team of the Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League. She was also named the division’s player of the week for the week ending Jan. 18.
The Buckeyes boasted an entire line at the league’s all-star game on Jan. 20 as Quaye, defenders Nicole Desrosiers and Meika Bauer, and forwards Jalissa Veren, Jessica Gzebb and Sarah Guenther all took to the ice at the MTS Iceplex.
While the Miles Mac attack doesn’t boast a sniper comparable to what the Kodiaks have in store, it is a consistent one, with nine players in double-digits in points against River East’s six.
"They’re finding their spots out there and they’re working hard," said Findlay.