While it looked bleak in the first half of the ringette national finals, a Winnipeg team pulled some magic out of their helmets.
The Winnipeg Magic 19AA team, representing Manitoba, faced the Edmonton Elite April 12 in the Tim Hortons Canadian Ringette Championships. The national tournament was held over six long days in Regina, Sask. with 44 teams across the country vying for the top spot.
Veteran goalie Jaime Simpson, 18, of St. Norbert, said she and her fellow rookie goalie Cassandra Groen, 17, were in the zone for the whole week, playing a total of 11 games.
"A lot of players don’t understand how much mental strength you need and the mental capacity you need to last all of nationals," Simpson said. "It’s super stressful.
"Even when you’re not playing, being the backup goalie, you still need to be mentally prepared."
Rob Walker, head coach of the Magic, said his team overcame butterflies after the first half to take down the team from Alberta.
"We fell behind quickly at the start of the game, and you could see that everybody was just nervous about making mistakes. Nobody wanted to get us further behind," Walker said. "And then we fell further behind."
The Magic ended the contest victorious with a score of 5-4. While Simpson and Groen alternated games in the first half of the tournament, Groen took over for the semis and finals.
"I love the pressure of the game," the rookie and Grade 11 student from Oak Park said.
"Being able to play for the province is really cool."
For her efforts, Groen, who has been playing ringette for 11 years, was named an all-star for the championship.
"Being a first year, it was a huge privilege," Groen said.
Simpson, a first-year University of Manitoba student, has been playing organized ringette since she was four years old. She said her favourite part about the sport is her teammates.
"It’s exactly like a big family," Simpson said. "You can go to your friends from ringette for anything."
Simpson said though she is already planning for the Canada Winter Games in 2015, the win in Regina is still on her mind.
"It’s still feels very surreal to us," Simpson said. "A bunch of us haven’t really grasped that we are the best in Canada and that we won nationals."
-With files from Dan Falloon