The Shaftesbury Titans took a giant step Friday. The Titans earned a spot among the Final Four with a huge win at the 2013 Female Sport School Challenge hockey tournament at the MTS Iceplex.
After two days of preliminary play in the eight-team tournament, Shaftesbury won its last game on Friday, 5-0 over the Rothesay Netherwood team from New Brunswick, to clinch second in Pool B with a 2-1 record and a berth into today's semifinals.
Shaftesbury will meet the Okanagan Hockey Academy from Penticton, B.C., which finished first in Pool A with a 3-0 record, at 1:45 p.m. at the Remax rink. The other semifinal will be played at 2 p.m. in the Winnipeg Free Press rink, featuring the Pursuit of Excellence from Kelowna, B.C., first in Pool B with a 3-0 record, and the Edge School from Calgary (2-1).
The gold-medal final of the tournament, sanctioned by Hockey Canada and featuring top high school-aged players from across Canada, will be played Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The bronze-medal game will be Sunday at 10:15 a.m.
"It's been a great day, I'm very proud of our team," said Eugene Kaminsky, the Shaftesbury head coach. Unlike many other preparatory programs which are based in private schools, the Shaftesbury program is based in a public school. "To be in the semifinals with these top teams, what it says is that these girls just work so hard and they can play with anybody," he said. "They are just so focused in the way they compete in every game. They understand the job they have to do but they still have a lot of fun doing it."
Shaftesbury will have its hands full with the Okanagan team. Okanagan beat the host St. Mary's Flames of Winnipeg 2-0 on Thursday, defeated Edge 4-3 in overtime and shut out Fort Frances 6-0 in preliminary play. The squad includes three members of Canada's national women's under-18 team in blue-liner Alexa Ranahan and forwards Emily Clark and Hannah Miller.
Shaftesbury goaltender Rachel Dyck, who will get the start today, said a semifinals appearance is "awesome."
"But we know we have a lot of work to do yet," said Dyck, who lives in Winnipeg Beach. She transferred to Shaftesbury from Balmoral Hall this year for her Grade 12 season.
"We definitely play our best game when we cycle, play simple, dump it in, chase it, pin them down low, use our speed and use our point really well. Clearing pucks in front of the net, our defence does a great job."
The Flames finished third in Pool A with a 1-2 record.
Earlier Friday, Shaftesbury suffered its only loss in preliminary play, falling 3-1 to the Pursuit of Excellence, but got a huge confidence boost as well.
Shaftesbury led 1-0 in the first period on a goal by defenceman Michela Esposito when her team was being outshot 24-12. The Pursuit needed a pair of third-period power-play goals to clinch the win.
"There's no doubt about it, if you want to put a measuring stick against somebody, POE is the measuring stick in Canada. POE has established themselves as one of the top teams in North America," said Kaminsky, adding the Titans could have just as easily killed the two third-period penalties.
"That's something we can fix. We were in this game with them. Nobody likes losing, but you can take some solace in the fact that we went against probably the best team in the country. I know they'll be in the final, I just hope we get another chance against them."
Shaftesbury goaltender Rachel Dyck was named her team's player of the game against POE. POE's player of the game was team captain and Neepawa native Halli Krzyzaniak, who scored her team's first goal and assisted on the insurance marker in the third.
Shaftesbury goalie Tiana Charban recorded the shutout in the win over Rothesay Netherwood.
Edge 7 St. Mary's Academy 1
St. Mary's goal: Meike Meilleur
Pursuit of Excellence 3 Shaftesbury 1
Shaftesbury goal: Michela Esposito
Okanagan 6 Fort Frances 0
Rothesay Netherwood 6 Banff Hockey Academy 1
Edge School 14 Fort Frances 3
Shaftesbury 5 Rothesay Netherwood 0
Shaftesbury goals: Kayla Mee, Eastyn Yuen, Kayla Karbonik, Rikki Meilleur, Larissa Martyniuk