It was the “cherry on top” of a perfect season — one Williams Lake’s Julia Flinton will likely never forget.
Flinton, an 18-year-old defenceman for the Notre Dame Midget AAA Female Hounds (Wilcox, Sask.), made good on becoming a Midget AAA National Champion when the Hounds defeated the Edmonton Thunder, 5-2, in front of a national audience in St. Albert, Alta. on Saturday.
“It was amazing,” Flinton said. “We started the tournament off with one loss and it was kind of a downer but it made us push that much harder because we knew we were the best team.
“When that final buzzer went in that last game — I was on the ice at the time — I couldn’t even focus on the game because I knew we were going to win it. It was unbelievable the feeling that I had.”
At last year’s Midget AAA National Championship, the Hounds finished with a silver medal.
Flinton said winning this year’s championship after last year’s silver medal was “such a relief.”
“It definitely meant so much more for returning players [from last year’s team],” she said. “It was such a disappointment last year because we knew we could have won and we had beat the team we lost to in the final at the beginning of the tournament. Winning it this year was just unreal and made the season that much better. All our hard work for the past two years paid off.”
The Hounds, coached by Janice Rumpel, plowed through the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s regular season finishing in first place with a 27-0-1 record.
Flinton, an assistant captain on the team, contributed six goals and 14 assists for a 20-point campaign.
En route to the national championship the Hounds were defeated in its first game — a 3-2 shootout loss to the Thunder.
Following that, Flinton and the Hounds downed Quebec’s Kodiaks du Lac St-Louis, 6-0, before laying a 14-2 drubbing on Atlantic Canada’s Kings County Kings.
In game four the Hounds defeated the St. Albert Slash 4-3 in a shootout, before winning twice — 3-1 and 5-1 in the semi-final — over the Toronto Aeros before winning the championship game against Edmonton.
Flinton picked up five assists in the tournament.
“It [the final] was a really competitive game,” she said. “It was really back and forth. Luckily we picked it up and scored two quick ones for a 4-1 lead, then they scored on a power play and we got an empty netter.”
Adding to the unforgettable season for Flinton was a trip to the Canada Winter Games in Halfix, NS. this past February as a player for Team B.C. Flinton was the only athlete from Williams Lake to compete at the games.
Team B.C. placed sixth at the Games, with Flinton contributing three assists to top all defensemen on her team.
“Halifax, I’d never been before and it was more than I expected,” Flinton said. “The city was beautiful and everything going on made it that much more enjoyable.
“The competition was so intense. I’d never played at that level, but I was able to keep up and that was really rewarding for me. The result probably wasn’t what we wanted it to be but it was the best Team B.C. has ever finished.”
With graduation right around the corner Flinton, who has spent her last five years at Notre Dame College, has now set her sights on a university playing career. She was offered a scholarship to the University of Saskatchewan and will play for the team next season.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I’ve been at Notre Dame for five years now so it’s kind of scary and it’s definitely going to be out of my comfort zone, but it’s exciting.
“It’s a new beginning and I’m really excited to move on and start the next chapter. This place [Notre Dame College] has made me who I am and it will be hard to leave, but I’m ready to move on and try something new.”