With a bit of a sour taste in their mouths and a chip on their shoulders, the Williams Lake Midget Female Timberwolves laid it all on the line during the weekend to march away with the gold medal from the Fire on Ice Female Tournament.
Going winless earlier this month at their home tournament proved to be a wake up call for the Timberwolves, said head coach Steve O’Hara, as the team has shown a steep curve in improving since, resulting in the championship win on Sunday.
The turnaround began Nov. 16-17 during a pair of league games in Penticton with a 2-1 win and a 1-1 tie over the hosts after falling to the same team at their own tournament.
The team’s winning ways continued at this past weekend’s tournament where they upended the Fort St. John (Northeast) Predators 5-1 Friday, dominated the Washington Wild 10-2 Saturday, then tied Penticton 2-2.
This placed Williams Lake first at the end of the round robin and, facing the Wild again in their playoff game Sunday morning, Williams Lake shutout the U.S. squad by a score of 7-0. Clerese Cyr picked up the shutout victory for the T-wolves.
On Sunday afternoon, again pitted against a now familiar Penticton club, Williams Lake picked up another shutout win, 3-0, with Karmyn Fisher between the pipes to skate home with the banner and medals, along with their names etched on the Fire on Ice Cup.
Madigan Riplinger was the top scorer of the weekend with six goals, notching four versus the Wild.
O’Hara said since the team’s home tournament his players have completely bought into the team’s systems.
“There’s belief in it, belief in the dressing room in everybody around them and if they go out and do their thing and we play our style every game, we are a good team. We hit them [Penticton] with speed and forecheck and it resulted in a win,” he said.
“Our speed, our puck possessions, our quick transition hockey is really coming into its own and we’re really coming together as a team. We’re playing some good hockey.”
He noted no one player dominated the score sheets, as the Timberwolves’ offense was spread throughout the roster.
“Everyone’s stepping up,” O’Hara said. “We’re pushing to get more shots, getting in the ugly zones in front of the net and we’re getting some of those greasy goal.”
The players, meanwhile, were ecstatic with the result.
“They were so happy,” O’Hara said of his players. “And I’m very happy as a coach. It was a big deal [our home tournament] losing at our home tournament and that was an eye opener. We didn’t step it up there for our home tournament and we were sitting there watching other teams play in the finals when we should’ve been in it. It was a hard lesson learned, I think, but things have started to come together after that.”
Coming up for the T-wolves are league games in Kamloops on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, then the team will host Penticton Dec. 7-8.
The two teams will get a chance to reacquaint themselves once more Dec. 13-15 when Williams Lake heads to Penticton for a girls super weekend where all five midget ‘A’ teams north of Hope will square off.
Peewee Female Timberwolves claim silver at home tournament
Meanwhile, back on home turf in the lakecity, it was about as competitive a tournament as anyone could have hoped for this weekend when seven teams squared off at the Williams Lake Peewee Female Timberwolves Rep Tournament.
Sunday’s gold-medal game saw the unbeaten Vanderhoof Peewee Female Bears take on the Timberwolves after they inched into the final past the Kamloops Peewee Female Blazers through a goals for and goals against calculation.
There, despite the lakecity squad receiving its chances, Vanderhoof skated away with a 3-1 win and the gold medal, with the Timberwolves — playing some of their best hockey this season, noted head coach Lindsey Wood — taking the silver.
“Every game was close,” Wood said. “Anybody could have won, but congratulations to Vanderhoof on a job well done.”
Wood said he was impressed with the heart and determination his team displayed throughout the tournament, and added the girls were so excited to be playing in the final at their home tournament.
“We’re a young team, developing well,” he said. “It was good to be in the championship game, the girls were thrilled and I saw a lot of hard work and dedication to get here. They’re a fairly new group of players and they’re coming together playing as a team.
“The effort’s there and it’s starting to show on the ice.”
In Sunday’s final the score remained deadlocked at 0-0 before Vanderhoof notched the first of the contest with four minutes to play in the first.
The Bears went up 2-0 with 13:54 left in the second, before Williams Lake’s Reese Overton answered back for the T-wolves just seconds later on a setup from linemate Jada Wood to pull the team within one.
Both teams battled back and forth evenly for the remainder of the third, before Vanderhoof was able to capitalize on a rush down the right-wing side to score the final goal of the contest in the 3-1 win.
“A couple more bounces and we could’ve buried a couple,” Wood said.
“Vanderhoof played well. They’re a good, strong team.”
In round robin play Williams Lake opened its tournament with a 2-2 tie against Kelowna Friday evening. Saturday, Williams Lake lost 4-2 to Vanderhoof, then bounced back with a 6-2 triumph over Salmon Arm later in the afternoon. Sunday morning, Williams Lake defeated North West 6-0 to earn a berth in the final.
Third place at the tournament went to the Kamloops Peewee Female Blazers after they beat Salmon Arm in the bronze-medal game.
Wood, meanwhile, thanked all of the volunteers, players and coaches for their hard work throughout the weekend in helping make the tournament a success.
The T-wolves will continue their home stretch over the next couple of weekends when they host Vernon and Prince George for league games.
They’ll then head north to Prince George for a tournament from Dec. 13-15.