They may have come out on the losing end of the Hazard’s Women’s Hockey Tournament final, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to members of the Hay River Explosive team following the game.
The team, who had survived a scare in their semi-final game against the High Level Cruzers, had little time to catch their breath before taking on the Fort Smith Rage in the final.
Living up to their name, the Rage came out of the gate quick and opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game. They expanded the lead to 2-0 by the five minute mark of the first and added another goal midway though the second, and final, period.
Hay River Explosive’s Leighann Campbell said the team was in tough during the game, their third of the day.
“It was 3-0, but we were tired and we fought,” she said. “They are a good team too. Anything could have happened.”
The Rage’s Jessica Cox picked up her team’s first two tallies and assisted on the third. Coming into the tournament, the players were unsure how the team, which featured a mix of players from Fort Smith and High Level, would perform.
“We gelled really well,” Cox said.
“We were tired by the end of the day (Saturday)but we were really starting to play as a team.”
The Rage’s combination of speed, puck handing and shooting – especially from two their defence, which featured two High Level players – allowed them to go undefeated in the tournament.
“I don’t feel we dominated the tournament,” Cox said. “It was pretty even.”
Hay River’s road to the finals included a heart-stopping semi-final game against the Cruzers, who had finished just behind Hay River in the round robin standings.
After a scoreless first period the High Level players had thought they had opened the scoring five minutes into the second, but neither referee were in position to see if the puck crossed the goal line and the play was ruled inconclusive. After the two teams exchanged chances, High Level scored on the powerplay with 2:34 left in the game to take a 1-0 lead. Explosive’s Angie Hamilton tied the game just over a minute later, and Hay River hung on for the 1-1 tie. Since Hay River had finished higher in the round robin standings, they moved on to final.
Cox complimented the tournament organizers after the final, saying the format left every team in contention heading into Sunday’s playoffs.
“I think the tournament organizers did a really great job, as usual,” Cox said. “I really liked it because it didn’t matter how you did Friday or Saturday in the round robin, you had a shot at the final on Sunday.”
Campbell was quick to agree.
“It’s just a great bunch of girls. Everybody helps out and there’s always exciting stuff happening,” she said of the volunteers. “The hockey’s usually good. I don’t think there was one game this weekend that was a straight blowout.”
The other teams participating in the tournament included the Fort Smith Wrath, Hay River Dynamite, Fort Simpson Moosehide Mammas and Hay River Flammable.