Crusaders tie one on to claim third in girls’ hockey

GUELPH – A tie was all the Lourdes Crusaders needed Monday to finish in third place in their return to the District 10 high school girls’ hockey league.

The Crusaders and Centennial Spartans skated to a 1-1 stalemate at Centennial arena to keep the two teams tied for third. However, Lourdes will win the tie-breaker as the Crusaders scored four victories during league play, one more than the Spartans. That had to be used to break the deadlock in the standings as the teams had also skated to a 1-1 tie at Exhibition arena Dec. 13.

Lourdes finished the regular season at 4-4-4 while Centennial was at 3-3-6. The Ross Royals finished atop the league at 9-1-2 and will get a bye in next week’s quarter-finals while the Centre Wellington Falcons (8-1-3) were second.

Monday, Courtney Emeny opened the scoring for Lourdes with just over six minutes to go in the second period. Sydney Benninger assisted on the play.

Megan Rowbotham pulled Centennial even two minutes into the third with help from Lia Reynolds.

The Crusaders returned to the league this season after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign. They went 2-7-1 in 2015-16 and 1-9-0 the season before after being league champions in 2013-14.

Given their record their record the previous two seasons they were in the league, the Crusaders are a little surprised by this season’s success.

“A little bit, just by the fact that we didn’t have a team last year and a couple of years before, we weren’t the best team,” captain Fiona Costello said. “We had a lot of losses that season so we’ve done really well this year. Our goalie’s really helped. She’s an amazing goalie and everyone is trying their best of the ice and giving it all they have and it’s just been a good season.”

Camryn Wilson has been between the pipes for the Crusaders. A Grade 9 student, her presence at the school and the efforts of teammate Tegan Murray to round up players led to the team’s return to the league. With a relatively small roster, the Crusaders players have shown a willingness to play any position.

“We don’t have a lot of players,” Crusaders’ co-coach Len Shea said. He’s helped by Julie Crewson, a former captain of a Lourdes’ team that went to the OFSAA AA tournament.

“A lot of players are playing out of position, especially all of our D like Lauren Carscadden, (Kendra) Harkins, Lindsay Costello. They’re natural forwards and they’re playing D so they want to play. They want to have a team and they’re playing with their friends. They work hard and they’re laughing. What more can you ask for?”

The success might also be a little surprising given that the Crusaders don’t have any practices.

“We don’t have any practices, just the games,” Costello said. “We’ve done OK without them. A lot of the other girls on the team are already on the ice a couple of times a week with their other teams so it’s kind of hard to find the time.”

“There’s a guy at the school, Jeff Flanagan (a teacher who is also head coach of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Toronto Furies), and he’s just given me a lot of literature on they’re on the ice too much,” Shea said. “With the student-athlete thing and with being on the ice five or six days a week, I just thought ‘Why?’”

The Crusaders don’t rely on a single player to carry them as they use a team approach.

“They’re student athletes,” Shea said. “We don’t really have any big-time hockey players, we’re a team.”

With no practices, the Crusaders use a pretty fluid system that adjusts to suit the situation. The coaches design plays on their always-present hockey whiteboard and the players have shown that they’re quick learners.

“With the execution, when we draw something up on the board, they go out and do it,” Shea said. “They look at it and they go out and execute. Every time they come off, if we’ve got an issue we draw something up on the board, they go out and they do it. They’re cerebral, they’re smart – they’re student athletes.”

“Our team doesn’t play too many strict systems,” Costello said. “We just kind of go out and try our best and that’s been working well for us.”

With playoffs to start next week, the Crusaders know what it’ll take for them to continue their success.

“Just hard work, commitment and doing what we’ve been doing all season because it’s been working well for us,” Costello said.

  • Guelph Sports Journal