WESTLOCK – The 2022 U16B Provincial Ringette Championships are coming to the Rotary Spirit Centre this weekend, March 18-20 and the Pembina Rage have their sights set on a gold medal.
This will be the second time the Pembina Ringette Association has hosted provincials, with games in both Westlock and Thorhild over the three-day event. Twelve teams, including the Rage, are expected from across Alberta, with the local girls kicking off their weekend with a 11:45 a.m., March 18, matchup versus the Northwest Carnage in Thorhild then will finish their day versus the Sherwood Park Riot at 4:30 p.m. Following the opening ceremonies, slated for 7:30 p.m. that night at the RSC, the Rage will remain in Westlock for the remainder of the event and will face the Northwest Velocity at 10 a.m., Saturday, March 19.
The Rage in the Black Gold League and finished in fifth place in regular season standings. Coach Ken Fels is joined behind the bench by Liana Schaffrick, who has helped coach ringette players this season, several who have been with the club for a few provincial championship runs.
“I’ve been coaching a lot of these girls for many years, and we’ve made it to provincials every year,” said Fels, noting some of the challenges facing the team in 2021-2022. “It was an average season. We had lots of ups and downs this year with COVID and injuries. It’s (been) a little bit of a bumpy ride, but we should have everyone healthy and a full line-up for provincials.”
The team held two practices and two exhibition games last weekend against a couple of other northern teams, in a run up to provincials this week. Fels noted how the team has prepared both on the ice and mentally for the high level of play expected at the provincial championships.
“We’ve talked a lot over the season about managing our emotions, our approach to the game, working together and just trying to represent ourselves to the best of our abilities,” he said, pointing out some of the strengths on the team that may contribute to success at the provincial tournament. “I think we’re a pretty well-rounded team. We’ve got a really good, solid goaltender that we’ve built our team around and we’ve got some players that can really skate and score. I think we can play a couple of different styles of game.”
Pembina Ringette Association president Janice Tymkow is thrilled to see the Rage host the championships, having previously done so in 2019.
“It’s humbling to be able to have the ability to host provincials. An event like this takes a ton of volunteers and it really does take a lot of commitment from people,” said Tymkow. “Knowing that we’re a small town and we don’t have all of those big city amenities, I love and appreciate that Ringette Alberta gives the opportunity to all associations.”
She said there is a good variety of teams expected at the championship tournament, which will provide some good competition, adding that she and others are looking forward to the return of sporting events at venues across Alberta, post pandemic.
“It is pretty exciting to be able to host (provincials),” said Tymkow. “We love that it gives the kids an opportunity to showcase their sport and when you’re on home turf, you get that bonus of having extra family, friends and neighbours coming to watch and cheer you on.”
Coach Fels is also excited for his team to host a provincial championship.
“It’s a unique experience to host provincials and be at home, and give more family members and friends the opportunity to see them compete in this tournament,” said Fels. “It’s close and hopefully we get a good showing and get lots of people out to root the girls on.”