Skip to content

U16B Pembina Pursuit crowned provincial champions

Championship is the first for the Pembina Ringette Association
The U16B Pembina Pursuit of the Pembina Ringette Association are provincial champions after downing the host Medicine Hat Matrix 7-6 at the 2023 U16B Provincial Championships March 17-19. It is the first gold medal for the association in its 11-year history. Celebrating their gold medal are, back row, L-R: assistant coach Ryan Kubinec, Brooke Schaffrick, Olivia Purdy, Emerson Belton, Alyssa Rivard, Skye Kubinec and Neveaha Woodcock. Front row, L-R: co-coach Kyley Belton, Jolie Snow, Sarah Hodgetts, Jill Sawchuk, Jessica Hodgetts, co-coach Connie Hodgetts and goalie Raina Nanninga.

WESTLOCK – For the first time in its 11-year history, the Pembina Ringette Association has a provincial champion. 

The U16B Pembina Pursuit won the association’s first provincial gold medal in dramatic fashion by downing the host Medicine Hat Matrix 7-6 in the final of the 2023 U16B provincial championships March 17-19.

“It was very exciting. It was a great moment for everyone in the Pembina Ringette Association and in our community. We worked so hard to get our association here and build our players to this point,” said co-coach Kyley Belton, whose daughter Emerson scored the game winner in the dying minutes. “I just keep thinking back to that moment and how special it was.”

Despite an uphill battle going into provincials, where they would face a couple of strong teams they had never beaten in the regular season, including the No. 1 ranked Matrix, the Pursuit stayed focused. 

“We knew we had a strong team, we knew our team put in the work and we had a successful season so far, so we definitely had high hopes of going down there and winning a medal, but we still knew that we had some tough competition,” said Belton, noting they were in a pool with Medicine Hat and lost 4-0 to them in the opening game.

Of the province’s 30 U16B teams, split evenly between two leagues — the Chinook Ringette League in the south and the north’s Black Gold League — only the Top 12 earned a spot to the provincials. After their first loss, the girls never looked back, scoring decisive victories in their remaining round robin games that included an 8-2 win over Fort Saskatchewan, a 5-2 victory over Strathmore and a 5-1 triumph over Sherwood Park.

With only the Top 4 teams moving onto the medal round, it was their goal differential at plus-nine that put them in third place going into the semifinals, right behind the Matrix and Lacombe Edge. 

“In our semifinal game we were facing off against Lacombe, whom we hadn’t beaten all year but our girls were confident,” said Belton. “We ended up beating them 6-1. I think they were taken aback a bit because they hadn’t lost to us and I think they came into the game thinking that they could beat us. Our girls kept going and kept battling and never got tired.”

That set the stage for the rematch with the Matrix in the final. “They had a huge (hometown) crowd and we had our Pembina parents and grandparents in our orange jerseys representing and cheering for us, which was amazing,” she said, noting the charged atmosphere did not intimidate them.

The gold medal game was back and forth between the two teams with the Pursuit taking a 2-0 lead before it was 2-2, then 4-2 for the Pursuit before the crescendo in the dying minutes. “We were tied 6-6 with three minutes left and then we got a goal. We celebrated but then we still had three minutes left — we told them play to the end and give respect to your opponent because they’re also great athletes and they’re here to win,” said Belton, adding in a timeout by the Matrix they told the girls to stay focused and play smart. “We just went out there, they didn’t get overwhelmed. Everyone just finished strong and played their game.”

Kristine Jean,

Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks