A few months ago, a collection of Cochrane and area girls came together for the first time, knowing virtually nothing about each other except that they had one thing in common: a love of ringette and a desire to win.
Today, that same ragtag group of players now stands proudly as Team Alberta, after winning the right to represent their province at the Western Canadian Ringette Championships later this month.
“We couldn’t be more proud of these girls to be Team Alberta,” said a thrilled coach Steve Rosenberg. “It demonstrates the dedication and commitment level the girls have for this program – and to each other.”
The unnamed Zone 2 U19A team, which includes Cochranites Danielle Rosenberg and Rovanna Irvin, along with players from Airdrie, Indus, Strathmore and Cochrane areas, first formed in September. Rosenberg said it was a bit of an experiment to see whether these girls, who have been competing against each other in other leagues for years, could pull together and form their own squad.
“We didn’t know how it was all going to go,” he recalled. “We didn’t know what to expect … I was nervous that we might not even win a game.”
About a month after the team was selected, they entered a tournament in Calgary to see how the girls would gel on the ice.
“We won that tournament,” Rosenberg recalled with a smile. “There was a tenacity about the team … there was an intensity I wasn’t expecting. Even though they didn’t know each other, they wanted to win.
“We started to then as a coaching staff look at the bigger picture: we could have something here. How do we use the gifts that the girls have and work together to make this successful for them?”
The team continued to win and ended up in first place after the regular season – propelling them into last weekend’s competition in Rockyford for the provincial U19 title.
Rosenberg said the first game against the powerhouse St. Albert Belles resulted in a 2-2 overtime tie, and the second game ended in a 7-6 loss to Leduc Jaguars, again in overtime.
“We knew we needed to win the third game,” he said, adding the girls did just that – putting South Calgary away with a 3-1 victory.
The team shut down Sherwood Park in the semis and bested Calgary 5-4 in the final to clinch the Team Alberta honour.
“At the end of the day, we had that little extra something,” said Rosenberg, adding watching the team grow and bond over the season has been special for the coaches and for the players themselves.
“To have the team build over the year … it wasn’t instant – it took time – but … they love getting to the rink early, cranking the tunes and dancing to Miley Cyrus and High School Musical.
“When you have girls that like each other, want to play for each other, you can see it on the ice: they pass to each other fluidly, they practise hard … that teamwork is critical in ringette.”
Fresh from the win, the U19A team will now focus on the upcoming westerns, which take place in Winnipeg from March 22 to 25.
“It’s going to be the best of the best in the west,” said Rosenberg. “It’ll be something that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.