The Valley Wild Atom AAs celebrate their win at provincials. In front is goalie Claire Zettler. From left, in the second row, are Abby McCarthy, Nora Kaizer, Amy Lloy, Reanne Curry, Megan Woodworth and Mary Sweetapple. In the third row are Cassie Larder, Sarah Hogan, Avi Grant-Adam, Zoey Rafuse, Brooke MacNeil, Lexi Harmes and Caelyn Parker. In back are head coach Luke McCarthy, assistant coaches Shannon Parker, Jane Woodworth, Richard Curry, player Anneke Rafuse and assistant coach Talbot Sweetapple. - Submitted
Two gold medals in a little more than 24 hours was a great way to cap off the season for the Valley Wild Atom AA girls’ hockey team.
On March 30 in Antigonish, the Valley girls captured the provincial banner with a 4-1 win over a Pictou County Selects team that had not lost a game all season.
Avi Grant-Adam opened the scoring and Abby McCarthy scored the eventual game-winner. Then, both Grant-Adam and Brooke MacNeil had empty-net goals to round out the scoring.
“This is the best hockey moment of my life,” said McCarthy. “I’m so proud of my team for winning gold, and I’m happy to be a provincial champion like my sister Megan.”
The win was even more remarkable given that in their opening game of the tournament March 28, also against Pictou, the Wild were beaten 8-2.
Valley responded quickly, blanking Cape Breton 12-0 and Antigonish 5-0 before qualifying for the final with a 2-1 nailbiter win over TASA.
“Losing 8-2 to Pictou in our opening game was tough, but the girls knew they had not quite given their all,” assistant coach Jane Woodworth said.
“As the tournament progressed, the girls believed in their abilities. Every single player worked as hard as they could in the final. They didn’t give Pictou an inch to execute their plays. It was an incredible finish to an amazing season.”
Grant-Adam agreed, adding that all of the tournaments leading up to that point were what the coach called “PFP,” or “preparation for provincials.”
“It felt really good to beat a team we hadn’t beat all year,” she said.
“I think we deserved to win it. It was really special to win provincials with a team that cares so much about each other.”
Team captain Megan Woodworth said the Wild knew Pictou had a good coach and wanted the win, so the Wild had to play “five times as hard” as before.
“It felt great to beat an undefeated team, and it was even better because our team has worked so hard this season to, as coach Luke says, go ‘from good to great’,” she said.
Valley ended up with a number of tournament awards. Mary Sweetapple was named top defenceman, while Sweetapple and forwards Grant-Adam and Woodworth all made the tournament all-star team.
Valley also fared well in the skills competitions. McCarthy won fastest skater, MacNeil the puck handling and Grant-Adam the shooting accuracy.
The next day, the Wild drove through an ice storm to take on TASA March 31 for the Southern Conference Female League championship. Despite not having much left in the tank against a bigger and stronger TASA squad, Valley had stellar goaltending from Claire Zettler. Regulation time goals came from Grant-Adam and Sweetapple, then the team battled into double overtime before MacNeil scored the game-winner to give the Wild their second banner.
Head coach Luke McCarthy called both wins a total team effort.
“The kids found another gear and got better as the tournament went on, and that’s what it takes to be a champion,” he said.
“I’m so proud of these girls and how they’ve grown as a team. This is truly one of the proudest moments I’ve had as a coach.”
Other teams successful
The Valley Wild Atom AAs were only one of four Acadia Minor Hockey teams competing at Hockey Nova Scotia provincials March 28-30.
At the female midget AA provincials in Halifax, the Valley Wild opened with a 2-2 tie against Bedford, defeated Halifax 3-1, beat Dartmouth 3-1 and blanked Antigonish 7-0 to qualify for the final against Halifax. That contest was tied in double overtime when the power went out. At last notice, the game was scheduled to be replayed in its entirety April 13.
The Acadia bantam AAs took silver at provincials in Cole Harbour. Acadia blanked Cole Harbour 1-0, topped Northside 5-3, edged Sydney 3-2, tied Halifax 3-3, then beat Halifax 5-1 to advance to the final against Sackville. The Acadia squad gave it their best shot, but ended up on the short end of a 6-3 score.
The other Acadia team competing at provincials, midget B Thomson, was at provincials in Digby hosted by Western Valley, where they placed fourth in the five-team tournament.