(“As soon as the buzzer went, the bench just erupted. I swear there may have even been some tears of joy. We are finally going to OFSAA!” Says Olivia Verge, Grade 12 student and captain of the Varsity team. Photos: Kaitlyn LeBoutillier, Stittsville Central)
It is City Finals season for Sacred Heart’s Varsity hockey teams. Both the Huskies’ boys and girls teams made it to the city finals this year, once again reinforcing the school’s dominance in the on-ice sport.
The Varsity Boys would, unfortunately, fall to Mother Teresa in a tight game that ended 2-0 for the Titans. The Huskies fought hard in the close 1-0 game and nearly tied it up in the second period but the goal ended up being disallowed. Their fate was sealed with an empty net goal in the final minutes of the game, solidifying the 2-0 deficit.
Sacred Heart’s varsity girls’ team made their way to the City Finals as well. After finishing their season with a 3-3-2 record, the girls found themselves facing off against the number-one-ranked St. Joseph’s High School in one final game. The game would take place on March 1st at the Nepean Sportsplex and the outcome determined who would make the long trip to Windsor for the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA), the high school provincial championships.
However, this wouldn’t be the first time the Huskies and Jaguars faced off this season, the schools met twice in the regular season. They tied the first game, showing off their evenly matched skills. Then, the Huskies fell 3-2 in their second meeting, but they were missing a few players including their senior goalie Jess Burke and team captain, Olivia Verge. Now, for the city final, all players had returned and the game was bound to be a nail bitter.
Olivia Verge shares that, “we all knew we needed to come out hard, our last game against them was close so it was going to be a tough game this time too.” There are sure to be nerves in a game as big as the City Finals, but Sacred Heart’s starting goalie Jessica Burke says, “I find it rather easy to stay focused during big games like this one, especially compared to a less meaningful one. What works for me is just taking a step back and looking at what we’ve already accomplished up to this point, and focusing on enjoying the moment.”
As a goalie, being dialed in for a game is important, and Jessica finds it easier to be in the zone when she’s relaxed. She also shares that “it helps the team to see their goalie relaxed.” That is one of the biggest strengths of this Sacred Heart team, they are all playing for each other on the ice. A characteristic that would help them in this intense game.
The deciding game found the Huskies getting off to a quick start. Grade 11 student Emmalina Belli scored on a shot from the blueline during the first shift of the game. That goal was quickly followed by Huskie’s forward Mya Scott burying a rebound off an outside shot to put Sacred Heart up 2-0 early against the Jaguars.
“Going up 2-0 only a minute into the game took a lot of pressure off of me and the team. It was nice to see the girls gain some confidence early,” Burke shared. The early success of this team was no surprise to captain, Olivia Verge as she later says, “every person knew their role and what they all had to do. We all just went out there and played our best.” That is all you can really do in a game as meaningful as the City Finals, but would it be enough for the girls to secure the win?
Huskies and their fans would have to hold their breath in this back-and-forth game because, in the dying minutes of the first period, St. Joe’s cut Sacred’s lead from two goals to one. Their goal came on a power play and was a tough shot from the open extra skater at the point.
In the second period, the Huskies got right back on the scoreboard, not letting the momentum swing in favour of the Jaguars. Mya Scott scored her second goal of the game after getting the puck in the neutral zone and taking it all the way to the net. When asked about what was going through her head during that breakaway, Mya says, “I was just looking for an open space and saw that just above her right pad it was there for me.”
With their two-goal lead restored, the Huskies headed into the third period looking to secure the win and punch their ticket to the provincial tournament later in the month. St. Joseph’s High School was not giving up though, they would score another goal near the end of the third period to once again keep the Huskies within reach.
Now, needing just one goal to push the game into overtime, the Jaguars pulled their goalie in favour of adding an extra player to their offence. However, it wouldn’t be enough. Sacred Heart’s strong defence held off the pressuring Jaguar’s offence and secured their spot as the National Capital representatives at OFSAA.
When asked about their emotions heading into the big tournament in Windsor, athletes had one common consensus; ecstatic. “I’ve waited four years for this.” Olivia Verge comments, explaining that “we made it when I was in grade 9 but it was cancelled and now, being in grade 12, it is crazy to come back full circle and finally get to go.”
Jess Burke has a similar feeling. Even though she didn’t play for the team in grade 9 when they first qualified, now grade 12 has played a key role for the team this year. When asked about her excitement to be headed to the big tournament, Jess shares that, “this year we’ve got an incredible group of girls and each and every player has played their heart out to get here.”
Getting to travel as a school team is an incredibly special moment for grade 12 students in their last year of high school, but it is just as exciting for younger students like grade 10 student, Mya Scott who says, “I’m excited to represent our school and so happy to have this crazy opportunity, but I’m most excited to play against other teams from all around Ontario and can’t wait to see how far we can make it.”
They may have a number of graduating students, but the future of Huskie’s hockey is always bright. Especially as this group of junior students will have the experience from the provincial tournament this year.
Best of luck to Sacred Heart’s Girl’s Hockey team who will travel to Windsor on March 21, 2023, for the OFSAA tournament!
Congratulations to the Varsity Girls!
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