It’s been a busy few days for Airdrie’s ringette community, with a host of local teams competing at tournaments in Red Deer and Leduc from Jan. 7 to 9.
Capping off a successful weekend in central Alberta, the Airdrie Sting U16A team won gold at the Friends on Ice tournament in Red Deer on Jan. 9, beating the Strathmore Ice 3-2 in the gold-medal game.
According to head coach Crystal Fletcher, the successful showing in Red Deer marked the Sting’s second gold medal of the 2021-22 season, after the squad claimed first place at the Edmonton Silver Rings tournament in November.
“I think these kids are just so happy to be playing,” she said. “I know throughout the tournament, they were laughing with the other teams and chatting with them.”
Other Airdrie teams who made the podium at the Friends on Ice tournament included the Airdrie U14B Heat, who came home with the silver medal, and the Airdrie U19 Chaos, who also came in second. Other Airdrie teams were busy competing in Leduc at the Wild Thing tournament.
“These kids really missed out on their sports over the last couple of seasons, so they’re soaking up every minute they can get playing,” Fletcher said. “They’ll take any game they can get because they love the sport and playing with their team.”
The Sting opened their tournament with wins over Pembina and Red Deer and a loss to Strathmore. Having booked their place in the gold-medal game with a 2-1 record, the Sting's final game was a “nail-biter,” Fletcher said, but the squad managed to hold onto their one-goal lead throughout the final period and gain revenge over Strathmore.
“We stayed up on them the whole time, but they were sure making us work for it,” she said.
The Friends on Ice marked the Sting’s fourth tournament of the season. According to Fletcher, her players have made it to the final in every tournament they’ve competed in this year – in addition to their two gold medals, the Sting claimed silver at both the Ring of Fire tournament in Airdrie and a tournament in Cochrane earlier this season.
Uncertainty surrounding the continuation of team sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant the girls have been highly motivated, Fletcher added.
“I think every time we go up to a tournament, there seems to be some kind of ‘This could be the end of our season,’” she said. “They’re driven by their passion, so they always play hard, thinking this could be the last time they play with their team. They just work super hard for their teammates.”
Ironically, the team’s success at tournaments hasn’t been the case in the regular season. Fletcher said the Sting’s 2021-22 campaign in the Chinook Ringette League has been “hit and miss,” with the team sporting a 4-8-1 record and occupying 12th place in the 15-team standings.
“We’ve had more success in tournaments and we’re not always seeing the same success in our league,” she said. “We’ve come up against the same teams in tournaments and our players seem to turn something else on and really go for it. They’re still having fun. They just love playing.”
While they don’t have any more tournaments scheduled for this winter, Fletcher said the Sting still hope to turn their regular season around in the final few games and qualify for the U16A provincial championships, which will be held in Calgary March 4 to 6. In order to qualify, she said Airdrie will need to win their provincial “playdowns,” which will be held in February.