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Airdrie well-represented in Alberta Games ringette

The 2020 Alberta Winter Games are fast approaching, and a large cohort of local ringette players is itching to showcase its talents on home ice.

The Games will be held in Airdrie Feb. 14 to 17, with the ringette tournament – featuring athletes aged 13 to 17 – taking place at the Genesis Place Recreation Centre.

Ten athletes from Airdrie will lace their skates for the Zone 2 (Big Country) team, after successfully trying out for the squad last fall. The team’s head coach – Laurie Reeve – is also a resident of the city, and said most of the players already know each other.

“We don’t have to do as much team-bonding,” she said. “It’s mostly about getting them together and playing, focusing on the strategy piece rather than the skill piece, and getting them comfortable with each other.”

Local forward Kennedy Rice, a Grade-11 student at W.H. Croxford High School, agreed that the team’s established chemistry will be a benefit once the tournament is underway.

“We’re all connected through past seasons, so we know each other really well,” said Rice, who plays centre for the Zone 2 U19AA team. “There’s a lot of trust that has been there for quite awhile, so that should be helpful.

“I think we have a really good shot at doing well. We have a strong team, so the goal is always to win – we’re going for gold, if we can.”

According to Reeve, the significant presence of Airdrie athletes – 10 out of 17 players – is partly due to three sets of sisters from the city making the team. Siblings include Reeve’s two daughters, Abygale and Alex, as well as the Bushfields and the Harmes.

“[The younger siblings] probably worked a little harder to make themselves be successful, and tried out and made the team,” she said.

Rice added the quality of coaching in the city also contributed to the number of local athletes on the team.

“I know a lot of players from Airdrie make up the AA league already,” she said. “We have a lot of strong coaches who are dedicated to the sport and know what they’re doing, which is helpful.”

During the regular season, all but one of Big Country’s players suit up for AA teams from Zone 2 Ringette – an association for high-level players from Airdrie, Strathmore, Cochrane and the surrounding areas.

Despite being a relatively new association, founded in 2015, Zone 2 has found success at the regional and national levels. In the 2018-19 season, the U14 team went undefeated and won the Western Canadian Championships, while the U16 and U19 teams competed at nationals.

Reeve said she’s excited for the Games, as the ringette tournament will feature mostly AA-calibre players – the highest level of youth ringette in Canada – from across the province.

“It’s the best of the best, from what I can see, on most of these zone teams,” she said. “They’re bringing the AA kids, which, in the past, I don’t think always happened.

“I feel it’s going to be a very competitive weekend. We’re in the mix, but we’re going to have to work for everything we get.”

For venue and schedule information, visit bit.ly/2Ns0Hlb

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