The day before the sporting world came to an abrupt halt, the Edge School’s female prep hockey team (AAA midget) won its first-ever Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) championship.
Playing at the CSSHL playoff tournament March 11 in Penticton, B.C., the Springbank-based private-school team beat the Pursuit of Excellence 4-3 in overtime to secure the gold medal.
“You look back at the year that was, and to cap it off with a playoff championship – and in dramatic fashion, with an overtime win – there was a lot of excitement in our group,” said head coach Carla MacLeod. “I’m proud of their effort, and it was a great moment.”
Just a day after the Mountaineers’ historic victory, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 resulted in an unprecedented shutdown of virtually every sporting body in the country. Once Hockey Canada announced all its sanctioned activities would be cancelled, the CSSHL brought its playoff tournament to a premature close, five days before the event was scheduled to wrap up.
“Three of our Edge School teams had actually just rolled into Penticton the day before we won,” MacLeod said. “The world certainly shifted there, quite quickly. We felt fortunate in our program that we had the opportunity to play out our season, and we’re grateful for that.
“The world’s situation obviously takes precedence and is the top priority. It was a disappointing end for a lot of athletes, but obviously, I think everyone had the right perspective and understands all this is necessary to try to control what’s going on.”
The Edge’s gold-medal win in the tournament was no surprise, as the team finished first in the regular-season standings with a 19-3-1 record.
The team carried its positive momentum into the post-season, coasting through the round-robin with a series of wins – 5-1 over the Northern Alberta Xtreme, 5-2 over the Okanagan Hockey Academy, and 17-0 over the Banff Hockey Academy.
“I’m proud of the entire group and I thought we found success because we were a genuine team,” MacLeod said.
The Edge ousted St. Mary’s Prep 3-1 in the semi-final March 10, which put the team into the championship game the following morning against the Kelowna-based Pursuit of Excellence. It was a fitting match-up to determine the league champion, according to MacLeod, as the two teams finished first and second in the regular season and formed a tight-knit rivalry.
“We didn’t see each other in pool play, because we were in different pools, so it was certainly on the back of our minds – we were sort of anticipating that match-up,” she said. “When it presented itself, that’s what you want for a championship game – you want the strongest teams competing and going back and forth.
“That’s exactly what that game was, and there were a lot of goal exchanges and lead changes. It certainly warranted a championship game.”
Tied 3-3 after regulation time, the game went into overtime. Three minutes into the extra stanza, Grade-11 defenseman Gracy Gilkyson collected a pass from Kaitlin Jockims before burying her shot to win the Mountaineers the championship.
“You never know how games are going to shake out and who, at the end of the day, is going to get that opportunity,” MacLeod said. “I think the biggest thing is just the team effort that went into it.”
According to MacLeod, nine players from this year’s female prep team are graduating this spring. The majority of the departing seniors will continue to play elite-level hockey, she added, with many moving on to the post-secondary level.
“I think everyone is looking forward to the next step,” she said. “Maybe what the [current situation] has allowed for us is the opportunity to pause and appreciate what we’ve done and experienced.