U15 Jasper Grizzlies compete against five other teams for Grizzly Cup
John Wilmshurst | Special to the Fitzhugh
Last weekend, the U15 Jasper Grizzlies hosted their home tournament for a rare chance to play a selection of Central Alberta’s finest skaters.
Five teams—the Grande Prairie Knights, Leduc Roughnecks, Sherwood Park Fuzion, Kitscoty Knights and the Wetaskiwin Queens—made the trip to Jasper, each playing four games to compete for the ultimate prize, the Grizzly Cup.
If you weren’t in the stands, you don’t know what you were missing.
Jasper’s weekend started on Friday afternoon with a tilt against the Leduc Roughnecks, the eventual A-finalists and a deep bench.
Leduc’s 16 player roster dwarfed Jasper’s sparse 10 player bench who throughout the weekend made up for in heart what they lacked in numbers.
It took the Grizzlies almost the full first period to score their first goal of the tournament, as Edson import Emersynn Lamabe muscled in a loose puck at the goal mouth with half a minute left in the opening frame.
But by this time, Leduc had already managed four goals, plenty to carry them through the game. Jasper’s Izzy McArthur would score again for Jasper, three minutes into the third period, assisted by Georgia Bell and Annika Oeggerli.
But that would be all as the Grizzlies fell to the Roughnecks 6-2 in the tournament’s opening match.
Defender Alex Munn deservedly picked up Jasper’s MVP award and Jersey Flett, the other hard-charging Edson import, was Jasper’s Heart and Hustle award winner for game one.
Seven o’clock comes early in January, but the Grizzlies were raring to go for game two against Wetaskiwin.
I had forgotten how much I missed Glenda’s delicious breakfast burger and coffee early on a Saturday morning.
But the Jasper U15’s weren’t missing much as Molly McGown, who was in net for game one, pounded in the Grizzlies’ first goal barely a minute into the game.
Sahara Harvey almost gave Jasper a two-goal cushion 10 minutes in, but the Queen’s netminder came up big to keep the score one to nothing.
Wetaskiwin tied it up just before the end of the first period and pulled ahead early in the second, but then Bell, who was between the pipes for game two shut the door.
Like clockwork, McGown lifted a backhander over the outstretched pad of the Queens’ netminder to start the second, tying the game and then with four minutes to play, Flett converted a backdoor pass from Lamabe for the game winner.
Jasper prevailed 3-2 in their first tournament victory, with McGown staking away with MVP honours and Bell earning the Heart and Hustle nod.
Our exhausted heroes hit the ice again Saturday afternoon against perennial rivals, the Grande Prairie Knights.
These days, not a lot of hockey has happened in these parts, but when it has, the Grizzlies have matched up most often against the Knights.
Understandably tired, Jasper got off to a slow start, with McGown, now in net for the Grizzlies, facing a lot of early shots.
With a minute to play in the first, the Knights had built a two-goal lead and looked in charge.
But finding a loose puck in front, Lamabe pulled Jasper back to within one by end of the first period, keeping her team in it.
Both netminders came out to play in the second, but McGown had the edge, blanking the Knights while Lamabe picked up her second goal of the game to tie it with five minutes to play in the second.
Then Bella Kovacs gave Jasper their first lead of the game two minutes later, scoring on a great power play look.
That would turn out to be the game winner as McGown held the Knights scoreless for the final 40 minute of the game, helped along the way by defender Daisy McLeod who once, and perhaps twice, cleared the puck off the goal line.
Jasper added two more as Oeggerli and Lamabe both added to their weekend totals for a 5–2 final.
Blueliner Janelle Tank and Kovacs picked up MVP and Heart and Hustle awards respectively.
This victory landed Jasper in Sunday’s B-final against the Sherwood Park Fuzion; another team with a deep bench and lots of scoring power.
But Lamabe gave Jasper a very early lead, scoring less than a minute after opening puck-drop.
It was game-on.
The Fuzion tied it up mid-way through the first, but then the goal tenders at each end, again Bell in net for Jasper, would step up.
Not until the five-minute mark of the third period would things get interesting again as McArthur redirected an Oeggerli shot into the Fuzion net to give what looked like an unassailable lead for the Grizzlies.
But with time winding down on the game, Sherwood Park pulled their goalie and equalized with the player advantage.
Five minutes of overtime solved nothing, so the B-final champs would be determined in a five-player shootout.
The Fuzion prevailed with their final shooter, a deft, bar-down blast, and Sherwood Park would head home victors.
But what a superb effort from the Grizzlies though, playing four tough games with a short bench and so little game experience in recent months
Congratulations, girls. You played a fantastic tournament.