By Alan Hudes
The first half of the Stingers’ season finished just how it began.
In a repeat performance of the season opener, left wing Cassandra Nasso scored all three of the Stingers’ goals, as the women’s hockey team defeated the North Halton Twisters 3-1 on Dec. 17. The victory marked the team’s last game before the holidays and ensured an undefeated record heading into the New Year.
“I really believed we’d be competitive but I didn’t believe that we wouldn’t lose a game over the course of the first half,” head coach Stephanie White said. “It’s a positive sign overall that our program is improving and that’s really the focal point.”
Prior to their final contest, wins became much tougher to come by as the Stingers faced true adversity for first time all season. Following consecutive 6-0 victories in November, the team played in three one-goal games and conceded the opening goal in all three of them.
“It’s a mixture of the other teams picking it up and us maybe underestimating (them), so we come out slow,” centre Tessa Dimitrakopoulos said. “You should never underestimate whoever you’re playing. We have to come out and play the full 30 minutes.”
The schedule didn’t make the situation any easier. The Stingers are in their fourth and final year in the Golden Blades Hockey League, a competitive women’s league based at York University. As Ryerson’s only non-varsity team, that meant that the Stingers had to continue playing throughout the exam period.
“There were less people at practices so we couldn’t practice as a full unit,” Dimitrakopoulos said. “Some practices got cancelled because a lot of people couldn’t come.”
Despite the circumstances, one notable game occurred down that stretch, when the team was tested against a higher-level opponent. Currently playing in the BB division, the Stingers are looking to become a varsity team next year. In preparation for the move to Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the team played an exhibition match on Dec. 5 against the single A Brampton Canadettes. While the Stingers did emerge with a 3-2 victory, they dealt with all they could handle.
“[Brampton] made faster decisions which means we don’t have time to read the play,” right wing Leslie Bradshaw said. “We had to act more instinctively and that’s just a habit that we don’t get to practice in Golden Blades.”
Defenceman Jenny Young agreed.
“It was faster paced and it just made us have to think quicker,” she said. “Thinking quicker is going to improve our game and we’re going have to think quicker in CIS next year.”
Looking ahead, the Stingers will get similar opportunities in the second half. They will play in an A-level tournament in March and plan on adding more exhibition games to their schedule against some AA teams. After a very successful first half and a two week break, the team wants to avoid losing any momentum.
“We need to make sure we don’t lose sight of our goals,” defenceman Lee Ann Pallet said. “(We have) to make sure that we get back into the mindset that we’ve been in all season.”
The Stingers kicked off 2011 this past weekend, winning 5-0 over the Mississauga Wolves on Friday night and 3-1 over the Brampton Cougars on Sunday morning. The team will return to the ice this Sunday against the Toronto Ice.
Photo by Alan Hudes