The two U-18 Ontario teams proved they’re both medal contenders by opening the National Championships with wins in their respective pools.
Ontario-Red shutout Team Atlantic 2-0 to start Pool-A action, and Ontario-Blue prevailed 4-2 over rivals Québec in a hard fought Pool-B battle.
Ontario-Red scored twice late in the first period closing the frame with a power play goal from defence Kristin Gilmour with under three minutes left on the clock; and Captain Kristyn Capizzano gave Red their second, sliding the puck past Atlantic goaltender Rebecca Weagle on a wrap-around attempt with just over a minute left before the break.
“It was a good start for us,” said Ontario-Red head coach David Gwyn. “I thought we managed the puck well, got pucks deep, and eliminated chances.”
“After the first intermission they [Atlantic] turned around and did what we asked them to do,” said Atlantic head coach Garry Dove who was pleased to see his squad hold Ontario-Red to two goals, taking with them many positives versus Pool-A opponents Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“We had a few chances there at the end although the shots may not look that way,” said Dove. “I think we opened some eyes with our defensive play, our coverage, we could of worked on our offensive-attack a little more but for the most part there were a lot of positives and I was happy with the second and third periods.”
Despite outshooting Team Atlantic 39-8, Gwyn said the win didn’t come easy for Ontario-Red.
“It wasn’t an easy game for us, they certainly came really hard at us and kept us to the outside for the most part,” said Gwyn whose team – the six-time defending champions – are a clear favourite to advance past preliminaries.
“They [Team Atlantic] really battled hard, it was a good first game for both of us, and we just came out on top,” said Gwyn.
In one of the closest, evenly fought games of the first day, Ontario-Blue got the early jump on Québec taking a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Team Blue extended the deficit with a goal from Kaitlin Doering to start the second period, forcing Québec to make a goalie change.
Blue managed to shutdown a typically high-powered Québec offence.
“They play a good game, we’re an offensive team and they stopped us,” said Québec’s director of operations Yanik Gagné. “They did a great job stopping our top guns.”
Ontario-Blue head coach Bradi Cochrane said any time Québec and Ontario get on the ice “it’s going to be a battle.”
“Regardless of age or level, Ontario against Québec is always good hockey,” she said.
Blue outshot Québec 35 to 31 with goals coming from front-liners Brooke Webster, Victoria Andreakos, and captain Rebecca Leslie.
Webster, who finished the night with two points, said winning the first game against an opponent like Québec gives the squad a lot of confidence in the next two preliminary games.
“It’s really good for us because we are the underdog team of the two team Ontario’s so it’s a good confidence boost getting that first win, so we know we can beat the other team’s moving forward with the tournament.”