Amazons looking good as they go into final
It took the Central Alberta Amazons time to find their rhythm this season, but once they did they were tough to beat.
The Amazons dropped four of their first five games to start the Alberta Junior A Female Hockey League season, but went on to place third in the South Division thanks mainly to winning seven of their final nine starts.
“It was a slow start, but we chugged up the steps,” said Amazons GM Tracy Leiper. “What we don’t have is one all-star scorer, but we have a team that works hard and has been really consistent. Everyone gets an equal opportunity and we spread the scoring around.”
That’s evident looking at the scoring statistics. Team captain Brianna Merkley and former RDC Queen Kelly-Ann Roberts led the team with 18 points each during their 30 game schedule. However 21 players scored goals and 22 were on the scoresheet.
What the team does have is a veteran defence and solid goaltending with Kelly Hausauer and Emily Olsen, who posted 2.10 and 2.77 goals-against-averages respectively during the season.
It’s that strength that helped take them to the South Division championship and a date with Fort Saskatchewan in the Alberta final.
The best-of-five series opens Saturday and Sunday in Fort Saskatchewan. The Amazons will host possibly two games the following weekend.
“We’re talking with Penhold and Red Deer about ice time on the Easter weekend,” explained Leiper, who hopes to have almost a full roster on the weekend. “We have a couple of players who could be back from injuries, but then we will be missing two others because of suspensions,” she said.
Forward Brooke VanWolde, has been out most of the season with a broken wrist, but is back skating, while forward Charissa Kadar has also been out.
Both Kelly Mastel and Mackenzie Demott, both forwards, are suspended.
The team does have three affiliated players, including forward Reanna Arnold, who played with the midget AAA Sutter Fund Chiefs.
“We may need to use her, it depends on who’s back,” said Leiper.
The Amazons have six players who were with the 2010-11 championship team. And the majority of those — Morgan Spooner, Merkley, Cassandra Kirkham and Holli Duffy — are on defence. Teale Spooner and Karley Holt are forwards.
Merkley, 21, is the only overage player on the team and the only one who won’t be back next season for sure. Hausauer, who started the season as a 17-year-old, is the youngest.
The majority of the players are from Central Alberta, with the odd player from Saskatchewan mixed in.
“We get some players who are at the college who want to play, but don’t have time to try out for the Queens, or other players who used to be with their team,” explained Leiper. “The majority of the players are from this area. In fact we had to cut so many players this season we could have almost had a second team. That was tough to do.
“There’s some talk some of the smaller communities are looking at getting a team, so we’ll see how that develops.”
The Alberta League started with “four-or five” teams and has expanded to 11. One of those teams is the Banff Academy, which is not eligible for the playoffs.
“They went into the academy playoffs, but want to play in our league because of the cost of travel,” explained Leiper. “And really it was good. They’re great competition and makes us better.”
Doug Demott is the head coach with Mike Gouchie an assistant.
“They’re both experienced and did a great job,” said Leiper, who also credits Heather Kirkham, for doing a top-notch job as every day manager.
l The Amazons beat the Calgary Warriors 6-1 and 3-1 and Lethbridge 1-0 and 4-2 to win the south . . . They play Saturday at 7:45 p.m. at the JRC Arena and Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Dow Arena in Fort Saskatchewan.