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Bandits excited to host Western Shield women’s AA hockey championship

The last time the Red Deer Bandits competed in the Western Shield senior women’s AA hockey championship, they came away with gold.

In the 2010 Alberta playoffs the Bandits finished third, but because the top two teams couldn’t commit to the championships in Victoria the Red Deer squad was asked to go. All they did was go undefeated, including a 4-3 win over the Killarney, Man., Knights in the final.

This year the Bandits go into the Western Shield as the host team.

“We have close to half our team back from the last time (we went),” explained Jenn Lunn, who is a co-manager of the team with Justine Jackson.

“We haven’t had a chance to go back since then,” said Jackson, adding “we don’t have any real expectations. We’re just excited to host and play.”

The 10-team tournament, which sees five teams in both the A and AA divisions, begins Thursday at the Kin City Arenas.

The Bandits open at 4 p.m. against the provincial champion Edmonton ESP Velocity. They play twice Friday — 12:30 p.m. against the Meadow Ridge, B.C., Moose and 6:30 p.m. against the Manitoba Herd — before finishing pool play Saturday at 2 p.m. against the Saskatchewan Wheat Kings.

The third and fourth place teams in the division meet for bronze at 10 a.m. Sunday with the top two teams clashing for gold at 1 p.m.

All the AA games, and the playoffs, are in Arena A.

The host Edmonton Renegades, Grande Prairie Panthers, South Fraser TNT of Saskatchewan, the Kamloops Vibe and Assiniboine Community College Cougars of Manitoba are in the A division, which plays in Arena B. Their bronze medal game is Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and the final at 1:30 p.m.

Close to half the Bandits live in Red Deer and vicinity with the remaining players from Calgary.

“We play in the Calgary League so they travel to Red Deer once a week to play,” explained Jackson, who led the team in scoring with 10 goals and 12 assists.

Veteran forward Lori Krause led the team with 14 goals to go with seven helpers.

The Bandits finished seventh in Tier I of the Southern Alberta League with a 11-14-2 record, but won two rounds of playoffs before losing to the Fossils, who placed second at the provincials.

“We lost by one goal to them,” said Jackson. “We had an up and down season, but we started to come together as a team the last few weeks when everyone was able to come out. We have good chemistry when everyone was there and we should have most everyone this weekend.”

Jackson played Division I hockey in the States for two years and finished her university career at York University in Ontario. Several of the Bandits are familiar to Red Deer, having played with the RDC Queens, including Lunn and head coach Toni Lassu, who lives in Calgary.

Both netminders Nikki Ree and Amy Friestadt — played at RDC.

Friestadt is the team’s regular netminder with Ree, who plays mainly up front, as backup.

Ally Bendfield is the closest player to being a real defenceman on the team, says Jackson, who plays the majority of the time on defence.

“Even Ally played forward until she came here, so really we don’t have anyone who is a natural defenceman,” said Jackson. “But it’s working.”



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