Team Manitoba had to fight tooth and nail to stay undefeated at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
They accomplished that task with a bit of high drama on the final day of pool play in ringette at the Games.
Trailing 5-1 at halftime to the host Team Alberta at the Collicutt Tuesday, Manitoba stormed back and won the game 8-7 in double overtime.
Alana Lesperance was the overtime hero for Manitoba, scoring one minute and 23 seconds into the second extra frame after neither team found the mark in the first period of sudden-victory overtime.
“I wanted off, I was so tired. When it happened, I don’t know it was so exciting,” recalled the 18-year-old Winnipeg native.
“The whole game as soon as the (third) quarter came, our mentality switched and we had control. Each shift, it was go out there and give your best and go off and catch your breath, then you’re back out there.”
Lesperance scored a hat trick in regulation before adding her fourth goal of the night in overtime. She explained that during halftime, the message in the room, despite being down four goals, was overwhelmingly positive.
“Basically, in the dressing room, we just talked about how much we love ringette and that’s the reason we’re here,” she said.
“We talked about how much effort we put in all year and this is why we play, for these games that are so tight and intense. We just hugged each other and said we’re here for each other. Then we started playing more as a team.”
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Alberta opened the night with a 3-1 advantage in the first quarter, on goals from Kennedy Hickey and Madison Galeski. Galeski added another in the second quarter and Ann Sauve made it 5-1 one for the home side.
Manitoba cut the deficit to 6-3 after the third quarter before they got within a goal at 7:05 of the fourth. Alexis Kavvadas notched the tying goal with four minutes to play in regulation. Despite giving up the lead, Alberta coach Heather Konkin was confident in her group heading into overtime and thought they played well in the intense battle.
“We executed. I’m proud of our girls and they did their job. Any time you go to overtime, it’s anyone’s game and so we just came out on the wrong end of it this time,” she said.
Team Alberta was looking to move past Manitoba for top spot in Pool A. Instead the loss dropped them to fourth in the pool and they will play P.E.I Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. in the first playoff game.
“At the end of the day, these are the type of games we live for and these are the games that any athlete would want to be in. Enjoy it, embrace and have fun,” added Konkin.
“This is a once in a lifetime, unique opportunity for our girls. I think this is our Olympics. For us, we keep saying what do you want to remember your experience by? It’s one shot, enjoy it. This is a moment and experience that you’ll have forever.”
Lesperance and Team Manitoba moved to 3-0 with the win and will play Saskatchewan at 11:30 a.m. at the Collicutt Centre Wednesday. The other games include New Brunswick (1-2) vs. B.C. (2-2), 2 p.m.; Québec (3-1) vs. Nova Scotia (1-2), 4:30 p.m.; Ontario will await the winner of 9 a.m. game.