Every time the St. Clements U16 ringette team steps on the ice, the players and parents on the opposing team have the same reaction:
“They’re so small, but look at them skate!”
The team moved up to U16 this season, so many of their players are young to begin with. On top of that, the team’s roster includes two 12-year-olds and a pair of 13-year-olds.
Their coaches expected that this would be a development year, but against the odds, the plucky little team is ranked first in the western region and has picked up a handful of medals. They won gold at three tournaments – including the qualifying tournament for the provincial ‘A’ championships – and silver at a fourth.
Coach Terry Nosal explained that the core of the team has been playing together for four years and wanted to stick together, even though they were moving up an age division. That team chemistry has helped them compete with larger teams made up of older players.
“We’re not the most talented group out there, but they feed off each other and they get along well together.”
St. Clements is competitive in ringette out of all proportion to the size of the town. The local squad had a record of 18 wins and threelosses this season, in a division that includes London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Whitby and Oshawa. They head to North Bay ranked fifth in the province.
Of the 22 U16 A teams in the province, 10 advance to the provincials in North Bay later this month. Six of those teams earn a berth by winning a regional qualifying tournament, while the other four qualify for a wildcard slot.
This is the first year that St. Clements has qualified for provincials by winning the tournament; every other year, they’ve advanced on a wildcard spot. Last year they finished fourth, and the goal this year is to make it to the medal round and place either first or second.
It’s an ambitious goal for a team that ices only two lines. Nosal noted that they haven’t cut a player in five years, and often pick up players after larger centre have made their cuts.
“This team knows the meaning of teamwork,” Nosal said. “That is the only way they were able to do this.”