Gold Medalists Team Benoit-Wark

One Gold Medal, but 160 Winners in Women's Ice Hockey

2018 Ontario Summer Games

Eva Nagel

Although only one team came away with the Ontario Summer Games U16 ice hockey gold medal, 160 players across the eight competing teams went home with something even more valuable: friendship and family. Across the three-day tournament, which concluded as Team Benoit-Wark aka Team Blue defeating Team Ferrari aka Team Black 3-1 for the championship yesterday, the highly competitive atmosphere also facilitated great opportunities for learning and bonding for the young women.  I remember on Thursday during some pre-tournament games, Western’s Women’s Hockey Team Manager Brian Gosling explained to me such contests were needed because this was the first time the players were getting to skate with their new teammates. In fact, many of the girls usually played with one or two skaters now suited up as opponents, not their OSG linemates.  And yet, in almost every single audio interview I conducted, it was clear the bonding process hadn’t been impeded in the slightest. When Blue forward Lauren Carter was asked what her biggest takeaway from the OSGs were, she answered not winning the gold medal but her gain of 19 new best friends, a feeling which will stay with her for the rest of her life. Team Ratushny aka Team White’s Caroline Chan and Angela Huo echoed similar sentiments. During one of my first interviews, the player referred to her tournament teammates as family. This attitude also spread into the crowd, with their parents forming friendships just like their respective daughters. Every Team Stacey game, a group of mothers kept shouting collective encouragement to Team Green. All around, the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association had created a friendly and welcoming environment which extended towards players, parents and staff.

With that said, the organization also provided the young women of the tournament with elite competition and a place to hone their skills to the next level. Caroline Chan said the OSGS provided an important stepping stone towards her dream of making the national team. Every game, the girls put on hockey clinics with fast skating, blazing slapshots, and provided some breathtaking goals. OWHA administrator Cherie Piper explained to me that players had to fill out an extensive application process to receive an invite to training camp in May. Said training camp then whittled down the players to a 160- woman collective. The OWHA provided the best possible competition, as doing so would provide the girls the best atmosphere to showcase their skills, hone their techniques, and learn new ways of perceiving the game that would remain long after the OSGS concluded.

To show what I mean, here is a brief rundown of the gold medal game between Team Benoit-Wark and Team Ferrari. The first period saw no scoring, but plenty of chances at both ends of the ice. It seemed either team's contest to win. Then halfway through the second, soon after the goalies substituted out (both teams wanted to give everybody a chance to play in the final), the girls in blue seized opportunity after opportunity that they were given. Sudbury's #12, Kelsey Dunn put Benoit-Wark on the board with what looked like a tipin or rebound in front of the net. A few minutes later, Milton's Lauren Carter scored what I felt was the goal of the tournament. Skating around a defenseman at the top of the left circle, poised to take her shot, began to stumble. Either while on her knees or  just prior to landing back on the ice, she fired a wrister top shelf past St. Thomas's Chloe Coveny to make it 2-0. Finally, with minutes left to play in the second, Ayr's Aria Groot's slapshot hit twine sending the teams back to the locker room with a 3-0 Blue lead. Ferrari tried to claw their way back into the game in the final frame, but to no avail. A 5 on 3 Team Black powerplay for nearly two minutes resulted in no points on the board, with goalie Hannah Zukow from Unionville and her defensemen up front preventing the puck getting through. Eventually, the wall cracked with Neebing's Kendra Fortin scoring in the final minutes, but the defense refortified, and the game siren wailed to the crowd a solid Team Benoit- Wark Victory.

Final Standings:

Gold: Team Benoit-Wark

Silver: Team Ferrari

Bronze: Team Ratushny

Fourth: Team West

Fifth: Team Nurse

Sixth: Team Fast

Seventh: Team Stacey

Eighth: Team Grnak