A season that began with 92 teams has been narrowed down to six – the 2019
Esso Cup competitors have been officially finalized.
The Sudbury Lady Wolves, Halifax Fire, Stoney Creek Sabres, St. Albert
Slash, Saskatoon Stars and As de Québec have all secured the opportunity to
compete at Canada’s National Female Midget Championship, which starts April
21 in Sudbury, Ont.
Here is a quick overview of the six teams that will vie for gold.
HOST TEAM – SUDBURY LADY WOLVES
The City of Sudbury is eager to create a welcoming atmosphere for the 2019
Esso Cup, while the Lady Wolves will be more fixated on providing a stiff
challenge on the ice – and they are poised to do so. The Lady Wolves
stormed out of the gate with a 21-game unbeaten streak (19-0-2) before
suffering their lone loss in the final game of the LLFHL season. After
tough playdown series against the Toronto Aeros and Mississauga Chiefs, the
Wolves cruised through the OWHA provincials with a 6-0 record, capped by a
3-2 win over the Stoney Creek Sabres in the final.
Sudbury is looking to become the first host team to hoist the Esso Cup. In
the 10-year history of the tournament, only the 2015 Red Deer Chiefs earned
a spot in the gold medal game.
ATLANTIC REGION – HALIFAX FIRE
Simply put, the Fire – with nine players who were part of the host Metro
Boston Pizza team from last year’s Esso Cup – has been terrific. The club,
which finished second in the NSFMHL during the regular season with an
18-2-4 record, went three-for-three against the Cape Breton Panthers in the
Nova Scotia semifinals before overcoming a two-game deficit with
three-straight wins to prevail over the Northern Selects in the league
final. Halifax then brought the fire to the Atlantic Regional, outscoring
its opponents 32-9 in five games and clinching its spot in Sudbury with a
5-2 win over the Northern Lightning in the gold medal game.
Halifax is looking to provide the Atlantic a reversal of fortune; the
region has finished in sixth place at the past six Esso Cups. Metro Boston
Pizza earned the last semifinal berth for the region in 2012.
ONTARIO REGION – STONEY CREEK SABRES
It was not an easy road to the national championship for the Sabres. After
a solid 3-1-1 start to the campaign, they only managed one win in their
next seven games. Stoney Creek found its form with 7-1-2 run to finish the
regular season, and toppled the Buffalo Regals and Burlington Barracudas
before falling to Mississauga in the LLFHL South Central Division final.
Stoney Creek was in top form at OWHA provincials, winning five of six games
to reach the gold medal game against Sudbury (it dropped a narrow 3-2
decision) and clinch the Ontario berth at the Esso Cup.
Stoney Creek will aim to put Ontario back on the Esso Cup podium after the
province finished out of the top three for the first time ever in 2018.
Ontario has won three gold (Thunder Bay, 2010; Sudbury, 2015; Brantford,
2016), three silver and three bronze medals at the national championship.
PACIFIC REGION – ST. ALBERT SLASH
St. Albert has shown the form of a two-time defending Esso Cup champion
since the opening puck drop last fall. The Slash sailed to the top of the
AFHL standings with a 26-3-1 record and went 4-0 at provincials – capped by
a 5-1 win over the Calgary Fire in the gold medal game – before sweeping
the Greater Vancouver Comets in the Pacific Regional to earn the
opportunity to go for the three-peat. The roster boasts nine returnees from
the 2018 team, five of whom – Taylor Anker, Isabelle Lajoie, Brianna Sank,
Makenna Schuttler and Madison Willan – were also part of the 2017
St. Albert navigated through the last two Esso Cups with a record of 13
wins and one loss. Its lone defeat was a 4-1 preliminary-round setback to
the Saskatoon Stars last year.
QUEBEC REGION – AS DE QUÉBEC
The defensive excellence the As de Québec showed during the 2018-19 LHEQ
season came up massive when it mattered most during the Coupe Dodge. After
losing its first two games at the provincial tournament, the As – who
allowed just 60 goals in 30 regular-season affairs – edged the Remparts du
Richelieu 2-1 in the quarter-finals and then proceeded to earn back-to-back
1-0 whitewashes over the Harfangs du Triolet and Stars 55 de Mauricie-CDQ.
Balanced scoring was also paramount for the club that netted a solid 16-7-7
record as nine players finished with at least 15 points.
The As will attempt to extend Quebec’s medal streak at the Esso Cup to four
years. The Express du Richelieu (2016) and Harfangs (2017) picked up silver
medals, while the Pionnières de Lanaudière (2018) collected bronze.
WEST REGION – SASKATOON STARS
The Saskatoon Stars are returning to Canada’s National Female Midget
Championship with a desire to atone for the painful 2-1 loss they endured
at the hands of St. Albert in the 2018 Esso Cup final. Saskatoon has had
the look of a championship contender all season as it racked up 149 goals
en route to winning 27 of its 28 regular-season games – including its first
20 in a row. The Stars brushed aside the Notre Dame Hounds and Regina
Rebels in the SFMAAAHL playoffs, and swept the two-game West Regional
against the Westman Wildcats.
Thirteen Stars are back to try and capture the gold medal that eluded them
last year. Saskatoon is attending its fourth Esso Cup in five years; it won
bronze in 2015 and finished fourth in 2016.