And then there were six.
The Road to the Esso Cup is complete, as the Stoney Creek Sabres claimed
the final spot with a 3-0 victory over North York Storm at the Ontario
Women’s Hockey Association provincials on Sunday.
The Sabres will join the Prince Albert Bears (Host), Northern Selects
(Atlantic), Fraser Valley Rush (Pacific), Étoiles de Laurentides-Lanaudière
(Quebec) and Regina Rebels (West) at Canada’s Women’s U18 National Club
Championship, which begins April 23 in Prince Albert, Sask.
Here’s a quick look at all six teams competing for a national title.
Host – Prince Albert Bears
After serving as remote hosts last year in Okotoks, Alta., the Bears are
excited to finally welcome Canada’s best to Art Hauser Arena. Prince Albert
had ups and downs in the Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey League this
season, finishing with a 9-18-3 record before dropping its quarterfinal
playoff series against the Notre Dame Hounds 2-1.
This year marks the Bears’ third appearance at the Esso Cup; they have
previously finished fifth twice, going 2-3 in the preliminary round last
year in Okotoks and in 2017 in Morden, Man., as West Region champions.
Atlantic Region – Northern Selects
It was another strong season for the Selects, losing just one of 24 games
in the Maritime Major Female Hockey League (MMFHL) before defeating the
Cape Breton Lynx 3-1 and sweeping the Halifax Western Capitals to claim the
MMFHL title. That momentum carried into the Atlantic Regional, where the
Selects had a perfect 4-0 preliminary round before shutting out the Western
Flames to book their tickets to Prince Albert.
This marks the third trip to the Esso Cup in four years for Northern. Last
year, it went 2-3 in the preliminary round before being blanked 4-0 by the
eventual national champion Durham West Lightning in the semifinals.
Ontario Region – Stoney Creek Sabres
The Sabres boast an offensively strong team, finishing second in the OWHA
regular-season standings with a +90-goal differential. That success carried
over into the OWHA provincials, where Stoney Creek went undefeated in Pool
A against the Nepean Wildcats, Rideau St. Lawrence Thunder and Waterloo
Ravens. It shut out the Ottawa Senators and Peterborough Ice Kats 4-0 in
the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, before defeating the Storm
to represent Ontario at the Esso Cup.
Stoney Creek last competed for a national title in 2019, coming away with
bronze with a 3-2 shootout win over the Saskatoon Stars. The Sabres also
hosted the Esso Cup in 2014, finishing in fourth place after a 3-2 loss to
the Sudbury Lady Wolves for bronze.
Pacific Region – Fraser Valley Rush
There was no one close to the Rush in the British Columbia Elite Hockey
League (BCEHL) this season; the Rush posted a 30-2 regular season record
with an impressive 171-48 goal differential. That dominance continued in
the playoffs, with Fraser Valley sweeping the Greater Vancouver Comets and
Thompson-Okanagan Lakers while only allowing one goal to win the BCEHL
title, then sweeping the Red Deer Chiefs to become back-to-back Pacific
It will be the fourth Esso Cup appearance for the Rush. After finishing
with a 3-2 preliminary record in Okotoks, Fraser Valley took home silver,
falling 4-1 to Durham West.
Quebec Region – Étoiles de Laurentides-Lanaudière
The Étoiles had a strong second half of their season, winning or tying
every game since Dec. 11 to finish second in the Ligue de hockey
d’excellence du Québec. However, it was an uphill battle at the Coupe
Chevrolet provincials, with the Étoiles dropping their first two games in
the preliminary round. The team found its groove in the knockout round,
beating Laval-Montréal, Québec (in overtime) and Outaouais to solidify its
spot in the Esso Cup.
It'll be the second Esso Cup appearance for Laurentides-Lanaudière. Before
amalgamating into the Étoiles, the Pionnières de Lanaudière represented
Quebec in 2018 and won bronze.
West Region – Regina Rebels
Regina had a stand-out regular season, complete with a 10-game win streak
to finish atop the Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey League. The Rebels
defeated the Notre Dame Hounds 2-1 in the semifinals, and after dropping
the first game of the final to the Saskatoon Stars, won twice in a row to
advance to the West Regional. It was an intense series against the Winnipeg
Ice, but the Rebels came away with a pair of overtime wins to return to the
The Rebels have two previous Esso Cup appearances, with the last being a
fourth-place finish in 2013. Regina hosted the second-ever championship in
2010, earning a 3-2 record in the preliminary round and finishing fourth.