By Chris Clark
Stringing together an incredible 20 straight wins before finally swallowing their first loss of the year in a tournament final, the Mount Forest Bantam “B” girls are in the midst of a dream season.
The bantams are now two dozen games into their 2012/13 campaign, and maintain a remarkably spotless 23-1-0 record. After three shutouts to start the season, the Rams posted three more en route to winning a Mitchell Meteors tournament.
Nine wins and four more shutouts later, the locals stormed into Stratford for tournament competition.
Mount Forest allowed only three goals in five games in the Stratford tournament, including a 1-0 shootout loss in the championship final to the Wilmot Wolverines. They have not allowed a goal or a loss since, and are now 12-0-0 in regulation play. The Rams finish this month with a berth in the annual Milverton tournament, and are booked for the International Silver Stick event in Trenton this coming February.
Derek Bridgwater and Dale Eccles have been coaching most of the girls for several years and have found continued success, including qualifying for provincials each year. They hope to be the first girls team to bring provincial gold to Mount Forest since Doug McLellan helmed the Intermediate champions more than a decade ago.
“We feel our team can go all the way this year,” said Coach Bridgwater. “The girls have been working hard, and we have had a lot of help from people volunteering their time with the girls. For example, Rob LeBlanc came out for one practice and spent the bulk of it on face-offs. The next game we won 90 per cent of them.”
Coach Eccles feels there is still room for improvement; but the girls work hard, are fast learners and can look forward to a successful and rewarding year.
Hockey has been an excellent source of life experience for the girls in many ways, contends team manager Todd Pridham. The coaching staff educates and encourages the girls to eat healthy before games and in their everyday lives. They have social skills, learned to work as a team, learned to set goals and achieve them, as well as represent their community to a high standard.
“Watching the girls grow and learn through the years has been a great experience. They a committed bunch of girls that will be able to achieve anything put their mind to in the future,” said Pridham.
Just as important as their exemplary on-ice play, the bantams remain quality young women off the ice as well. Many of the players are involved in high school hockey and other sports teams in the area, and volunteer in the community.
“We have a very committed group of girls, and with their dedication, hard work and team play, have the ability to go far season,” said Trainer Trish Hoffele.
Coach Bridgwater encourages more people to get involved in coaching. He describes his team as a great bunch of girls who all get along, work hard to get the job done and are a pleasure to coach. He feels they are going to grow up and be, or are already, young leaders that will serve the community . For example, they each brought in some money to donate for a gift for someone in need, and it was all their idea.
“We have a few girls who could go and play a higher level of hockey elsewhere,” said Coach Bridgwater, “but they all want to represent this area playing hockey with their friends, and bring home a banner soon. ”