Fort Smith’s Kiah Vail has already tasted the sweet victory of the Esso Cup, the national midget girls hockey championship, having won in with the St. Albert Slash last year in Nova Scotia.
This year, it’s all about making sure the Slash leave a legacy.
Vail and her Slash are the Pacific region representatives for the Esso Cup for a third year in a row – the second straight year for Vail – after they defeated the Greater Vancouver Comets in the regional final on home ice on April 7 thanks to a 3-0 win in game two of the best-of-three championship series.
Vail said the talk from the coaching staff before the game was about being better than the Comets and they were.
“I think we surprised them,” she said. “We outworked them in both games and we were confident we would do it in two. Last year when we beat them, it was a battle but we were definitely the better this team this year.”
The win punched the Slash’s ticket to the national championship and it’s obvious one team is already putting them in the cross-hairs. The Slash knocked off the Saskatoon Comets last year to win it all and it appears the Comets didn’t take the loss well, if what Vail heard is to be believed.
“They did an interview with Global Television and they were talking about wanting to show Canada that they’re the best team in the country and they should have won,” she said. “We took some offence to that because we beat them last year and we’re the defending champions, not them. That just gave us some incentive for when we play them again.”
The Comets are the West representatives again this year.
Ontario will have two teams – Stoney Creek and Sudbury, which got an automatic spot as the hosts – and Vail said she has no idea what they will look like but she knows Sudbury will be good.
“We’ve heard they have a good team because they were able to attract players who wanted to play in the Esso Cup,” she said. “As the hosts, they’re already in so they had that advantage to stock up.”
Stoney Creek is going in as the lucky losers as Sudbury ended up winning the Ontario title.
The Halifax Fire is the Atlantic representative and Vail said she doesn’t know much about them, either, but she suspects they will be good.
“They’re a new team but they’re from Nova Scotia and they always have good teams from there,” she said.
The only thing not known as of press time is who the Quebec representative for the tournament will be but what is known is that the tournament will kick off in Sudbury, Ont., on April 21 with six teams from around the country.
Vail said she expects her team to be there to defend their title in the end but it will be a tough go.
“Everyone is gunning for us,” she said. “All of the teams will be good but this will be the hardest year because we know the Comets really want it and we know Sudbury wants to put on a good showing on home ice. We don’t want our streak to end. We want to leave that legacy of three in a row because we don’t think it will be done again for a long time. Winning it again will be an amazing feeling.”