East York Collegiate’s girls hockey team has several skilled players, but it was the team’s heart that impressed coach John Simopoulos.
“The strength was basically the character of the young ladies,” he said. “They wanted to win, they wanted to play.”
The Athenas dealt with health problems throughout the season — from concussions, to bronchitis, to broken bones — and still managed to win the city championship and earn a birth in the AAA/AAAA OFSAA tournament, where they were named the most sportsmanlike team.
“We played short but we did well,” Simopoulos said. “We made it to the quarter finals of the consolation round and we were winning in the third period but we ran out of steam.
“We only had seven players so that’s not bad to make it that far.”
Team captain Jaimie McDonell, who missed two games this season due to a concussion, earned the most sportsmanlike player award for the tournament. In East York’s first three games, the defenceman scored all seven of the team’s goals.
“I can’t stress enough the role of the captain Jaimie McDonell,” said Simopoulos. “She was the team in my estimation.
“She kept the team together and motivated. She’s a great leader and no wonder Princeton (University) picked her up.”
Although Jaimie won’t be on the team next year, her sister Jordan will return. Jordan, who was one of the assistant captains on this season’s squad, is currently being scouted by American universities, including Yale.
To make matters worse for opponents, another McDonell, a cousin of Jaimie and Jordan, is set to arrive at the school next season.
“I hear that we have another McDonell coming, a younger cousin who is very good too,” Simopoulos said.
The versatility of the current Athenas allowed East York to overcome some of the injuries they faced this season.
“If we had hurt players, I wouldn’t even have to tell them, they’d volunteer and play defence because they knew that’s where we were short,” Simopoulos said. “Sometimes they would double shift if they had to.”
Simopoulos said the girls learned how to slow the game down when they were playing with a short bench.
They also played carefully. East York had the least amount of penalties in this year’s OFSAA tournament.
“They’re a good bunch of kids,” he said. “Great to coach.
“They have great heart and determination. They tried really hard and we’re really proud of them at the school.”
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