In the moments leading up to Lawrence Park’s gold medal game against Centennial CVI of Guelph, head coach Karen Daigle reminded her charges they had been together for 135 days.
It was a measurement of how dedicated the AAA girls hockey team was in overcoming 2015’s City Championship loss, and 2014’s first OFSAA appearance.
Daigle starts her story with the core group of girls who made it to the provincials two years ago, and have become the backbone of the Panthers’ gold medal March 9 in Stratford, Ont.
The drive to win started when they lost a year ago, and from it came a perfect season.
“I think that sadness and that burn from the game last year, stuck with them during this season,” Daigle said, in a phone interview during March Break.
A perfect 8–0 in league play, a tournament win in Kingston, Ont. and an unblemished record at OFSAA, save for a 2–2 tie with Bishop Allen Academy of Toronto in pool play, led to an incredible run.
“It feels great,” Daigle said. “I think it took a while for it to sink in, but the girls are finally starting to realize they are the province’s best.”
There are three reasons why Lawrence Park had such a run, Daigle added. One, being the standout performance of goalie Samie Gorman, who plays net for North Toronto Midget A boys team as well.
“She is just a force,” Daigle said. “The girls compared her to Carey Price.”
Gorman, fresh from March Break, was all shy smiles when talking about the praise from her coach at Lawrence Park.
“I was honestly surprised. I think our main goal was to get there,” she said. “We kind of expected our competition to be a little better.”
That’s not meant to diminish their opponents, as most of the games played by the Panthers were a one or two goal difference, except for their opening 7–2 bouncing of Marymount Academy in pool play.
Often times, Gorman had to leave Stratford to play a third game in Toronto with her rep team. She coped with fatigue well, noting “As soon as you get into a game, the adrenalin kicks in”.
Daigle gave two more reasons for their success: the offensive prowess of Quinn Johnston, and the strong leadership of departing seniors Riley Smith, Riley Samson, Veronica Moore and Emily Morgan.
“They arrived at midnight from a game that they had played,” Daigle said. “At 12 at night, I’m trying to get them to bed, and they’re telling us, ‘We’re going to win this’.
“They kept the team focused. They had been here before, and they just kept the younger girls focused.”
Johnston, who scored 10 points during the tournament, was appointed the team spirit booster.
“My role? Getting the team organized and pumping them up before games,” she said.
Rounding out the team were Lucy Birrell, Grace Doris, Madeleine Carew, Emily Cesta, Emily Harper, Leah Ellement, Julia Keogh, Megan Killeen, Natali Robinson, Jamie Samson and Michelle Scully.
As for the drive for back-to-back OFSAA titles, it’s ever present said Daigle.
“They all wanted to go into another tournament after the season and keep playing because they didn’t want it to end,” she said. “But unfortunately it does end, and hopefully the drive will continue.”
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