The third time was a charm for Metro Boston Pizza, which is off to the Esso Cup for the first time after knocking off the Moncton Rockets 3-2 on April 1 to win the Atlantic Region championship in Bathurst, N.B.
Metro had twice before come up just one win short of Canada’s National Female Midget Championship, losing the championship game to the Northern Stars in 2009 and to the Rockets the following season.
It also appeared at last year’s regional tournament, finishing the preliminary round with a 2-2 record and missing out on a third consecutive berth in the championship game after a 3-2 loss to Northern in its finale.
“It wasn’t only this year’s focus and hard work; lessons learned from the last few years played a big role for us,” said Metro head coach Wayne Normore. “These girls played with a ‘refuse to lose’ mentality through provincials and regionals, and at the end of the day it was grit and hard work, not skill, that were the keys to victory.”
The Nova Scotia Female Midget AAA Hockey League champion will represent the Atlantic Region in Charlottetown, P.E.I., from April 22-28, and it will take an impressive winning streak into the national championship.
Metro ran away from the competition in the NSMAAAHL during the regular season, going a perfect 24-0 and outscoring the opposition 155-26, before sweeping both playoff series and going undefeated through the regional tournament, meaning it has posted a 35-0 record thus far.
Just as it was in its previous three trips to regionals, it was the New Brunswick teams that gave Metro the most difficulty; it beat Moncton 2-1 and Northern 3-1 in the preliminary round before holding on against the Rockets in the final.
As it did in all four of its preliminary round games, Metro hit the scoreboard first against the Rockets, as Sarah Gagnier scored her first of the tournament 12 minutes into the opening period.
The lead was doubled very early in the middle frame thanks to Breanna Lanceleve, and although Moncton cut it to a 2-1 game Metro took a two-goal advantage to the second intermission when Monica Morley scored in the dying seconds of the period.
Moncton made it close again with three-and-a-half minutes to go, but that would be the last of the offence for the Rockets as they were denied a second Atlantic championship in three years.
“Moncton played very well,” Normore said. “They had a dangerous power play, which they used to narrow the gap, but our game plan did not change. We remained focused on fundamentals and effort, and it worked well for us.”
Metro Boston Pizza will be in tough when the puck drops to open the Esso Cup – Atlantic teams are just 1-13 in three years at the national championship, with the lone win a 4-1 victory by Moncton over the Remparts du Richelieu at the 2009 tournament.
ROAD TO THE ESSO CUP: METRO BOSTON PIZZA
Nova Scotia Female Midget AAA Hockey League
ALL-TIME AT THE NATIONAL FEMALE MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP: METRO BOSTON PIZZA