19 Teams in 19 Days – Prairie Fire

Another season is underway and as teams hit the ice in their quest for the 2011-2012 NRL Championship title, we’re taking a closer look at each team in the league. The new series is called 19 Teams in 19 Days and we would like to encourage you to join in the discussion on Twitter by following www.twitter.com/nrllnr or by sending us an email at NRLchatter@nationalringetteleague.ca

Prairie Fire

Last season finish:
Regular season – 1st place Western Conference
NRL Championship – 4th place

Head coach: Rick Montsion
Two questions with coach Montsion:
What would it mean to you, as a coach, to win the NRL championship this season?
At the beginning of each season, each team sets personal and team goals. Prairie Fire has, as many teams do, set one of our goals to be that National Champion, and for the past few seasons Prairie Fire has been knocking on the doorstep. As their coach, winning a National Championship would indicate that my contribution helped them in some way attain one of those personal and team goals. I would believe that I played a role, together with the players, in building a program where they were successful in realizing that goal.

What does your team have to do to win an NRL championship?
We need to be evenly balanced, offensively and defensively. Because ringette is such a possession game, we must ensure that the ring is in our possession as much as possible; that we maximize opportunities in the offensive end and limit the opportunities of our opponents in the defensive end.

The NRL nugget to know about this team:
The Prairie Fire were the first team to sweep the season series against the Edmonton WAM in league history – doing it in the WAM’s backyard in Edmonton. Throughout the season, Prairie Fire went 5-1 against the future national champions last season.

The question to be answered:
Can this team seal the deal? After two strong years in the regular season the team finished out of the medals at the NRL Championship tournament. This year, they will need to take the next step and progress from a “good” team to a “championship” team. Surely, the Team Canada experience from Andrea Ferguson and Lindsay Burns will help, but as a team, this group is going to need to answer the bell all season long and take the big leap.

What happened in the off-season:
Rick Montison has risen from the rank of assistant coach to head up the coaching staff for the Prairie Fire. The change behind the bench is one of the few, as the stable roster of the team will likely be a strength coming into the season.

The (hidden) gem:
Can a Team Canada member be a hidden gem? To the uninitiated, Lindsay Burns may not look like she is dominating games. To those in the know, Burns at times, has been the best player in the Western Conference. By utterly shutting down the offensive attacks of the opponents and chipping in points on her own (she has averaged almost a point a game in her NRL career). Look out for #7 this season, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Reason for optimism:
Coming off a first place season the Prairie Fire have a great deal of reason for optimism. The team boasts scoring, international experience, strong goalkeeping and a few years of shared experience to build upon.

Reason for concern:
The ghosts of last year’s finish may haunt this team. The Prairie Fire will have to get on with this new season and not let a bad two days in April be on their minds as they face the incredibly tough Western Conference.