19 Teams in 19 Days – Richmond Hill Lightning

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

Richmond Hill Lightning

Last season finish:
Regular season – 4th place Eastern Conference
Eastern playoffs – won 2-0 over Whitby
NRL Championship – 5th place

Head coach: Keith Jasper
Two questions with coach Jasper:
What would it mean to you, as a coach, to win the NRL championship this season?
It would be amazing to win the NRL Championship this year. Our team is a blend of seasoned veterans and talented and eager rookies. I see their desire and the potential of this team and I know we can win the NRL championship.

What does your team have to do to win an NRL championship?
We have the experience and we have the speed and talent to win. Our team has to believe in themselves and execute the game plan. If we give it our all and keep learning throughout the season we will be victorious.

The NRL nugget to know about this team:
Last year this team capped off its playoff win in the Eastern Conference by all going out together to run a half marathon. This team runs half marathons – AFTER playing a game that day. On many levels, this team is now terrifying.

The question to be answered:
What will a mid season trip to Finland mean for this team? The Lightning are off to the World Club Championship (along with Cambridge) over the Christmas break. The event will surely be a highlight of the season and can also function as a team bonding trip in an intensive environment. But managing that distraction will be a challenge for Head Coach Keith Jasper and the entire leadership group for the Lightning.

What happened in the off-season:
The Lightning picked up Anique deBruyn Kops who is coming off a gold medal performance at the Canada Winter Games with Team Ontario. Also from Team Ontario, Erika Kiviaho joins the team as an AP player. Overall, the Lightning have stability going for them as this team continues to gel and build on a couple of good seasons in the Eastern Conference.

The (hidden) gem:
Karen Duguay led the team and was 6th in the league with 50 assists last season. The veteran defender has contributed offensively while holding down the fort on defence for a long time now. Duguay represented Canada as a member of the National Team back in 2000 and is still going strong some 11 years later.

Reason for optimism:
The Lightning were a real threat to get to the semi finals at the NRL Championship right up until the last seconds. They are just that close and with a stable roster and lots to build on, they could make that last little step this year. It’s also worth pointing out that the Lightning’s roster boasts last season’s league MVP Beth Hurren. Hurren, who was also named to the all star line at the World Ringette Championship, consistently demonstrates that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Reason for concern:
The Lightning will have a lot on their plates this season, especially with that trip to Finland thrown in for good measure. They will have to be sure to balance out their season and be ready to peak at the right times and the right places.