Calgary RATH Throwback: Making History in Fredericton

It’s that time of year again. In two weeks’ time, ringette teams across Canada head to London, Ontario to battle it out at the Canadian Ringette Championships. After 6 months of training and preparation, the last competition of the 2015-2016 season is here. This month, the Calgary RATH look back at their championship win in 2013, asking our veteran teammates what it takes, and what it is like, to win a national title.

Of the team that won CRCs in 2013, 6 members remain on the Calgary RATH roster: goaltender Bobbi Mattson, defenders Christianne Varty and Carolina Romeo, forward Alex Saizew, centre Shaundra Bruvall, and defender-turned-coach Abbey Van Roekel.

The teammates were candid about their season leading up to the Championships. “We had not won a significant amount of games that season – we actually lost a lot of games throughout the year,” Shaundra Bruvall shared. When asked if she thought that year would be the year, Carolina Romeo echoed Bruvall, saying that “half-way through the season, not so much!” However, overcoming those hardships was a significant part of what led the team to their victory. “By the time nationals came, we truly felt ready,” Romeo continued, and Abbey Van Roekel told us “I knew we had a team atmosphere and bond that could overcome the gaps.” Of the night before leaving for the competition, Bobbi Mattson said, “I will never forget the moment when I was packing my bags… Everything just stopped and I said out loud to myself ‘we’re going to win’ and I believed it whole-heartedly. I have never felt more confident than I did heading into the 2013 National Ringette League Championships.” So, although not a record-breaking season in terms of games won, the team came together and did what needed to be done to make a more important mark on history: Calgary RATH’s first national trophy.

As for what it took to get there, the 2013 champions each had their own opinion on what is required to win. For Carolina Romeo, overall it requires working hard and working smart. “It’s being prepared for all situations. It’s putting in the work before – physically, mentally, tactically, emotionally. It’s a unique combination of tactics, skill, heart, and hard work!” Shaundra Bruvall, who played a key role in the final, carrying the RATH’s comeback from a 5-2 deficit, listed a few things she believes necessary to come out victorious: goaltending, consistency, and support. “I think you need outstanding goaltending for the entire week of nationals. I think you need individual athletes to perform well consistently – nothing extravagant, but they need to perform well and they need to be fit enough to perform well in the last minute of the last game.” She continued on to say that “winning an NRL championship is a lot different from winning in Junior or Belle – the competition is better and the top 3 teams are all capable of taking the number one spot – the team that wins has learned to perform in the moments that matter.” Abbey Van Roekel, now defensive coach of the RATH, says she truly believes that you need to win as a team, lose as a team, and be a team. “An acceptance of everyone for who they are and what they bring. Support and hold each other up when there are losses and reinforce our strengths as a team when there are wins. Understanding that not everyone can be their best every game and helping each other be the best they can be especially when they need a boost.”

With those keys in hand, all that’s left is to show up and play hard. For the 2013 Calgary RATH, playing hard meant winning several hard fought games in which they had to battle back from behind. The most memorable comeback of all being, without a doubt, the Championship final. Of the action-packed game, Bobbi Mattson said “I believe there will be no other final like this at the NRL Championships. Being down 5-2 at the half to the favourites and to the team who had our number for most of the season… any normal team would have found it easy to hang their head and slowly pack it in.” But as the record would show, the RATH were not going to be that team. With notable names such as defending National Ringette League Champion Stacy Johnson (previously affiliated with BC Thunder), powerhouse and all-around threat Dallas Robbins, NCAA National Hockey Champion Amelia Hradsky, and several rookies who made explosive debuts into the NRL, the team was far from what one would call normal. However, the real game-changer would prove to be the character of the entire team, down 5-2 at half-time. “In the dressing room it was calm. It wasn’t an arrogant aura, but instead a calm confidence in where we knew what we had to do in order to get the job done and we knew we could do it,” says Carolina Romeo. Echoing her fellow defender’s thoughts, Abbey says “I actually never thought for one second that we were going to lose that game. As crazy as it was, it was calm, cool and collected on the bench.”

From that point on, the rest is history. The Calgary RATH clawed their way back into the final game, forcing it into overtime. For the RATH, it was to be their 3rd game to go into overtime that week, and they ultimately would go on to score in the sudden death period and take home the trophy. Around the 10-minute mark of overtime, Prairie Fire’s forward (now Calgary RATH member) Sarah Lesperance received a breakaway pass, and went in alone against goalie Bobbi Mattson. “This will go down as one of the biggest saves of my life, as we turned around and, on the same shift, Amelia Hradsky hammered home the National Championship winning goal,” Mattson says, remembering the moment flawlessly, proving the experience of winning the NRL Championship to be absolutely unforgettable.

          

The story of the 2013 Calgary RATH’s road to the final just goes to show how much the National title truly is up for grabs. No team going into the tournament is guaranteed to win and the week is sure to be littered with comebacks, upsets, and battles. To all the teams, in all age divisions, preparing for the competition, good luck and good skill. To our fellow NRL teams, we’ll see you there!