1. I think Saskatoon Wild had to wait far too long for their first win this season. Not only did they have to wait until game #23 to get the win, but they had to wait until there were only 26 seconds left in that game before getting the game winner from Erin Cumpstone.
2. I think last weekend was a very good one for teams looking to play the spoiler. In the Western Conference, the Wild won against the Jets in a game the Jets badly needed in their effort to clinch a spot at the national championship. Over in the Eastern Conference, Gatineau Fusion went on a three game winning streak, beating three teams that are all in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the East. Both teams have had tough seasons, and the wins were a long time coming.
3. I think Catherine Cartier’s ability to score is really something else. In a game against Gatineau in late January, Cartier scored her 400th career goal. The next highest career total in the league is held by one of the all time great snipers, Sharolyn Wouters with 275 careers goals. Usually in a league as relatively young as ours, records are made to be broken, but Cartier’s goal scoring marks may stay on the board for quite a while yet.
4. I think rookies are really making an impact this year. Be it leading rookie scorer Shannon Barber (Cambridge) contributing to an established powerhouse, or Martine Caissie (Atlantic) leading the way for an expansion team, rookies are doing more than just learning the ropes this year. These two are great examples, but there are many more making big contributions, including goalies Karine Soucy (Gatineau) and Jasmine Leblanc (Attack) who are among league leaders in the under-rated minutes played ranking.
5. I think the teams going to the championships from the West has become pretty clear. The magic number for the Manitoba Jets is down to four. What is the “magic number”? The number means that any combination of points gained by the Jets and points lost by the WAM! adding up to four will clinch the spot for the Jets. But, the WAM! will have to dodge the Wild’s new habit of playing the spoiler in a three-game series, and then will have take on the Jets for three in Winnipeg. Apart from the three vs Edmonton, the Jets have two games against cross-town rivals Prairie Fire. In a nutshell, the Jets appear to be in the driver’s seat, but the WAM! need only a little bit of help from Prairie Fire to control their own destiny in this race.
6. I think the picture in the East is also coming into focus. The top five spots are taken (Montreal, Cambridge, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Atlantic) with some questions about the order yet to come. The final three playoff slots are still up for grabs with Whitby being in the best position among the non-playoff teams as they have five games to go, including one vital game vs the team they are chasing – the Gloucester Devils.
7. I think the Ferguson sisters are going to have to light it up against the very stingy Calgary RATH defence this coming week if they hope to catch up to the Gaudet/Wakefield combo. In the meantime, Rive Sud has been benefiting this month from a scoring splurge from the Pepper sisters, vaulting them ahead of the Luggs in the sister scoring race:
Jackie Gaudet (Cambridge) and Jenn Wakefield (LMRL) 144
Andrea and Ainsley Ferguson (Prairie Fire) 140
Stephanie, Annie-Pier and Karine Seguin (Montreal) 103
Jess and Gen Pepper (Rive Sud) 88
Katie and Carrie Lugg (Ottawa) 84
8. I think designating a game to generate funds to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation would be enough for Ottawa and Gloucester to do. But they did not stop there. They raised more money than last year, they served delicious ginger snaps at the bake sale (believe me, I know) and they put on a great show for a full house. In one of the best defensive, tactical games of the year, the Ice pulled out the 2-1 victory on a Jayme Simzer goal with three seconds to go. Great game by both teams and in service of a great cause.
9. I think that the loss of Jennifer Wakefield for LMRL is a tough loss to take. Wakefield was injured playing for the Cambridge Turbos at the World Club Championships and has not played in the NRL since then (she is expected back this season). Since then, Salla Kyhala has continued to score at a breakneck pace, but has been joined by Brandy Lietz who has 33 points in 12 games since the holiday break. Injuries are going to happen, and the LMRL have been able to weather a tough one, because some players have really stepped up to pick up the scoring slack.
10. I think these are my non-NRL thoughts this week:
a. I think that if the guy that Adele writes all of her bitter songs about is half as bad as he sounds, he is probably asking her for a cut of the royalties.
b. I think that there have been a lot of tournaments in the past few weeks. The Esso Golden Ring, Voyageur, Pierrefonds and many many more. Each one of them is guided and led by a group of harried volunteers living on a diet of cold pizza, warm pop and day old coffee. Thank you to all of you for your incredible dedication to our sport and to everyone who plays it.
c. I think that the qualifications for the U16 and U19 divisions at the Tim Hortons Canadian Ringette Championships are coming into focus, with at least some teams qualified from BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Provincials are coming and the qualifying trek will be tough and the payoff will be an incredible week in Burnaby this year. Good luck to all the U16 and U19 teams playing their hearts out to get there.