Ten Things I Think I Think – February 24

1. I think it was a tough night for the Saskatoon Wild back on February 13. Facing the visiting Calgary RATH, the Wild were decimated by former teammates Loretta Giocoli and Sjaane Beattie. Giocoli got one goal and one assist and Beattie notched two goals along with one assist. Together they led the way for the RATH in the 7-4 victory. To their credit, the Wild exacted some revenge on their former mates with an incredible second half in their next game. The Wild scored six times to force the game to a shooutout where they claimed a 7-6 victory.

2. I think that after a fairly offensive start to the season, the defensive elements of the game have clamped down quite a bit. Last season, an average game had 10.2 goals. This year, a game will have more than a full goal less, at 8.98. This has included some teams whose scoring is way down (Cambridge is down over four goals per game and Edmonton is down over three per game), and only one team with a big positive change (Fraser Valley is up 1.7 goals per game). So you might be wondering why the goals per game were down. Is it because of better play by defenders? Nope, it appears to be the goalies. Shots on goal are down only 0.2 per game, so with about the same amount of shots, goalies are allowing one less goal. Well done goalies! Especially good at not allowing goals has been Ottawa’s Tori Goble, with a save percentage of 0.917.

3. I think that Rive Sud’s inability to stay out of the penalty box needs to be fixed before the playoffs start. Rive Sud leads the league with 11:39 in penalty minutes per game. This is a stark contrast to league-leading Edmonton, who spend only 7:10 in the box per game.

4. I think Cambridge has once again shown that they have what it takes to be the top team in the East (still to be determined if they will hold onto their NRL champion title). After rounding out their regular season with four wins this past weekend, the Turbos clinched the bye to the NRL Championship tournament in Saskatoon as the top team in the Eastern Conference. While some were wondering if the Turbos could survive losing top star Jenn Wakefield to the Fraser Valley Avalanche this season, the Turbos focused on their task at hand and came away with 29 wins, only dropping a game to Eastern rivals Montreal Mission as well as one to Richmond Hill Lightning.

5. I think that several players eclipsed the 100 career points barrier in the past couple of weeks. Erin Cumpstone (Saskatoon), Salla Kyhalla (Saskatoon) Lindsey Vivian (Waterloo), and Vanessa Cowlen (Cambridge) all got their 100th point. Amanda Somerville (Waterloo), Jenna McBride (Ottawa) and Karyna Dallaire (BLL) are all within four points of the barrier.

6. I think that this weekend I met an 11 year old girl named Meredith. Meredith was in town to watch an NRL game (in this case, Cambridge vs Ottawa). What is really notable is that this trip was Meredith’s birthday present and she was in town all the way from Nova Scotia. People love this game and are willing to go out of their way to see it played at the highest levels.

7. I think that last weekend we had two defensive candidates for game of the year. Richmond Hill got by Quebec 1-0 on a goal by Kristin Bartolon, backstopped by the shutout by Ashley Steele. Meanwhile, in Red Deer, Alberta, the Calgary RATH got a key win over provincial rivals, the Edmonton WAM with a 2-1 win in a shootout. After goalies Bobbi Mattson and Keely Brown pretty much shut the door, Calgary got shootout goals from Kailee Dundas and Sjaane Beattie while Edmonton could only match with a marker from Tarin O’Hara. If these two teams match up in a big game at the NRL Championship it will be an absolute heart stopper!

8. I think Saskatoon is ready to host the NRL Championship and the 2010 Tim Hortons Canadian Ringette Championships. Saskatoon Wild coach, and event co-chair, Terry McAdam and his team have done an outstanding job. It should also be noted that Wild defender Steph Ebel has been an incredible director of marketing for the event (I note this despite the fact that Steph is known to only read the 10 Things I Think I Think only when her name is mentioned). The Wild have not put up the kind of win totals they were hoping for this year, but they are absolutely capable of beating anyone and in a short tournament – anything can happen.

9. I think these are the leaders since we last met:
Goals Since February 10th: Catherine Cartier (Montreal) – 12 goals in 3 games.
Assists Since February 10th: Stephanie Seguin (Montreal) – 10 assists in 3 games
Points Since February 10th: Catherine Cartier (Montreal) – 21 points in 3 games
3 or More Goal Games:
February 12
Carrie Nash (Manitoba) – 3 Goals vs Prairie Fire
February 13
Julie Blanchette (Montreal) – 4 Goals vs Gatineau
Catherine Cartier (Montreal) – 3 Goals vs Gatineau
Marie Eve Demers (Montreal) – 3 Goals vs Gatineau
February 14
Victoria Russell (Calgary) – 4 Goals vs Saskatoon
Salla Kyhalla (Saskatoon) – 3 Goals vs Calgary
Jackie Gaudet (Cambridge) – 3 Goals vs Richmond Hill
Marie Eve Demers (Montreal) – 3 Goals vs Rive Sud
Catherine Cartier (Montreal) – 5 Goals vs Rive Sud
Julie Blanchette (Montreal) – 4 Goals vs Rive Sud
Annie-Pier Séguin (Montreal) – 3 goals vs Rive Sud

February 20
Sharolyn Wouters (Cambridge) – 4 Goals vs Ottawa
Jackie Gaudet (Cambridge) – 3 Goals vs Quebec City
Catherine Cartier (Montreal) – 4 Goals vs BLL
Samantha Morris (Gloucester) – 3 Goals vs Waterloo
Kristin Johnston (Gloucester) – 3 Goals vs Waterloo
Shelly Kraemar (Waterloo) – 3 goals vs Gatineau

February 21
Meghan Pittaway (Cambridge) – 18 saves vs Gloucester
Tori Goble (Ottawa) – 29 saves vs Whitby
Ashley Steele (Richmond Hill) – 27 saves vs Whitby
Current Streaks
Games with a Goal: Catherine Cartier (Montreal) – 9 Games
Games with a Point: Catherine Cartier & Julie Blanchette (Montreal) – 29 Games
Consecutive Wins: Montreal Mission – 9 Wins

10. I think these are my non-NRL thoughts this week:
a. I think that the Olympic cauldron is easily climbable and on fire. Probably a good call to put a fence around anything that shares those two traits.
b. I think that there are at least five ringette alumna participating in the Olympic games (including one Finn – Ana Vanhatalo). We are proud of all of them and wish them all well at the Games. Ringette makes for great athletes and great people, we are always ecstatic to see when a member our ringette family accomplishes something great (which happens kind of often!). (By the way, the five we have in Vancouver is actually less than the six we had competing in Beijing – including Saskatoon Wild forward Erin Cumpstone who was the starting catcher for Team Canada softball – I mean…really, does any sport do a better job of creating pure athletes? I think not!)
c. I think if the ringette alumni were a country, it would be bigger than Iceland at the Olympic Games. (Sure, Iceland is small, but the country has the word Ice right in its name – that should lead to a lot of winter Olympians shouldn’t it?) 
d. I think that ringette will be in the Olympics. Not necessarily soon, but it will come to pass. We have a lot of work to do both here in Canada and abroad, but the work can be done and we can get there. Patience, perseverance and passion will be our three P’s to Olympic success.
e. I think that the series between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to get an Atlantic rep for the NRL championship has gone down to game five in the best of five format. The team coming from the Atlantic will certainly be battle tested by the time they head to Saskatoon.
f. The NRL is on Twitter. Follow us at www.twitter.com/nrllnr – 140 characters of ringette fun!