1. I think that Jenn Wakefield likes the crisp prairie air in Saskatoon. In three games this weekend in Saskatoon, Wakefield scored ten goals. One game was decided by three goals, the other two by one goal – nothing happened in "garbage time" for Wakefield and the Fraser Valley Avalanche. The other player close to Wakefield for scoring this weekend? Saskatoon Wild’s Salla Kyhala scored nine times over the weekend as her Wild took 2 of 3 from the Avalanche.
2. I think the Prairie Fire best not relax. Their lead in the western conference is no longer safe as the Manitoba Jets, Saskatoon Wild and Fraser Valley Avalanche are making up ground. The Prairie Fire certainly control their own destiny with an eight point lead, but there are a lot of games left and the Prairie Fire will need to keep winning as the three teams in the chase have no intention of slowing down.
3. I think that young ringette players whose seasons are winding down might be thinking about playing ringette through the summer to stay sharp and keep improving their skills. I think that these players are thinking a good thought, but should think twice about going full time ringette. Sure, a summer camp or maybe a short spring league can be fun, but don’t do the camp instead of playing other sports and still have fun playing summer sports in the summer time. To illustrate, look at the Team Canada roster and look at how many of these pure athletes also compete in another sport at the varsity (university) or national team level:
Keely Brown – Edmonton WAM! – Roller Hockey
Jennifer Wakefield – Fraser Valley Avalanche – Lacrosse
Sheena McDonald – Prairie Fire – Bandy
Kerith Gordon – Waterloo Wildfire – Rowing
Andrea Ferguson – Prairie Fire – Bandy
Katie Lugg – Ottawa Ice – Soccer
Jenna McBride – Ottawa Ice – Ultimate Disc
Erin Cumpstone – Saskatoon Wild – Softball
And this only includes those that have played at the national team or varsity level (and does not account for ones I have missed – that "corrections edition" is going to be a big one!). The lesson here: play sports, lots of them and keep playing sports because it is a great way to make for a better way of life and will make you a better ringette player.
4. I think that Jessica Pepper had one of the all time clutch weekends in the history of the NRL. In two games over the weekend BLL needed three points to eclipse Gatineau for the east’s final playoff spot. In game one, Pepper notched a hat trick in a win over Lac St Louis. In the second, Pepper got another hat trick in a shootout loss to Rive Sud. These six goals could not have come at a better time for the Nordiques as those three points propelled them into the eastern conference playoffs.
5. I think that the playoffs in the east are shaping up to be an incredible weekend of ringette. As a review – the top team in the east (Cambridge) got a bye in to the NRL Championship. The next eight teams are paired up in 4 best-of-three series. The winners of the series all go on to the NRL Championship. So, here are the matchups:
Montreal Mission (2) vs BLL Nordiques (9)
On paper this looks like a bit of a no-brainer. But BLL is a dangerous team with a dangerous scorer in Jessica Pepper (see #4 above). Montreal will have to commit to defense, because even with their offensive weapons, they will not want to get into high scoring games with BLL.
What happened during the regular season: Montreal swept all four games.
Ottawa Ice (3) vs Richmond Hill Lightning (8)
This also looks like a mismatch on paper. Fortunately for the Lightning, paper is not where these games will be played. The Lightning have been a hot team heading into the playoffs and will be looking to spoil Ottawa’s great regular season with a playoff upset.
What happened during the regular season: Split, one win each.
Gloucester Devils (4) vs Cyclones de Quebec (7)
There is not much between these two teams in this series. Quebec has had a good season in the very tough capital division and the Devils, after a bit of a slow start, have been among the top teams in the conference in the second half of the season. I have no idea what is going to happen.
What happened during the regular season: Gloucester took 3 and lost one.
Waterloo Wildfire (5) vs Rive Sud (6)
Waterloo made it to the NRL Championship last year and can rely on that experience in their playoff series this year – along with the fact that they are hosting the series. Is that enough to overcome the Revolution? Luckily, no one has ever called me an "expert" so I get to to play the "I have no idea" card twice in the same article!
What happened during the regular season: Split, one win each.
6. I think Salla Kyhalla of the Saskatoon Wild needs 48 points over her next 6 games in order to catch Montreal’s Catherine Cartier for the NRL overall scoring lead. Kyhalla can really score, but I think I like Cartier’s chances!
7. I think that in the west this year the schedule is based on three game series where one team visits town for three games in a weekend. Out of twenty such series this year, there have been only three sweeps. Putting together any kind of streak in the west has been very tough with game after game of strong opponents – and by game #3 of a weekend, you can’t be sneaky, you have no secrets left. (By the way – the Edmonton WAM! won all three of the sweeps, and all were at home.)
8. I think that I never would expected that the Ten Things would spawn "user generated content". The Gloucester Devils remixed the Ten Things from last week and here is their best one: "I think that whoever does these "I think I think" things missed a couple of things.". Truer words have never been spoken! But remember, it is Ten Things I Think I Think; not Ten Things I Should Be Thinking.
9. I think these are the leaders since we last met:
Goals Since February 26th: Jennifer Wakefield (Fraser Valley) – 10 goals in 3 games
Assists Since February 26th: Julie Primard (Rive Sud), Mylene Belleville (Quebec), Audrey Frechette (Gatineau) – 6 assists
Points Since February 26th: Jennifer Wakefield (Fraser Valley), Chantal St-Laurent (Quebec) – 13 points
3 or More Goal Games:
Chantal St-Laurent (Quebec City) – 3 Goals vs Gatineau
Audrey-Anne Plante (Rive Sud) – 3 Goals vs Lac St Louis
Julie Blanchette (Montreal) – 4 Goals vs BLL
Jennifer Wakefield (Fraser Valley) – 3 Goals vs Saskatoon
Salla Kyhalla (Saskatoon) – 4 Goals vs Fraser Valley
Courtney Keeble (Lac St Louis) – 3 Goals vs BLL
Jessica Pepper (BLL) – 3 Goals vs Lac St Louis
Jennifer Wakefield (Fraser Valley) – 4 Goals vs Saskatoon
Salla Kyhalla (Saskatoon) – 3 Goals vs Fraser Valley
Jennifer Wakefield (Fraser Valley) – 3 Goals vs Saskatoon (twice that day!)
Chantal St-Laurent (Quebec City) 4 Goals vs Lac St Louis
Tori Goble (Ottawa) – 20 saves vs Gloucester
Games with a Goal: Catherine Cartier (Montreal) – 11 Games
Games with a Point: Catherine Cartier & Julie Blanchette (Montreal) – 31 Games
Consecutive Wins: Montreal Mission – 11 Wins
10. I think these are my non-NRL thoughts this week:
a. I think that Up! was a great movie – worthy of the best picture nomination. I have no opinion on the Hurt Locker because I never see any movies. I can say that the book version of The Blind Side was incredible. If the movie was half as good, it was very good indeed.
b. I think that if you are at the Aberdeen Recreation Centre for NRL Championship games in Saskatoon, you have to check out the cinnamon buns. I swear they are as big as a hubcap!
c. I think that if you are on your way to Aberdeen you will see a huge, old-school drive-in movie theatre. It is hard to see that and NOT hum the theme from Happy Days.