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PA girls hockey: small school with bite

The girls hockey team at Pictou Academy. In front from left are: Thea Waller, Carly Smith, Biancia Bourgeois, Cassie Clarke and MacKenzie Ells. In back from left are: coach Jim Sloan, Marie Arai, Kari Waller, Leigha MacDonald, Hayley Nichol, Jenny Ferrera and Abby Munroe. In back from left are: Emma MacKeil, Charlotte Musick and Jenna Reid. Missing from photo is Megan MacCarthy.
PA Pitbulls

(Note: Pictured is the girls hockey team at Pictou Academy. In front from left are: Thea Waller, Carly Smith, Biancia Bourgeois, Cassie Clarke and MacKenzie Ells. In back from left are: coach Jim Sloan, Marie Arai, Kari Waller, Leigha MacDonald, Hayley Nichol, Jenny Ferrera and Abby Munroe. In back from left are: Emma MacKeil, Charlotte Musick and Jenna Reid. Missing from photo is Megan MacCarthy. - Sueann Musick)

PICTOU

The jerseys are classic in their simplicity: no fancy lettering or teeth-bearing dog logo, just the red and white school colours of Pictou Academy.

And while they may represent that tiny school over in the Shiretown, these Pitbulls have some bite with their bark.

We're fortunate, we have a lot of Selects girls who live in Pictou, and the surrounding area, said Jim Sloan, head coach of the girls hockey team at PA and a teacher at the 200-year-old institution.

Theres only so many small schools, with female hockey teams.

The Pitbulls started their season on Monday with two shutouts in as many games: they defeated the East Hants Tigers 9-0 and followed that with a 7-0 win over North Colchester. In addition to those small schools, the Pitbulls have a couple of games scheduled against the NRHS Nighthawks later this month and will likely play some games against NNEC, although nothing has been finalized yet.

THE INTERNATIONAL GAME

Marie Arai is an exchange student from Tokyo, Japan. She had played two years of hockey in her native country, but last season, she spent the school year in Missouri. When it came time to select a new country to experience, she chose hockey-obsessed Canada.

I was in the U.S., but I couldnt play hockey because there was no ice rink. This year, I wanted to play hockey in Canada.

Arai could only play one sport (lacrosse) at her high school in Tokyo, but not only is she playing hockey at PA, she ran cross-country, won a bronze medal at soccer provincials and also tried out for the Pitbulls basketball team (she doesnt yet know if she made the team).

I like to play a lot of sports, Arai says, adding that her teammates have been supportive of her.

I like them, they are really encouraging me.

The 16-year-old Aria is, according to goaltender Leigha MacDonald, just about the sweetest person youd ever want to meet – always smiling. Everyone on the team just thinks shes great.

LAST GO ROUND

MacDonald, who is also the goaltender with the Midget AA Subway Selects – Sloan coaches that team, too – would have spent her Grade 11 year playing hockey at PA, but the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and its work-to-rule policy quashed that idea last winter (Pictou Academy was supposed to have hosted the Division 2 provincials until the labour strife, although the school expects to host this seasons provincials).

Its awesome, MacDonald said of playing with the Pitbulls in her final year of high school.

Its quite a relief after last year and its a lot of fun to play with your friends. Everybody really has the dedication to play.

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