When deciding whether to apply to host a provincial championship, it’s often a question of whether being the host team is an advantage or a disadvantage.
For North Nova Education Centre this year, members of the girls hockey team, their parents, and bench staff are hoping it’s an advantage.
“It’s a huge deal to be hosting provincials here at home, where everyone in the community can come watch,” says Gryphons captain Lindsey MacDonald. “It’s even more exciting because it’s my Grade 12 year.”
The NSSAF championship, which is being held at the Ivor MacDonald Memorial Arena in Thorburn this weekend, will feature eight of the best female high school teams in the province.
“I’m expecting the competition to be strong, especially from the city area teams,” says MacDonald. “I think we have a good shot; as a team we need to have a positive mindset heading into the tournament.”
Coach Kevin Willett agrees.
“I really feel the competition is going to be a challenge,” he says.
However, he believes his team is up for it.
“Our girls and coaching staff think we have a great opportunity to be successful in this year’s tournament.”
This is MacDonald’s third season playing for the Gryphons and her second time competing at high school provincials. “I’d like to come away from the tournament with a medal, but more than that I just want to enjoy every second and take it all in,” she says.
“A lot of the girls are in their third season as well. We also have a lot of strong, young players, too.”
Unlike previous years where there were two divisions in female hockey, now there is only one, therefore the March 8-10 tournament is the only provincial championship being held this year.
According to the NSSAF, both girls and boys hockey were reduced by one division this season due to a lower number of registered schools.
The eight teams in the tournament will be divided into two pools of four, each playing a round-robin against the teams in their pool, with the top two teams from each pool crossing over, and the winners competing in the championship game.
The Gryphons finished in first place in the regular season in the five-team Northumberland region, but lost to Pictou Academy 2-1 in playdowns.
Tournament chairperson Terry DeCoff says Pictou County is known for hosting top-notch sports tournaments, and he hopes the tournament will be memorable for the players, especially those who haven’t attended a provincial championship before.
“We want all the teams leaving at the end of the weekend wanting to come back to our area,” he says.
“We encourage students and hockey fans to get out and take in some great high school hockey action and show support and school pride to the players, volunteers, and community.”