It took 62 days and 179 games from Shawnigan Lake, B.C., to Mount Pearl,
N.L., but the Road to the Esso Cup is complete.
The Pionnières de Lanaudière secured the sixth and final spot on Sunday,
edging the defending Quebec champion Harfangs du Triolet to clinch their
first-ever berth in Canada’s National Female Midget Championship. They will
join the Northern Selects (Atlantic), Brampton Canadettes (Ontario),
Saskatoon Stars (West), St. Albert Slash (Pacific) and host Metro Boston
Pizza in Bridgewater, N.S.
Here’s a quick look at the six teams who will compete for a national title
beginning April 22.
HOST TEAM – METRO BOSTON PIZZA
The hosts have had plenty of time to prepare for their fourth appearance at
Canada’s National Female Midget Championship; after an up-and-down regular
season that left them third in the NSFMHL, they were knocked out of the
playoffs on Feb. 25 with a heart-breaking shootout loss in Game 5 of their
semifinal series with Cape Breton. That means 56 days will have elapsed
between meaningful games for Metro when it takes on Northern in an
all-Atlantic match-up to open the Esso Cup.
The three-time regional champions have a little history on their side;
Metro is the only Atlantic team to ever reach the semifinals at the
national championship, falling in the bronze medal game at the 2012
tournament in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
ATLANTIC REGION – NORTHERN SELECTS
The Selects have been a team on a mission from the first drop of the puck
way back in September; Northern has lost just twice in 34 games all season,
including a perfect 11-0 mark in the playoffs. After sweeping aside East
Hants and Cape Breton to claim its first NSFMHL title, it was absolutely
dominant at the Atlantic Regional, outscoring its opponents 35-8 in five
games and punching its ticket to Bridgewater with a comfortable 7-1 win
over the Northern Stars.
Recent Esso Cups have not been kind to Atlantic Canada; since Metro Boston
Pizza earned a semifinal berth in 2012, teams from the region have gone a
combined 2-0-1-17 (W-OTW-OTL-L), and have not finished above sixth place.
ONTARIO REGION – BRAMPTON CANADETTES
No team has a longer road within the road than the Ontario champion, who
this year had to outlast 44 other teams to earn the right to represent the
province. The Canadettes, who went 18-3-1 to top the West Division in the
LLFHL before falling to Waterloo in the division final, beat out Guelph and
North Halton in playdowns to clinch a trip to provincials before surviving
a six-games-in-three-days sprint, capped by a 2-1 win over Oakville to win
OWHA gold and advance to the Esso Cup.
Brampton will try and continue an impressive streak – Ontario teams have
won a medal at each and every one of the first nine national championships:
three gold (Thunder Bay, 2010; Sudbury, 2015; Brantford, 2016), three
silver and three bronze.
PACIFIC REGION – ST. ALBERT SLASH
The champs are back … but just barely. St. Albert put together another
solid season in the AFHL, earning a second-place finish behind Rocky
Mountain. Facing the top-seeded Raiders in the provincial final, the Slash
were moments away from elimination before tying the game with 6.9 seconds
left and winning it in overtime to defend its Alberta title. St. Albert
then went the distance with Greater Vancouver in the Pacific Regional,
eking out a 1-0 win in the deciding Game 3 to earn a return trip to the
The Slash are the first defending national champions to have the chance to
go back-to-back, and they will try and repeat their record-setting
performance from a year ago; St. Albert was the first team to win all seven
games at the Esso Cup, allowing just seven goals in the process.
QUEBEC REGION – PIONNIÈRES DE LANAUDIÈRE
Playoff hockey is often about getting hot at the right time, and the
Pionnières are proof of that. A middle-of-the pack team in the LHFDQ during
the regular season (they finished seventh of 14 teams), Lanaudière reached
the semifinals of the league playoffs before going a perfect 6-0 at the
Coupe Dodge provincial tournament. The Pionnières capped their run with
wins over Lac St-Louis South, Estrie and Triolet – three teams they had not
beaten during the regular season.
Lanaudière is the seventh different Quebec representative in as many
appearances, and will look to become the fourth in a row to reach the gold
medal game, following LHFDQ Nord (2013), Richelieu (2016) and Triolet
WEST REGION – SASKATOON STARS
The low point of the Stars’ season came during a four-game losing streak
from Dec. 17-Jan. 7. Why is that important? Because they hadn’t lost before
that, and they haven’t lost since. Saskatoon finished the SFMAAAHL regular
season with 11 straight wins, went six-for-six against Regina and Prince
Albert to claim the league title, and swept aside the upstart Eastman
Selects in two straight to win the West Regional and advance to the Esso
Cup for the third time in the last four years.
The Stars have plenty of experience on their roster; five players will
compete in a third national championship – Saskatoon won bronze in 2015 and
finished fourth a year later – and another four are making a second trip.