rtec brantford

Road to the Esso Cup: Brantford Ice Cats

Playing high-risk hockey rewarded the newly-crowned Ontario champions

Wendy Graves
April 14, 2016

Consider this: the Brantford Ice Cats won 17 games during the 22-game Lower Lakes Female Hockey League season. Ten of them were shutouts.

Now consider this: the Ice Cats believe offence is their strength.

“We play a high-risk game. We have a lot of talent and I just let the players use their natural abilities,” says head coach Garth Rickwood. It’s an offensive-minded, puck possession team, he says; dumping and chasing isn’t part of the game plan. “The girls really bought into that style. They love being creative and learning from mistakes.”

The Ice Cats finished first in the 10-team South Central Division, four points ahead of perennial contenders the Stoney Creek Sabres and Oakville Hornets.

Thirty-eight teams play across four divisions in the LLFHL; only three teams – the Sudbury Lady Wolves, Whitby Wolves and Toronto Aeros – won more games than the Ice Cats. Brantford scored the most goals across the league, though, and posted the best goal differential at +61.

Brantford averaged nearly 35 shots for and 10 against a game. Other teams are mindful of its offensive output, says Rickwood, allowing it to stretch the ice. “We get that respect, so teams back up and that allows our defencemen to take the ice that’s opened up.”

The Road to the Esso Cup reset with provincial playdowns in February. Grouped with the Cambridge Roadrunners, Kitchener Lady Rangers and Waterloo Ravens, the Ice Cats went 4-0-2 to advance to the 24-team OWHA provincial championship weekend.

They went 2-0-1 in the preliminary round, its +9 goal differential helping it earn a top-four seed and a bye to the quarter-finals.

“It was so important [avoiding a qualifying game],” says Rickwood, “because we had a short bench. We’ve had some injuries so we had only four defencemen and eight forwards.” Instead, the team was able to scout its next opponent. “We watched Sudbury-Etobicoke and seeing how tired those teams were going into the third period, our girls understood they needed to take advantage of their rest.”

The Ice Cats got the Sudbury Lady Wolves, the defending Esso Cup champions and the team that had knocked them out of provincials a year earlier. “We were hoping to play Sudbury,” says Rickwood. “You want to beat the national champion to go [to Esso].”

In the semifinals, the Ice Cats took out Whitby, a team that had allowed only 10 goals during the regular season, 2-1.

The Toronto Aeros awaited in the championship game. The Ice Cats and Aeros play in different divisions and hadn’t seen each other since a pair of early season exhibition games. Anticipating that the Aeros would be contenders themselves, Rickwood booked another exhibition game with them the week before the provincials.

“We beat them 2-0, and we videotaped it and saw different things they do and what worked for us,” says Rickwood. “We showed the girls that video and went through things. Luckily it paid off.”

That final match-up couldn’t have been scripted better. The teams were 0-0 at the end of regulation. With only 1:06 remaining in overtime, captain Paige Rynne found the back of the net from in close.

“I shed almost as many tears as the girls shed,” says Rickwood. “They really came together [last] weekend like I’ve never seen a team come together before. This is what we worked toward. I get chills talking about it because I’m just so proud of them. They put in such an effort over eight months and it’s all paid off.”


OWHA Provincials
Playdowns: first place in Group M – 4-0-2 (defeated Cambridge 1-0, tied Waterloo 2-2, defeated Kitchener 3-1, defeated Waterloo 3-1, tied Kitchener 3-3, defeated Cambridge 8-1)
Round robin: first place in Group A – 2-0-1 (tied Nepean 2-2, defeated Waterloo 4-0, defeated Aurora 5-0)
Quarter-final: defeated Sudbury 2-0
Semifinal: defeated Whitby 2-1
Championship: defeated Toronto 1-0 OT


Record: 17-2-3 (4th in LLFHL)
Goals For: 76 (1st in LLFHL)
Goals Against: 15 (4th in LLFHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 8 (Nov. 8-Dec. 13)
Top 3 Scorers (all games):

  • Emily Rickwood –30G 48A 78P
  • Lauren Martin – 28G 45A 73P
  • Nicole Kelly – 39G 32A 71P


Record: 9-0-3
Goals For: 36
Goals Against: 11
Top 3 Scorers*:

  • Emily Rickwood – 3G 6A 9P
  • Taylor Trussler – 5G 3A 8P
  • Lauren Martin – 2G 3A 5P

*totals do not include playdowns


First appearance


responsible in all three zones … great hockey sense … shields the puck well … smart positioning … excellent puck distributor … very good vision

creative offensive defenceman … makes a good first pass … tremendous vision … effective at getting shots through from the blue line … confident with the puck

very good speed … great at reading goalies … natural ability to find the back of the net … great hands and vision … never gives up on the puck … plays with passion

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 


Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567


Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738


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