Those are the words of head coach Kevin Andrews as the team prepares for the 2017 Esso Cup Canadian midget AAA female hockey championship in Morden, Man., from April 23 to 29.
“We are going up against the best in the country, and obviously we are expecting some very stiff competition,” said Andrews, who noted this will mark the first national championship for every member of the Wildcats. “The other five teams are all very good and very deep.”
The Wildcats, who are comprised of players from North River to Miscouche and played their home games in Summerside this season, are the second P.E.I. team to represent Atlantic Canada at the Esso Cup after the Kings County Kings did so in 2011.
“It’s an amazing opportunity, especially being from Prince Edward Island,” said Mid-Isle’s Madeline Hamill, who plays defence.
The Wildcats received two late third-period goals in a 2-0 win over Nova Scotia’s Northern Subway Selects in the gold-medal game of the Atlantic championship April 2.
“We knew we had a good team and knew if we worked hard and followed the game plan we would be successful,” said Andrews. “That is what we stressed all year, the harder you work, the more good things happen.”
When the 2016-17 season started, 101 teams were eligible to qualify for the Esso Cup, which will feature five regional representatives and a host team.
“There are really no words to describe the feeling of going to nationals,” said Wildcats blue-liner Kennedy Francis of North Tryon. “It was an amazing time winning Atlantics.”
The Wildcats posted a 4-1 (won-lost) record at the regional championship after a hard-fought best-of-five provincial final against the Kings County Kings that featured all five games decided by one goal.
“We know how hard it was at the Atlantics, where we had to play our best, and nationals will be even harder,” admitted Francis, 17.
Andrews noted the Wildcats want to work hard, compete, play smart hockey, be disciplined and try and pressure the other team into making mistakes.
“We just have to give it our all every shift because the competition out there is going to be very, very good,” acknowledged Wildcats centre Lexie Murphy of Kensington. “We need everyone on top of their game.”
Hamill, who’s from Borden-Carleton, expects speed to be big factor.
“They are going to come out and these teams are going to be so well conditioned,” explained Hamill, 16. “We are going to have to work very hard to keep up to them and their level of play.”
When asked how it will feel to step on the ice at a Canadian championship for the first time, Murphy, 16, replied: “We never really expected to be there, so it’s unbelievable we get to do this. I don’t really know if I can describe what the feeling will be like.”
Hamill added: “It’s going to be amazing. I’m so excited.”
When They Play
Mid-Isle Wildcats’ schedule at Esso Cup:
Sunday, April 23
5:30 p.m. – vs. Pacific (St. Albert Slash).
Monday, April 24
2 p.m. – vs. Quebec (Harfangs du Triolet).
Tuesday, April 25
2 p.m. – vs. West (Prince Albert Bears).
Wednesday, April 26
5:30 p.m. – vs. Ontario (Toronto Aeros).
Thursday, April 27
9 p.m. – vs. Host (Pembina Valley Hawks).
Friday, April 28
Saturday, April 29
Note: All times Atlantic.
A look at Mid-Isle Wildcats’ roster:
1. Danielle Gallant.
30. Maggie Johnston.
3. Mya Chisholm.
5. Madeline Hamill.
6. Maggie Linkletter.
8. Jacqueline Mix.
11. Kennedy Francis, assistant captain.
15. Mya Wood.
17. Alexis Mulligan, assistant captain.
20. Carla Stewart, affiliated player.
2. Paige Deighan.
4. Keiran Andrews.
7. Madison Vincent.
9. Cassie Doiron.
10. Taylor Gillis, co-captain.
12. Makayla Larsen, co-captain.
14. Lexie Murphy.
16. Tait Tierney.
18. Heidi Mae Lauwerijssen, affiliated player.
19. Kelsey Weeks.
20. Carla Stewart.