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Sweetheart hockey tournament: Playing against their peers

Members of the SEFHA Pantheres, from left, Leanne Bourgeois, Lexi Légère and Chelsea Caissy chase the puck at a recent practice in Dieppe, N.B. The novice team plays in the Sweetheart female hockey tournament Thursday through Sunday in P.E.I. for the first time in the tournament’s 13-year history.
Members of the SEFHA Pantheres, from left, Leanne Bourgeois, Lexi Légère and Chelsea Caissy chase the puck at a recent practice in Dieppe, N.B. The novice team plays in the Sweetheart female hockey tournament Thursday through Sunday in P.E.I. for the first time in the tournament’s 13-year history. - Contributed

New Brunswick novice girls squad excited to get chance to play in Prince Edward Island

CORNWALL, P.E.I. —

The South East Female Hockey Association (SEFHA) Pantheres from New Brunswick will make history this week at the Sweetheart girls’ hockey tournament.

The Dieppe-Memramcook-based squad is the first off-Island novice team to play in the tourney in its 13-year history. Usually novice teams don’t attend tournaments outside their province, but the Pantheres received an exemption from the Dieppe-Memramcook Hockey Association and team manager Jennifer Tower couldn’t be happier for the squad.

“We were super excited to get the go-ahead. Our other female teams from Dieppe were all going, and everyone in the program is really close, so we were hoping our younger girls would have a chance to experience a big female tournament,” Tower said. “We hope it shows the girls from P.E.I. and Nova Scotia that our New Brunswick girls team numbers are growing and they are ready to compete.”

The novice SEFHA Pantheres from Dieppe, N.B., play in the Sweetheart female hockey tournament Thursday through Sunday in P.E.I. It’s the first time an off-Island novice team has played in the tournament. Members of the Pantheres are, front row, from left, Anabelle Daniel, Maika Savoie, Gabrielle Page, Chelsea Caissy, Julie Roy, Lili Plourde, Jasmine Boudreau, Jasmine Savoie, Valerie Losier and Maika Chiasson. Second row, Annabelle Landry, Chloe Roy, Taylor-Lynn Brun, Olivia Duguay, Leanne Bourgeois, Lexi Legere, Maelle Saulnier, Rafaelle Parent and Zoe Leblanc. Third row, Allain Savoie, coach Michel Legere, Denis Saulnier and Mike Leblanc. Missing from photo is Zara Legere.
The novice SEFHA Pantheres from Dieppe, N.B., play in the Sweetheart female hockey tournament Thursday through Sunday in P.E.I. It’s the first time an off-Island novice team has played in the tournament. Members of the Pantheres are, front row, from left, Anabelle Daniel, Maika Savoie, Gabrielle Page, Chelsea Caissy, Julie Roy, Lili Plourde, Jasmine Boudreau, Jasmine Savoie, Valerie Losier and Maika Chiasson. Second row, Annabelle Landry, Chloe Roy, Taylor-Lynn Brun, Olivia Duguay, Leanne Bourgeois, Lexi Legere, Maelle Saulnier, Rafaelle Parent and Zoe Leblanc. Third row, Allain Savoie, coach Michel Legere, Denis Saulnier and Mike Leblanc. Missing from photo is Zara Legere.

This year, the Sweetheart has drawn 94 teams from Atlantic Canada in novice, atom A and AAA, peewee A and AAA, bantam A and AAA and midget A and AAA divisions. Play starts today and wraps up with Sunday.

It’s a province-wide affair, too, as rinks in Crapaud, Pownal, North Rustico, Charlottetown (Cody Banks and Simmons), Bedeque, Borden-Carleton and Cornwall host games.

With only a few tournaments with a novice division in New Brunswick (this year three are on tap), Tower said the Sweetheart adds to that pot and, beyond just plain fun, can only help players improve.

“They love being able to compete against other female teams. We do some tournaments that are co-ed due to the small number of female tournaments in New Brunswick. The girls love these co-ed tournaments and play really hard, but there is something special about seeing them compete against their peers,” Tower said. “They have this great sense of competition, but they also have so much spirit and the teams are cheering and having so much fun. I have seen girls that played co-ed in the past that held back a bit, and they have become full-out power players on our female teams.”

That development is part of the goal for Tower and husband Michel Legere, who coaches the Pantheres. Improvement and keeping players in the game matters as opportunities – collegiate, university and professional – driven by hockey now exist for female players.

“(Legere) loves seeing their love of the game grow, and when you get to go away for a tournament, we always say that's when you see the girls become a team,” Tower said. “I think being able to participate in such a large female tournament, the girls will see that they can grow and really be a part of this awesome sport.”

The novice division (seven- to eight-year-olds) for the Sweetheart is done jamboree-style so the Pantheres face the Pownal Red Devils Two on Friday at the APM Centre in Cornwall, and the Capital District Cyclones and the East Prince Wildcats on Saturday in Cornwall and in Pownal, respectively.

The six-team division also includes the North River Stanley Cupcakes and Montague Norsemen.

For Tower, playing in the Sweetheart is not only a good thing for the present but can only help the future as well.

“The Dieppe-Memramcook Hockey Association houses our SEFHA zone B players, and they have been great at growing our sport and hosting a tournament that includes all levels of minor hockey. But for our girls to be able to grow in this sport and really compete, it is great that we were able to come to P.E.I. and show the girls that there are other really good teams and great coaches across the Maritimes. Hopefully we can start to include our initiation (five- to six-year-olds) in the next couple of years.”

Need to know

Novice division schedule at the Sweetheart female hockey tournament today through Sunday on P.E.I

Teams – East Prince Wildcats, North River Stanley Cupcakes, SEFHA/D-M Pantheres, Pownal Red Devils Two, Capital District Cyclones and Montague Norsemen.

FRIDAY

(at APM Centre)

1:10 p.m. – East Prince Wildcats vs. North River Stanley Cupcakes.

2:20 p.m. – SEFHA/D-M Pantheres vs. Pownal Red Devils Two.

3:30 p.m. – Capital District Cyclones vs. Montague Norsemen.

SATURDAY

(at APM Centre)

8 a.m. – Capital District Cyclones vs. SEFHA/D-M Pantheres.

9:10 a.m. – Pownal Red Devils Two vs. East Prince Wildcats.

10:20 a.m. – Montague Norsemen vs. North River Stanley Cupcakes.

(at Pownal Sports Centre)

1:30 p.m. – East Prince Wildcats vs. Capital District Cyclones.

2:40 p.m. – North River Stanley Cupcakes vs. SEFHA/D-M Pantheres.

3:50 p.m. – Montague Norsemen vs. Pownal Red Devils Two.

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