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Station Six fired up for start of Maritime Major Female Hockey League season

Station Six Fire head coach Amanda Boulegon, right, talks to assistant coach Sarah MacDonnell during  a Maritime Major Female Hockey League  pre-season  game. CONTRIBUTED
Station Six Fire head coach Amanda Boulegon, right, talks to assistant coach Sarah MacDonnell during a Maritime Major Female Hockey League pre-season game. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed

October 17th can’t come soon enough for members of Station Six Fire of the rebranded Maritime Major Female Hockey League.

The under-18 league opens this Saturday on two fronts with the Northern Subways Selects playing the Cape Breton Lynx and Station Six against the Bussey Auto Broke Penguins ending a nearly seven-month layoff from meaningful games.

COVID-19 shut the league down in March in the middle of the championship series between the Fire and the Selects. The long wait to return felt like an eternity for Fire star forward Jillian Duggan.


Station Six Fire forward Jillian Duggan takes a shot during a pre-season game. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed
Station Six Fire forward Jillian Duggan takes a shot during a pre-season game. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed

“It’s so exciting to come back,” said the 17-year-old forward. “The girls are so hyped because we haven’t played in over half a year. We missed having our whole team being together on the bench and all the memories we make.”

Fire owner and head coach Amanda Boulegon said the group is very thankful to be on the ice while some leagues across Canada have not enjoyed the same luxury.

“With the abrupt end to last season, we weren’t able to finish,” said Boulegon. “No provincial championship, no Atlantic championship or Esso Cup championship.


Station Six Fire celebrate a win. CONTRIBUTED - SaltWire Network
Station Six Fire celebrate a win. CONTRIBUTED - SaltWire Network

“I think it (COVID) has put things in perspective for them in terms of not taking things for granted and how lucky we are here in our Atlantic Bubble,” said Boulegon, who is also an assistant coach with the Saint Mary’s Huskies. “Just to be able to play, adjusting to the new normal of different protocols and rules, is great. It’s different but it’s a good different that we are able to stay on the ice.”

The major female teams have a few exhibition games under their belts and Boulegon noticed a jump in her players’ step with the game action.

“The girls were so excited, they were buzzing even before they got to the rink,” she said. “It was the same in practice when we were allowed to skate full ice, when the restrictions were eased.”

The Fire played a pair of pre-season games over the weekend, including a 2-2 tie with rival Northern Selects. On Sunday, the international day of the girl, they beat cross-town opponent Penguins 5-2 on the strength of a couple of goals by Duggan.

The eight-team league features a Nova Scotia Division of the Fire, Selects, Penguins and Lynx. The Northern Lightning, EDZA East Moncton Rockets, Fundy Nationals and EDZA West Reds form the New Brunswick division.

At a league meeting in September, a decision was made for competition to remain along provincial lines until the end of 2020. The league needs the approval of Hockey New Brunswick and Hockey Nova Scotia for inter-provincial play.

For now, Boulegon said the players will take what they can get.

“We are very, very lucky to be on the ice and the girls are very excited for that opportunity.”


“Our goal would be to win at provincials and move on to Atlantics. But our biggest goal is to make it to nationals.”


ALL FEMALE COACHING STAFF

Boulegon is also excited for the upcoming season with her new-look coaching staff.

“For the first time this year we have an all-female staff,” said the 32-year-old former Saint Mary’s player. Joining Boulegon on the bench are Sarah MacDonnell, who played semi-pro in Germany and at the University of Connecticut, Steph Seaward, a former Canadian Armed Forces team member, and Eve LeBlanc, currently a third-year defenceman at SMU.

“It’s something I was very excited to have. Not only an all-female coaching staff, but with their resumes and the things they bring to the game. I have noticed a difference in the dynamic in the team in terms of being able to relate to these girls.”

Duggan says an all-female staff is a positive for the team that allows the girls to connect on a more personal level.

“It is good because you can talk to them on a different level, I feel,” said the Grade 12 student at J.L. Ilsley. “Not that male coaches don’t understand, but I feel they (female coaches) have been in our shoes and know what we have gone through.”

STRONG TALENT POOL

Boulegon said the league features some of the top talent in Atlantic Canada and is scouted by coaches from U Sports and the NCAA.

“For some girls it’s a stepping stone to the next level. In terms of our franchise we want to use hockey to be that stepping stone for them, whether they are going on to the next level or not. We want to make sure we teach the skills they need to move onto the next stage of life, whatever that is.”

Duggan is one of several of the league’s star players to recently commit to universities in Canada and the United States. Duggan is going to Saint Mary’s, former teammate Emma Bishop will play for the Dalhousie Tigers while Northern star players Sara Stewart has committed to NCAA Division 1 Colgate University and Landyn Pitts will play for her hometown St. Francis Xavier X-Women.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

University will have to wait for Duggan and the others as they have unfinished business at the under-18 level.

Station Six and Northern Selects are expected to go head-to-head again this year as the league’s most dominant teams. The goal, as always, is to win provincials and advance to Atlantics. The champion advances to Hockey Canada’s Esso Cup, being held this year in Prince Albert, Sask.

The Fire ran the table in 2019 in Duggan’s rookie year and she is hoping for one last crack at nationals.

“Our goal would be to win at provincials and move on to Atlantics. But our biggest goal is to make it to nationals.”

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