UNITY - While many area minor hockey and the men’s senior hockey teams faced early elimination from provincial playoff runs, Western Prairie Unity girls’ U13 ultimately reached their goals of becoming the provincial champions in their division.
Without home ice advantage, Unity Prairie Thunder wasn’t able to win their title at home, but that didn’t make the victory any less sweet.
After winning the northern final against Delisle, 2-1 and 4-1, the girls met the Balcarres Barracudas, who had beat Lumsden in the southern match-up. The first game in the provincial final was played in Unity March 24 and resulted in a 2-2 tie, making the second game in Balcarres a must-win situation for both teams.
It was WPU who handled the pressure best, coming up with a 5-3 win to take the series and the Saskatchewan championship.
Coach Amber Sperle described the final as “nothing short of exciting.
“It was anyone’s game to win and our girls came out with determination and heart. The game started off a little shaky for us, I think it may have been a little bit of nerves. We were down 2-0 after the first.
“We came out flying in the second and scored two goals, the first by Taryn Pernitsky and the second by Chloe Dean with .03 seconds left in the period.
“The third [period] started with a goal from Balcarres but Ayla Sperle tied it up 3-3 with an excellent top shelf shot from the slot. Our fourth goal was a bullet of a shot from Tylan Blanchette on the point. We finished off the scoring with an open netter by Chloe with 26.4 seconds left, winning the game 5-3.”
Sperle added this was the girls’ first season together, “and actually the first time these girls have played on an all-girls’ team.”
She said overall they had “a stellar season.” WPU Unity finished with a regular season 18-1-1 win-loss-tie record, losing only one game. In league playoffs, they made it to the western final where they played against a Moose Jaw team. The girls won game one at home, 4-3 in double overtime.
The next day they played in Moose Jaw where they lost 5-2, forcing game three the following morning at 9 a.m. There were only five seconds left, with WPU leading 3-2, when Moose Jaw scored to tie the game. Again, the deciding goal required double overtime, and Sperle said, “unfortunately we lost with six minutes left in the second overtime.”
Sperle, who lives in Unity, is assisted on the bench by Wade Dean and Chris Barr, both of Macklin. The team manager is Sabrina Winterhalt of Unity.
Players on the team come not only from Unity but a number of area communities. Unity: Shaye Winterhalt, Tylan Blanchette, Ayla Sperle, Emerson Brown, Jesse Cooper AP, Emery Gumpinger, Emily Partington and goalie Ashlyn Brown. Macklin: Sam Cowie, Londyn Gette AP, Chloe Dean, Rayelle Barr and Bentley Baier AP. Wilkie: Taryn Pernitsky. Landis: Courtney Tebb.
While the U13 WPU will lose seven graduating players, the future looks bright, especially with their three U11 affiliate players who already now have playoff experience on both the losing and winning ends. Moving on to U15 hockey will be Shaye, Tylan, Ayla, Emily, Chloe, Taryn and Courtney.