PCFAC Storm earn tight win over Junior Steelers in AFHL action

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It was a tense and nervous ending, befitting a game where there was little to choose from between a pair of evenly matched teams but, yet, so much on the line.


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The Peace County Female Athletic Club Bantam Elite Storm earned a 1-0 win over the Lloydminster Junior Steelers in Alberta Female Hockey League action at the Coca-Cola Centre on Sunday morning.
Rylee McLeod took the club’s fourth penalty of the third period—a hooking minor at 18:37—giving the visiting Lloyd club a six on four advantage.

The Steelers had plenty of zone time and had a number of great opportunities but the puck wouldn’t cross the goal line, like a hidden door denying entry without proper authorization. In this case, Storm goalie Avery Johnson played password administrator, making a number of tough stops in the final minute. Johnson turned away 27 shots in the win.

“That was pretty crazy being on the ice,” Storm forward Kamryn Aebly said. “It was super overwhelming. Once we iced the puck down (into the Lloyd zone), it was prefect timing (because) there was eight seconds left and the puck was in their end. We knew we were going to take home victory.”

Head Coach Tarryn Hemmingway was in a celebratory mood in her walk back to the dressing room following the win, a big smile on her face, proud of how her young team bounced back from a 2-0 loss to the Steelers on Saturday night.

“The girls, they stayed calm on the ice and they tried to get the puck out, but when they couldn’t, (they) were good at coming back and protecting the middle (of the ice),” Hemmingway said about the final seconds, as her team was hemmed in its own zone. “When Gwyneth (Sallis knocked) the puck out, the whole bench just exploded because we knew we had won.”


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Last year, the club won four games in the 26-game regular season schedule and didn’t get its first “W” until mid-November—5-2 win over the Lethbridge Cyclones. The Cyclones are now re-branded as the Southern Express.

“Last year, our record was not good and now we’re off to a really good start and I’m super excited,” Aebly said.

No passivity allowed

Hailey Rodrigue gave the Storm a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 6:58 of the first period. Plenty of things can go wrong when trying to defend a lead for nearly 53 minutes but Hemmingway told her team to be the aggressors—especially in the third period—and not sit back in the neutral zone, trying to defend a lead.

“We’re trying to be a more offence first team, so getting our defence active and really pushing the pace, pushing the puck deep and getting possession,” Hemmingway said. “We want to be a possession team, not a dump and chase team. Not just keep possession but keep (the puck) in the offensive zone as long as possible.”

Evaluating process

Even though the team has been together for weeks, including its trip to Kelowna for a few warm-up games, Hemmingway is still looking to plug pieces in the right areas. With 19 total minors called in Sunday’s game, the second-year head coach had some difficulty in properly evaluating players.

“You want to get players out there who are fast and strong but you also want to give the players who are new to the league, a chance to adjust to the pace and the only way they can do that is by giving them ice time, especially in those situations,” Hemmingway said. “Trying to get them on (special teams) is a goal in the coming weeks before we set powerplay (and penalty killing) units.”


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Previous experience

Two games does not a season make but its never too early to have initial impressions.

The Peace Country Female Athletic Club Bantam Elite Storm picked up their first win of the Alberta Female Hockey League season, a 1-0 win over the Lloydminster Junior Steelers on Sunday morning at the Coca-Cola Centre.

The club opened the season against the Steelers on Saturday night and lost a 2-0 decision, a game in which Head Coach Tarryn Hemmingway thought could have gone their way with a few breaks and a more opportunistic offence.

“The girls battled really hard and outplayed them, we just didn’t (capitalize on our) chances,” Hemmingway said.

As previously mentioned, it’s just two games of a 26-game schedule.

With two dozen games left in the five-month season, and the experience of the recently completed Kelowna Minor Hockey Bantam Female A tournament, one wonders what Hemmingway thinks of her team in its early stages of development.

“I have a group that doesn’t give up, no matter the score,” Hemmingway said. “If we’re down by one or two goals, they just seem to keep going and stick to the gameplan, where last year we would fall apart.”

The Storm won four games in 26 opportunities last season.

This is Hemmingway’s second year as the bantam elite head coach and part of her early-season conviction is born of familiarity.

There are 17 players on the roster, of which six are returnees, but at some point or another the coach has been associated with a large percentage of the players on the current roster.

Two seasons ago, Hemmingway was the head coach of the Grande Prairie Knights Peewee “A” girls hockey club that made the provincials in Okotoks. At least two players on the PCFAC roster —Kamryn Aebly and Gwyneth Sallis—were members of the peewee hockey club.

“I’ve coached 13 of the girls so they know the expectations I have, as a coach, and they’re willing to follow it,” Hemmingway said. “They trust each other, they’re all friends, they’ve all played together before so the trust and communication is already built in.”

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