The Quesnel Lightning Ringette Club’s U16 team recently won gold at the Sweetheart Tournament in Kelowna, while the club’s U14 team won silver and U12 team placed third in the non-competitive division.
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Kelowna Sweetheart Ringette Tournament, which saw 73 teams and over 1,000 athletes descend on the city to compete at the event over the Feb. 7-9 weekend.
The Quesnel Lightning sent three teams — U16, U14 and U12 — to compete in the event. The club also has a number of athletes who compete on the U19 Prince George Northern Lights team.
The U16 team started out the tournament with a match against the Westside Edge, a ringette team from West Kelowna on Friday morning, which they won by a score of 3-1. Later that evening, the Quesnel squad took on another Kelowna team, the Kelowna Kaos, and earned another hard-fought victory with a final score of 4-2.
With two wins under their belts, the Lightning were feeling confident headed into the second day of competition but knew their toughest matches were yet to come. First up on Saturday, they faced off against the Edmonton Rush team, in what would turn out to be the match of the tournament. The action was end to end, but neither team was able to find the back of the net in regulation or overtime, forcing a shootout. The Quesnel Lightning U16 squad would not be denied, as they prevailed in the shootout, won the match and remained undefeated.
Next up for the Lightning was a match against Prince George Fire and Ice, whom the Quesnel side would shut out, winning 4-0.
The Lightning would end up being pitted against the Kaos and Rush teams in a three-team single-elimination playoff on Sunday. Quesnel would again defeat the Kaos and Rush sides to be crowned U16B Pool A champions, with a perfect tournament record.
The Quesnel Lightning U14 team started out the tournament with a bang, defeating the Kelowna Westside Storm by a score of 7-1 on Friday morning.
That evening would be a different story with the same ending for the Quesnel team, as they faced a tough opponent in the Shuswap Bombers, winning in nail-biting fashion by a score of 6-5.
After a good rest and a hearty breakfast, the U14 Lightning got right back to their winning ways with a decisive 8-3 win over the Richmond Fighting Unicorns and headed into the playoffs.
The playoffs were a four-team compass draw, which saw the Lightning take on and beat the Kelowna Predators before being handed their first and only loss of the tournament by the Prince George Firecrackers, finishing second in the tournament and winning silver.
The Quesnel Lightning U12 team would go 3-1 in the tournament and finish third in their division, which is non-competitive.
Several athletes from the Quesnel Lightning Ringette Club also competed in the tournament on the U19 Prince George Northern Storm team, which finished with a 1-3 record, placing fifth in their division.
Quesnel Lightning Ringette Club team manager and Northern League representative Robyn Cassidy was at the tournament and says she is proud of her athletes and believes that the success of the club and tournament will help bring new athletes into the sport.
“We’ve always struggled with people understanding the difference between ringette and hockey,” she said. “A lot of people just think ringette is girls’ hockey and it isn’t, so you get that bias against it. We are hoping that with the more things that we do and more coverage for the sport, that more kids will see it and they will see the opportunities that are there and that it really is an exceptional sport to come try out.”