NEW GLASGOW — When deciding whether to apply to host a provincial championship, it’s often a question of whether being the host team is an advantage or a disadvantage.
For North Nova Education Centre this year, members of the girls’ hockey team, their parents and bench staff are hoping it’s an advantage.
“It’s a huge deal to be hosting provincials here at home, where everyone in the community can come watch,” says Gryphons team captain Lindsey MacDonald. “It’s even more exciting because it’s my Grade 12 year.”
The Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Division I Championship, which is being played from Friday through Sunday at the Ivor MacDonald Memorial Arena in Thorburn this weekend, will feature eight of the best female high school teams in the province.
“I’m expecting the competition to be strong, especially from the city area teams,” says MacDonald. “I think we have a good shot; as a team we need to have a positive mindset heading into the tournament.”
Coach Kevin Willett agrees. “I really feel the competition is going to be a challenge,” he says.
However, he believes his team is up for it. “Our girls and coaching staff think we have a great opportunity to be successful in this year’s tournament.”
This is MacDonald’s third season playing for the Gryphons and her second time competing at high school provincials.
“I’d like to come away from the tournament with a medal, but more than that I just want to enjoy every second and take it all in,” she says.
“A lot of the girls are in their third season as well. We also have a lot of strong young players too.”
Unlike previous years where there were two divisions in female hockey, now there is only one. Therefore, this weekend’s tournament is the only provincial championship being contested this year.
NSSAF executive director Stephen Gallant says both girls and boys hockey programs were reduced by one division this season due to a lower number of registered schools.
The eight teams in the tournament will be divided into two pools of four, each playing a round robin against the teams in their pool, with the top two teams from each pool crossing over, and the winners competing in the championship game.
The Gryphons finished in first place in the regular season in the five-team Northumberland region, but lost to Pictou Academy 2-1 in playoffs.
Tournament chairperson Terry DeCoff says Pictou County is known for hosting top-notch sports tournaments, and he hopes the tournament will be memorable for the players, especially those who haven’t attended a provincial championship before.
“We want all the teams leaving at the end of the weekend wanting to come back to our area,” he says.
“We encourage students and hockey fans to get out and take in some great high school hockey action and show support and school pride to the players, volunteers, and community.”
North Nova’s scheduled games are 11:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday and at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Crossover games featuring the first and second place teams from Pool A and Pool B will be at 5:30 and 7 p.m.
The winners of those games will contest the championship on Sunday starting at 1 p.m.
The North Nova Gryphons are hosting the NSSAF Division I female hockey championship this weekend in Thorburn. Shown are team members, from left, back row: Ashley Livingston, Allie Sandluck, Maddy Robertson, Paige MacDonald, Ashley MacDonald, Keighan Decoff, Jayden Palmer, Emily Hayes, Rhea Young, Eva Wornell, Brooklyn Nicholas, Janna Cameron. Front row: Victoria Dunn, Shalyn Bona, Taylor Long, Lindsey MacDonald, Garyn Purvis, Kelly Harnett. Missing from the photo: Ashlyn Bona, coach Kevin Willett, and assistant coaches John Chisholm, Ron Dunn and Katelyn Dunn. (Submitted photo)