Wildcats play through the pain to make their gain

Sticking out her stick allows Shawnigan Lake School’s Antonia Gruetzediek to temporarily slow down the Wildcats’ Claire Seeliger. - Don Bodger
Sticking out her stick allows Shawnigan Lake School’s Antonia Gruetzediek to temporarily slow down the Wildcats’ Claire Seeliger.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Battered and bruised, but not beaten.

The Island Wildcats could have been excused for faltering during the U18 girls’ indoor hockey tournament at the Island Savings Centre Saturday and Sunday.

Cowichan’s Chelsey Cleemoff had a banged-up toe that was frozen so she could play the final and other members of the team were also hobbling — even coach Ali Lee was suffering from a broken thumb that occurred just days before.

But the Wildcats emerged on top of the five-team event on the strength of superb performances from Cleemoff, other valley players Casey Crowley, Stefanie Langkammer and Claire Seeliger and four girls from Victoria who made up the team, culminating in a 4-0 victory over Alberta.

“We had so many injuries,’’ said Cleemoff. “We were all still here — dedicated.

The timing of the tournament was also difficult with schooling.

“All of us have provincial exams (Monday),’’ said Cleemoff. “In between our games we were all studying. I don’t think it gets any more dedicated than that.’’

Langkammer had her appendix taken out on Christmas Day and is still recovering.

“I’m supposed to be taking it easy,’’ she said.

Taking short shifts helped her get through it.

The Wildcats were simply relentless on offense and defence.

“I think we’re more composed,’’ said Langkammer. “We took our time and made smart decisions.’’

“We seemed to compensate for it pretty good,’’ said Seeliger of the injury situation.

“We had a system for the last game we wanted and it seemed to work.’’

Alberta and the Wildcats tied 3-3 in the round robin portion of the tournament, but the Wildcats only had four players on the floor at times for that game so the rematch was a completely different story.

“The game we tied was kind of not that we were holding back, it was one of the first games of the tournament and we didn’t know what to expect,’’ said Cleemoff.

The U18 girls are the younger members of a Wildcats team that plays Premier League hockey outdoors. They relish the opportunity to supplement their skills indoors.

“It’s slightly different,’’ said Seeliger. “It’s fast-paced and more goals. Sometimes it can be more interesting.’’

The Wildcats jumped into a 3-0 lead on Alberta in the first half of the final on goals by Crowley, Cleemoff and Lexi De Armond.

Gill Kirkpatrick wrapped up the win with the lone goal of the second half.

Cowichan’s top team, the Typhoon, won the preceding third-place game over Shawnigan Lake School 5-1. Sara Lowes and Jenner Court had two goals apiece, with Brittany Smith adding a single.

Sophie Lorenz-Meyers replied for Shawnigan.

Shawnigan Lake nipped Cowichan’s younger team, the Tsunami, 4-3 to get into the third-place game.

The Wildcats went undefeated by also beating the Tsunami 5-2, the Typhoon 5-1 and Shawnigan Lake School 5-1.

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