The Tri-Pen AAA female bantam team captured the provincial championship with a 4-3 overtime victory over Central on Jan. 6. Members of the team are: Front (l-r) - Emma Gilbert, Naomi Rogers, Shelby Batten, goaltender Kelsey Shute, Rebecca Warren, Emma Russell and Kaitlyn Mayne; back - coach Ivan Batten, manager Trudy Russell, Kristen Shute, Kaleigh Hanrahan, Heidi Walsh, Heidi Jackson, Lauren O'Driscoll, Susan Inkpen, Jessica Moulton, Nicole Herridge, Chelsea Pike and coach Jennifer Pollett. Missing from photo is coach Eric Clarke
Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Jan. 22 print edition of The Compass.
There are professionals who would give anything to have the kind of third period and overtime that Blaketown's Emma Russell had two weekends ago at the Southern Shore Arena in Mobile.
With her Tri-Pen AAA female bantam team down 3-1 to Central with just under 10 minutes to go after Rebecca Warren had tallied, Russell scored two straight goals, the second of which came with a mere .18 seconds on the clock, to force the game into extra time.
It was the second straight year that Tri-Pen had met the team from Central in the final of the AAA female bantam tournament. Last year, the team dropped a razor-thin 2-1 decision to their rivals.
"When I scored that goal, I knew we had a chance to beat them because I wouldn't give up," said Russell.
Russell saved the best part of her performance for last.
Taking a pass from defenceman Shelby Batten in overtime, Russell swiftly glided over the blueline and into Central's zone. Using the two Central rearguards as a screen, Russell deftly fired the puck along the ice and under the outstretched pads of the goaltender.
When the puck had crossed the line, Russell had completed the natural hat trick. That is scoring three straight goals for your team uninterrupted.
What happens next is pure, unadulterated chaos. As the gloves, helmets and sticks of her teammates are being thrown into the air in celebration, Russell searches for a particular face, Batten.
Batten and Russell were teammates last year when Tri-Pen lost to the same Central team in the finals last year.
The two embraced and shed tears of joy.
"We grabbed each other's helmets, fell to the ice and cried," said Russell. "And, then our whole team jumped on top of us."
They had done it. Captured the gold medal and punched their ticket to the AAA Bantam Atlantics tournament being held in Mount Pearl, April 19-21.
Despite her monumental performance in lifting her team to victory, Russell was quick to share the spotlight with the rest of her teammates.
"It was really everyone working together," she said. "I can't take credit for it because everyone worked so hard."
Tri-Pen, which is made up of players from the Avalon, Bonavista and Burin peninsulas, started the tournament off strong with a 4-0 victory over the Eastern representatives. However, the team dropped its next two games, a 1-0 loss to Western and a 3-1 defeat to Central, before squeaking by Northern 2-1 to make it into the final.
Russell highlighted the performance of Harbour Grace goaltender Kelsey Shute, calling her a key to the team's victory.
"Really, our goaltender was the MVP (most valuable player) of our team," she said.
Coach Jennifer Pollett said she was proud of the way her team gelled over the course of the tournament.
"Prior to the tournament, we had only had two practices. So, it was great for the girls getting to know each other and coming together," she said. "We got stronger as the tournament went on."
One thing the team did not want to do was drop another championship game to Central.
"I didn't want to lose to them again this year."
In fact, the loss last year fuelled the team in the rematch.
"That was one of the things I was telling the girls," said Pollett. "It was time for us to show them that we could win and be on top this time."
Heading into the championship, Pollett said she "had a pretty good feeling" that her team could come away with the gold medal.
"They just needed to prove it, and everything I asked them to do, they did," she said. "It was a team effort."
With the victory, the team has prolonged its season and will head to the Atlantic tournament.
"It'll be an experience they'll never forget," said Pollett.