Loaded with Surrey-area players, Langley-based Fraser Valley Rush U18s won Hockey Canada’s Pacific region banner with a pair of close victories over the visiting Edmonton Pandas at Canlan Sports’ Twin Rinks.
The best-of-three series win sends the Rush to the Esso Cup, to be played May 16-22 in Okotoks, Alberta, in a tournament involving six teams from across Canada.
The last time the Rush played at the Esso Cup was 2014, when the team hosted and finished fifth.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” Rush head coach Tony Lindsay said about earning the 2022 Pacific regionals Saturday (April 2) with a 3-2 victory, which followed Friday’s 4-3 overtime win over the older, more experienced Alberta team.
“The biggest thing is that every single player on our team bought into their role, and everybody was committed to making sure that when they were on the ice, they were going to make a difference,” Lindsay added. “All of those little battles during the course of game, all of our players did that – to make a blocked shot, dive for the puck on the backcheck, getting shots on net, take some punishment in front of their net to create screens, fight through checks to get a loose puck. That was probably the biggest reason for our success on the weekend.”
Champs of the BC Elite Hockey League with a regular-season record of 28 wins, three losses and one tie, the Rush is a “zone” team that draws players from Whistler to Hope. The squad includes 10 former Surrey Falcons players, including Sarah Leroux, Julia Clauzel, Kayla White, Nahvin Bal, Hayley Lee, Katie Leroux, Clara Juca, Anna McKee, MacKenzie Galick and Cassandra Kelher.
Last weekend against the Pandas, Kayla White led the Rush offensive attack with three goals and an assist in the two games.
“That Pandas team is very good, with 14 Grade 12s, and they’ve been together for three years and were the number-one-ranked team in the country,” Lindsay reported. “A B.C. team had never beaten an Alberta team at Pacific regionals, so they were the favourites, but our girls weren’t intimidated. We’ve got a lot of self-belief – not cockiness, just confidence.
“We have 13 new Rush players this year,” Lindsay added. “We’re a young team,” involving players with mostly 2005, 2006 and 2007 birth dates, and just four players in Grade 12.
The Rush now have six long weeks to prepare for the Esso Cup.
“We’ll plan accordingly with lots of intense practices, some exhibition games, and maintaining cardio,” Lindsay said. “Everybody is in the same boat though, all the teams there.”
Heading into playoffs, the Rush were among 93 women’s U18 teams competing to earn one of five regional berths to join the host Prince Albert Bears at the 2022 Esso Cup.