Friday, Team B.C. played their first preliminary game of the 2012 National Women’s Under-18 Hockey Championships, taking to the ice against Team Saskatchewan.
14-year-old Potomak made her tournament debut by scoring twice, leading Team B.C. to a 3-1 victory.
It was a strong start for the home team, as immediately following the opening puck drop at Dawson Creek’s Encana Events Centre, Team B.C. used their speed and skill to control the first period of play.
Puck control led to offensive production for B.C. as a heavy fore check led to a scramble in front of Saskatchewan starting goaltender Jane Kish, as Potomak fought to get a loose puck, shrugged off a defender and scored team B.C.’s first goal of the tournament, outside of exhibition games.
The second period began with B.C. leading 1-0, and penalty troubles for the team in green resulted in another productive period for B.C. 9:15 into the second, a B.C. power-play saw the hometown girls execute some solid puck movement, shifting the team from the Prairies out of position. After the puck reached the point, Saanichton, B.C.-born defenceman Micah Hart snapped a quick point shot, which found its way through a variety of skaters, and ending up past a screened Kish for the 2-0 lead.
That two became a three at the 14:07 marker of the second, when B.C. found themselves on another power-play, once again pinning the Saskatchewan team in their zone. Some tenacious work by Potomak behind the goal line paid off, as the talented forward from Aldergrove, B.C. scored her second of the night, taking the puck hard to the net from behind Kish, and tucking it in far side on her backhand.
The goal was Potomak’s second of the night, while her line mate and team captain Lauren Spring, earned her third assist of the evening.
With the second frame concluding with B.C. leading 3-0, it was a different third period to conclude the game. Team Saskatchewan seemed to find their legs in the second intermission, and showed a lot of heart and skill in the third period. That hard work paid off, as the team spoiled B.C. goaltender Michaela Logan’s shutout bid at 12:39 of the third, thanks to a short-handed marker off the stick of Kaitlin Willoughby.
Following the game, Sylvain Leone, head coach for Team B.C. talked about the importance of his team’s gritty fore check.
"We talked about first to the puck. We want to make sure we pressure all the time. I think we are trying to take advantage of the shock and awe factor of a lot of players playing at their first nationals," he said. "We are really trying to push the pace, get the puck deep and behind their defenceman, force their defencemen to turn around and not see behind them, and put the pressure on them and scare them a bit and then cause some turn-overs. I thought we did that very well."
On the opposite end of that intense forecheck was Saskachewan goaltender Jane Kish, who, in her second Under-18 tournament, played a phenomenal game for her teammates, making 34 saves on the evening and earning her Player of the Game honours for her team. Despite a busy night in net resulting in a loss, Kish says she and her teammates can build on their productive third period.
"I think tomorrow we just have to keep up the energy, I think we need more communication and if we play like how did in the third period, I definitely think we have a great chance of winning."
Looking at the B.C. roster, Player of the Game was awarded to Sarah Potomak, who after the game spoke about what it took for her and her teammates to win their first game of the tournament.
"We all back checked hard, we fore checked, we buried our chances and blocked shots. We just sacrificed our bodies and just did everything it took to win."
The busy tournament continues for Team B.C. as they now shift their focus from the Prairie team to Team Ontario Red, which is the team to beat as they enter the 2012 event as returning champions.
Thursday’s B.C. game begins at 7 p.m.