The Stoney Creek Junior Sabres are back for another Provincial Women’s Hockey League run.
The Sabres begin their 2013/14 PWHL season this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Gateway Ice Centre against the Toronto Junior Aeros.
“The team is excited to get the regular season started,” head coach Stacey Marnoch said. “We now have a permanent change room at Gateway arena and we are hoping to be difficult to play at home. To be successful against Toronto, we will have to play as a unit and compete for every inch of ice.”
Returning to the Sabres lineup are forwards Madison Field, Rosie Heffernan and Sarah Quaranta; defencemen Madison Brown and Kristina Kocsis; and goaltender Taylor Cook.
“They all know how to play at this level to be successful,” Marnoch said. “They will be good examples and bring the rookies along quickly.”
New to the Sabres roster are forwards Sarah Hine, Taylor McMahon, Melissa Millar, Kristen O’Neill, Sarah Olsen and Rachael Smith; defencemen Nicole Collier, Laura Crowdis, Sara Habal and Paige Jackson; and netminder Sarah McDonnell. Hine, McMahon, O’Neill, Smith, Collier, Crowdis, Jackson and McDonnell are up from the Sabres’ midget teams, while Millar, Olsen and Habal were acquired from St. Catharines, North Halton and Mississauga’s midget teams.
“All the rookies bring with them exceptional skill, an understanding of team first and desire to succeed at this level,” Marnoch said.
Though the Sabres have lost veterans Olivia Atkinson, MacAuley Carr, Brianna Kennelly, Sydney McKibbon, Sarah Nurse, Caitlin Wallace, Teresa Horner, Chelsey Maclean, Devon Morrison, Megan Watkins and Brittany Smrke, Marnoch said she’s confident in her team’s ability this season.
“The team will miss their leadership and experience early in the season, but someone always steps into those roles and we carry forward,” she said. “I have absolute faith in my team and the ability of each athlete to elevate their play, making us a tough opponent every night. Every group of athletes that put on a Sabres jersey are special; our program is demanding and those willing to tackle it are special kids from special families.”
The Sabres finished fourth in PWHL regular season action last year, before losing to the Aeros in playoff second round game five play.
The team also scored a bronze medal at the provincials, despite being down to 10 players.
“It was an incredible way to finish the season,” Marnoch said.
Marnoch said it’s always her goal to see the team finish in the top four of the league.
“From there, we put ourselves in a good position for playoffs,” she said. “I believe this year’s team is no exception. If we work hard as a team, not care who puts the puck in the net and take care of team defence, we will give any team a run for its money.”