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Airdrie athletes help to Blaze path to national bronze

A handful of Airdrie athletes competed in the U16 AA Canadian Ringette Championships in Dieppe, New Brunswick in April, with the Zone 2 Blaze–featuring players from Airdrie, Cochrane, Strathmore, and Chestermere–winning a bronze medal aft
The Zone 2 U16 AA Blaze won bronze at the 2024 Canadian Ringette Championships in Dieppe, New Brunswick, April 7-13.

A handful of Airdrie athletes competed in the U16 AA Canadian Ringette Championships in Dieppe, New Brunswick in April, with the Zone 2 Blaze– featuring players from Airdrie, Cochrane, Strathmore, and Chestermere– winning a bronze medal after beating Calgary Peak 7-6. 

The Blaze were one of four teams representing Alberta at the national tournament in New Brunswick. While the Blaze claimed bronze, Team Alberta would have to settle for silver after falling to the Cyclones de Quebec 1-0 in the gold medal game. 

“It was fantastic,” said Blaze head coach Jody Nouwen. “We had a great group of athletes this year. One of the big things we did in September was to set our goals for the season and top three in Canada was definitely something we talked about all throughout the season… to actually do that and become the bronze medallists was a really great feeling. I'm really proud of them.”

Eighteen teams in the U16 AA division competed for the national championship that began on April 7 and wrapped up with the gold medal game on April 13. Nouwen said that having her team finish top three in the country was almost an accomplishment unto itself. 

“Knowing you're a top three and going against some of the top competition in Canada was really great,” said Nouwen, who mentioned that almost half of the team was new after having played down an age level last season. 

Indeed, half the team experienced play on the national stage just last season. The wealth of veteran experience helped the Blaze compete against some of the best teams in the country. 

“Beginning of the week everyone was a little nervous and had to get the rust out,” said Nouwen.  “I think we realized pretty quickly that we were up against some extreme competition here, and if we didn’t play our top game then we're not going to be able to continue. I could see the girls really dial in and commit to the nutrition plan, to the mental training plan, getting lots of rest when they needed and seeing the maturity there was awesome.”

Nouwen complimented the team's leadership group, which included Airdrie’s Ella Bigoraj, who played for the team last year. Bigoraj– competing in the National Championship’s skills competition that was held during the tournament– won the hardest shot contest. 

Two other Blaze players were also recognized for their individual play at the tournament’s end. Kyla Koester was honoured with a first line forward selection on the tournament all-star team, while Blaze defender Brooklyn Munro was named to the tournament’s all-star second line defensive pairing. 

With three of the top four teams that competed for medals at Nationals being from Alberta, the Alberta Ringette program seems to be on the rise. To make matters even more impressive, the Blaze’s Zone 2 program has only existed for seven or eight years, compared to the several decades that other programs have been functioning for. 

“We've been going up against teams that have been established, in terms of their association, for 40 years,” said Nouwen. “We have just really grown and just allowed for the athletes to really develop.”

Half of the Blaze’s players will be moving up to the U19 age bracket for next year, leaving plenty of roster spots to fill. Nouwen herself isn’t sure if she’ll be returning to coach the team next year, but believes that the U16 AA Blaze should still be very competitive. 

“I'm really proud of the athletes and I'm proud of their commitment and I'm just happy to see the season end off on such a high note,” she said. 


Riley Stovka

About the Author: Riley Stovka

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