The gold medal game at the CBHA Ball Hockey Nationals in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan set the stage for an All-Ontario matchup as the Ottawa (Vanier) Mooseheads took on the Toronto Shamrocks. In the semi-finals, the Shamrocks bested the Alberta Rockies by a 3-1 tally, while the Mooseheads emerged with a 5-0 blanking of the Saskatchewan Wheaties.
Of note, it marked the fifth time in the last seven years that the gold medal game featured a pair of teams from Ontario. With the Mooseheads prevailing in overtime, the match featured several prominent players who have also graced the ice at the CIS, CWHL and/or NCAA levels.
Among the players competing, one of the most accomplished may have been Jamie-Lee Rattray. The recipient of the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Award (given to the most outstanding player in NCAA women’s hockey), she has also skated with Hockey Canada’s U18 and U22 national ice hockey teams. As a side note, she was even featured on a trading card in Upper Deck’s 2011 World of Sports collection.
Having helped Clarkson University to the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four championship, Rattray (who grew up in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata) finished the CBHA Nationals as the leading scorer with 14 points and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award. Along with Kendra Antony (one of the first superstars for the Wisconsin Badgers), the two were among former NCAA players on the squad. Ball hockey superstar Fannie Desforges (named to the Tournament All-Star Team) remarked on the impact of Rattray on the road towards a national title,
“Jamie-Lee was a great asset to our team. She worked hard and played with determination. She had one focus and it was the Championship. She brought her A-game every time and was dangerous every time she was on the ice. She is a great athlete and a play maker, as well as a goal scorer. She completed our team very well and helped us win this Trophy!!”
Having finished her rookie campaign with the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno, Jessica O’Grady has strong roots in Ottawa. Coincidentally, fellow Inferno rookies Rhianna Kurio and Danny Stone competed for the bronze medal winning Alberta Rockies. As a side note, former Ottawa NWHL/CWHL players such as Lesley McArthur and Elysia Desmier played alongside O’Grady, extending the city’s growing women’s hockey legacy.
As a student-athlete for the Carleton Ravens, O’Grady once scored three shootout goals in a conference matchup against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Ironically, Mooseheads teammates Desforges and Alicia Blomberg played in that shootout game as members of the Gee-Gees. Once again, O’Grady would provide heroics, contributing to the national title win for the Mooseheads (who compete in the Ottawa Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League). With 3:32 remaining in the first overtime frame, O’Grady logged the overtime winning tally.
“I actually scored the game winner in OT to win the national championship, it was surreal and no words can describe that feeling you get when you score for the win!”
A member of the Canadian national team which claimed the gold medal at the 2013 Ball Hockey Worlds in Newfoundland, O’Grady was ecstatic at following it up with a national title in 2014. Of note, she would accumulate four points at the CBHA Nationals.
“A world championship was an incredible experience for all that were there, yet, a national title is just as amazing, because Nationals is a very difficult tournament to compete in. Our team fought through each game and came out on top, every team in the tournament played incredible and I am just happy that our team got the chance to experience another win; this is my 3rd title in 4 years so it is a really nice accomplishment. I am excited for nationals to be in Ottawa next year in front of my hometown.”
Sharing in the glory with O’Grady was fellow CWHL rookie Fannie Desforges. While the two were rivals on the ice in CIS and CWHL play (of note, Desforges played for the Montreal Stars), they have experienced many ball hockey milestones as teammates.
“It seems as though Fannie and I always play against each other in ice hockey and our ball hockey league but playing with Fannie in these big tournaments is always a good time, we are good friends and always have lots of fun. We were roommates this year at nationals and she is an incredible person and a really good friend.
I am happy we were both on the same team for the tournament. It is funny because Fannie and I are so used to playing against each other, that it is nice to be on the same team for once. She actually set me up with a nice pass in final game for me to score.”
Earlier in the year, Fannie Desforges experienced her first taste of postseason action in pro hockey, appearing in the 2014 Clarkson Cup playoffs with the Montreal Stars. While the event did not result in the franchise claiming its fourth title, several faces from the Cup champion Toronto Furies would suit up for the Shamrocks at the CBHA nationals.
Among the Furies players, the likes of Julie Allen, Meagan Aarts (who recently celebrated her 100 career CWHL point), Christina Kessler and Lexie Hoffmeyer were hoping to duplicate their championship success with the Shamrocks. Joining them were current/former CWHL veterans including Harvard alum Jennifer Brine, Liz Knox (who helped the Melbourne Ice to an Australian ice hockey title) and Mallory Johnston.
One of the most unique aspects of the Shamrocks was that Knox and Kessler were playing out of their traditional positions. Both have played with the Canadian national women’s ice hockey team as goaltenders. Of note, Knox made history as the first rookie goaltender to start in the Clarkson Cup, while Kessler was the first CWHL goaltender to earn a shutout in an NHL arena.
Both were competing at the forward position at the CBHA Nationals, each accumulating three points.
As a side note, Julie Allen led all Shamrocks scorers with 10 points. With such an accomplished hockey background, Knox reflected on the experience of competing at the CBHA Nationals.
“When you look at all the teams in the tournament, you will find so many incredible athletes. To be in that final game was a real honor and I think a strong refection of the hard work that our team put in the entire tournament. It was an exciting back and forth game, and like most nail-biters, it came down to who would capitalize on that final chance. Unfortunately for us, we fell just short but not without a solid team effort and a tough fight.”
Desforges acknowledges the victory over the Shamrocks was hard earned. “It was a great accomplishment to claim the National title in Saskatoon. The victory was a great team effort, we worked hard. The Toronto Shamrock did not give it to us easily. They tied the game and had a few chances in overtime to win the game. They are a very competitive and hard working team, it wasn’t easy to win.”
Earning the scoring title and most outstanding player award at the 2013 Ball Hockey Worlds, Desforges may very well be the world’s greatest ball hockey player. Having also won a world title in the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in 2012, Desforges certainly brought her championship ways to the playing surface in Saskatoon.
“Therefore, the victory was great and shows that there is a lot of depth and great athletes coming from Ottawa and Ontario. It was a lot of fun to claim this title as well as the 2013 World Championship title. I am very great to have been part of both championships and on the winning side.”
One of the rising stars in ball hockey, Melissa Boufounos, a 2011 CWHL Draft pick, spent the last two summers competing in the OVWBHL, earning Team MVP honors in 2013. Despite being sidelined for a few games with concussion woes, she managed to be positive, supporting her team and showing great teamwork in a true golden effort.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend Nationals in Saskatoon and absolutely devastated when I received a concussion after playing a strong first game. It was difficult to go all that way to not dress for three full games and only get a few shifts in the semis and finals, but our team put forth an amazing effort with a short bench and I am so proud of our gold medal. I wish I could have participated more in the Nationals and look forward to getting that opportunity again in future years."
Having had the chance to represent her Greek heritage by competing for Greece at the 2013 Ball Hockey Worlds, Boufounos already had familiarity with several Mooseheads players, as they were members of the gold medal winning Canadian contingent. The chance to call them teammates this year was a great moment in her promising career,
"Being able to play on a team with the likes of Rattray, Blomberg, Desforges, Desmier etc… was a great experience. I’ve played against them for a few seasons in the Ottawa Vanier Ball Hockey League and played against a few of my Nationals teammates at Worlds in Newfoundland last year but being able to play with them, despite my injury and the little playing time I saw can only further my ball hockey aspirations"
For O’Grady, the essence of teamwork and perseverance helped define another memorable chapter in her storied ball hockey career. As she prepares for another season of ice hockey, she reflected fondly on the experience with the Mooseheads and the lifetime of memories acquired.
We have a great team all around, every single player gave it their all for each game and I cannot be more proud of our team. Shelley (our coach) was incredible throughout the tournament as well and we owe a huge thanks to her. Credit needs to go to the Toronto team for putting up a big fight in the finals. It could have been anyone’s game and they played outstanding.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Shelley Callaghan and Nathalie Girouard