There is no question that hockey players across the province faced an unprecedented number of trials and tribulations this season. With the various forms of restrictions and the lockdown in January, maintaining a gold-focused mindset was another hurdle athletes had to face.
For the Durham West Lightning U18AA team, they knew from very early on in the season that this team was different. Beginning the season by winning gold at the Stoney Creek U18AA showcase and the U18AA Oakville Best of the Nest Tournaments, it was clear that the team had talent and connection.
Managing that talent, connection, and gold-driven mindset would be the biggest challenge the team had to face, but the players and coaches confronted that challenge head-on.
Pat Teggart, Head Coach, focused on perpetuating a holistic team mentality. On top of team practices and games, the Lightning made an effort to connect and give back to the community.
The team participated in the Terry Fox Fun, raised $2000 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Network through their October Breast Cancer Awareness Challenge and led the Durham West Lightning Night in support of the community food bank.
The team's actions were not only rewarding to the community, but Kaileigh Quigg, forward, credited these community initiatives as critical motivators for the team to connect through their positive actions.
Additionally, the Lightning acted as mentors for the U7 house league team, teaching them critical skills on the ice, the importance of teamwork and acting as role models for the next generation of female hockey players.
Each of these moments spent together off the ice helped the team take each tournament, each game, each shift one at a time.
When faced with the January lockdown, instead of disconnecting for a month, each athlete led daily workouts and competed in AMRAP workouts to stay connected and focused on gold.
"The Lightning transitioned from a team to one big family,” said Kaileigh.
Playing a total of 12 games in February, the Lightning finished the regular season with a 53-2-6 record.
There is no question the team faced fatigue and exhaustion playing catch up to finish all the regular season games on time, but their preparation during the time off prepared them for the most important part of their season.
The U18AA Durham West Lightning walked away from the OWHL U18AA Women’s Hockey League with a gold medal.
The next goal was to maintain their focus and momentum into the Provincial Championship tournament.
Once again, their determination and teamwork shined through. When faced with adversity, going to double overtime in the quarterfinals of the Provincial Championship, the team approached the situation with positivity and motivation.
“We went into the double-overtime with a positive mindset and confident that no matter what happens in this period, we got each other, and we will try our best as a team,” said Lightning forward Zoe Ziotas, who scored the one-timer double overtime winning goal to send them to the semi-finals.
Battling hard in the Semi-finals and Finals, all the team’s hard work and resilience became apparent, winning the Provincial Championship title with a 3-1 win over the Whitby Wolves.
Excitement, shock, joy, happiness, and pride are just a few of the words that Zoe and Kaileigh used to describe their title, however, they know it's not over yet.
With a provincial championship win, the U18AA Lightning mail their ticket into the Esso Cup, the Canadian national women's under-18 ice hockey club championship.
The Lightning have one more shot at showing their skill and hunger for gold.
“If our team can show the effort we have put in and continue to play as a team, we can achieve anything,” said Zoe.
The Durham West Lightning are extremely excited to represent Ontario and are ready to show their drive and determination to the final stop of the season, taking each game, each shift, one at a time.
Make sure to tune in to the Lightning’s first game on Monday, May 16th at noon EST and find their full schedule at https://www.hockeycanada.ca/en-ca/national-championships/women/u18-club/2022/stats/schedule.