While it may rightly be overshadowed by other 2018 events in the world of hockey in Saskatchewan, the forming and subsequent success of the Southeast Midget AA Goldwings is a noteworthy story.
Formerly, they were separate entities, the Estevan Midget Bearcats, and the Weyburn Gold Wings. However, in July it was announced that they would be amalgamating to form one group, pulling the best players from Estevan, Weyburn, and the surrounding communities, and making a home in Midale. The newly-branded Southeast Goldwings then joined the fresh Saskatchewan Female Hockey League.
Ever since they've burned nearly every barn they've set foot in. The Goldwings racked up a 5 game win streak before suffering their first defeat, then quickly rebounded to pick five more in a row. Their final game of 2018 was a rematch of the one they lost, and they brushed the chip off their shoulder to end the year with an 11-1 record and 22 points. This was good enough for first place in the south division, and second place in the league.
"I think that we knew that we were going to have success, the unknown was how they were going to get along. "You take two teams and some of the top girls off each team, and you're probably going to have a pretty good team. But, there's always (speculation) as to how they're going to gel," says their Head Coach, Al Ohrt. The result was one of the best he's observed in his time in the sport.
"It's...the best dressing room I've ever seen. The players are getting along, there are no click-ee groups, there's nothing...everybody just gets along."
That was only reinforced when the girls made the trek to Calgary to participate in the Hayley Wickenheiser 'WickFest' tournament, competing against some of best teams at their level from across Canada, as well as taking part in development camps under the supervision of the top female hockey players in the world.
"They did a video to show how well they were getting along, and they won the 'Gatorade' room for the day. When we went to that tournament...you could see everybody gelling that much more. They're coming together, it's really good to see and I'm hoping they're striving for great things for the rest of the year."
However, as a coach, Ohrt isn't going to settle for satisfied with their position at the midpoint of the season.
"There are definitely improvements that we can do. Our power play is probably the biggest thing. I wish I could defer penalties sometimes, just because our power play isn't as good, but we play so well shorthanded or even strength that it doesn't really matter. Each line has their own unique thing, we hardly ever even change lines. We've tried a couple times to change it up but usually go back to the original setting. It's good to have girls that have chemistry and play together for the whole year...it's one big happy family."
He adds that the easy-going nature of the team makes his role as a leader that much lighter.
"There are lots of issues that could happen with teams, but it just seems there's nothing (with the Goldwings). It's great to be a part of this team in its inaugural team, and it's great to see that the whole southeast is kind of coming together...it's great to show that it can happen."
"(We'll) just keep going the way we are, keep working on the things we need to work on. We just need to keep focused and keep the intensity levels up. I'm just excited to get back from Christmas," Ohrt concluded.