Hosting their first national championship tournament since 2019, a season of elite competition
lost to a relentless pandemic, the Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) welcomed back the nation’s finest competitors in Calgary this past August for an opportunity to claim bragging rights.
With a field of tremendous talent on hand, teams with colourful nomenclature including Ducks, Stingers and X-Treme, among others, the common thread evident from opening face-off was the number of Team Canada alumnae participating.
With the province of Ontario represented by a pair of superlative clubs, the New Tecumseth X-
Treme and the defending national champions, the Ottawa Capitals, the two squads were on a collision course toward the gold medal game, both enjoying convincing victories in the semifinals.
The X-Treme shut out the BC Selects in a 3-0 final on Aug. 13 at Huntington Hills Arena, with a pair of goals from Emma Wilson, while Devon Skeats, a former National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) competitor with the Buffalo Beauts, adding to their lead. Enjoying a 4-1 advantage over the Edmonton Ducks, four different Capitals placed their name on the scoresheet. Atlantic Canadian stars and Team Canada alumnae Danielle Ring and Jessie McCann scored in the opening period. Former Ottawa Vanier Women's Ball Hockey (OVWBHL) scoring champion Claudia Bergeron and team captain Edie Brenning contributed goals, while Chantal St. Laurent recorded a pair of assists.
The Capitals reached the rarified air of back-to-back national championships, enjoying a 3-1 victory over their provincial rivals on Aug. 14. With many of the Capitals competitors club teams based in the OVWBHL, their triumph contributed to a growing dynasty. Since the league’s Vanier
Mooseheads captured the 2014 national championship, teams from Canada’s capital region
have enjoyed five podium finishes since 2014, highlighted by three gold (2014, 2019, 2021) and
a pair of bronze medals (2015, 2017), attaining a level of achievement that marks an
exceptionally high standard.
Having played for the Vanier Mooseheads championship team in 2014, the chance for Elysia
Desmier to wear the Capitals jersey in a gold medal effort represents another proud pinnacle in
a career that includes multiple podium finishes at the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) World Championship, including a gold medal in the 2019 ISBHF worlds.
As one of the most seasoned players on the Capitals roster, having also played in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) with the Brampton Thunder, Desmier’s presence was defined by more than her body of work. She emerged as one of the team’s leaders, an essential component on the path towards gold. An opportunity to return to the national championship stage in 2021 signified another stellar achievement in her brilliant career.
“My last championship win was in Saskatoon. So it has been a while and it felt good to be back
on a winning team. As I get older I always like to see myself as a leader. Maybe not the most
outspoken one, but, one where I can help the newer girls who have not played at this level
before," she said.
"Help them realize what it means to play at this level and how best to succeed in the positions
they are put in. Going to nationals, everyone expects to play or be one of the best because they
may be one of the better players on their club team. It can be a shock to some of them that
they need to adapt to different situations they have never been put in before," she added.
Undoubtedly, the tone of strong leadership was set by Edie Brenning, serving in the capacity of
team captain. Having called Desmier a teammate on the 2019 ISBHF World Championship, the
opportunity to have the captain’s C adorning her jersey represented a proud moment for the player, especially considering the lengthy absence of competitive ball hockey,
“For me, this tournament was about coming together off a tough pandemic year, where many of
us were not able to play together in our regular league (OVWBHL). It took the hard work and
dedication of individual players to train and prepare for a big tournament such as this," she said.
"Once at the tournament, players that we had acquired quickly gelled with our core and we came
together with the winning formula. It means a lot to be the captain of this team, along with
Claudia Bergeron, and to be able to be leaders on the slab while winning back-to-back
championships. I think it is a testament to the skill and focus this team has and to compete
every single year.”
No star shone as brightly as Claudia Bergeron. One of the all-time greats in the history of the OVWBHL, Bergeron and Brenning also won a 2019 championship in Ottawa’s National Capitals Women’s Hockey League. Playing for a club identified as the Muskies, they would compete in the Ontario women’s championship. Enhancing Bergeron’s Ottawa hockey legacy includes a memorable time as an offensive mainstay with the RSEQ’s Carleton Ravens.
Scoring twice in the gold medal game, Bergeron established herself as the offensive catalyst, propelling the Capitals towards their second straight national championship. Contributing brilliantly in a compelling 3-1 victory, she helped put the game out of reach, capitalizing on a power-play opportunity in the second period. Assists were credited to Alicia Blomberg, a long-time OVBWHL veteran, and Corie Jacobson, a two-time NCAA Frozen Four champion with the Clarkson Golden Knights, making her CBHA debut.
Taking into account that the Capitals roster had a much different complexion in 2021, compared to their championship group of 2019, there was a unique tinge of coincidence with the new arrivals. Akin to Jacobson, Genevieve Bannon also won a pair of Frozen Four titles in the Golden Knights' green and gold, having also called Jacobson a teammate with Canada at the IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championship.
Additionally, a trio of Atlantic Canadian stars, Jessica (Jess) McCann, along with Danielle and Rebecca Ring suited up for the Capitals. For McCann, a 2017 ISBHF World Championships gold medallist, enjoying her first CBHA championship also marked a rare occurrence that Bergeron called her a teammate, highly impressed with the rapid development of team chemistry.
“We had a very talented group this year with the additions to our main core. Everyone gelled together pretty fast and the chemistry was undeniable. Different players stepped up at different times, and that is why we were a strong group.
"We knew that at any time, anyone could make it happen, either with a strong backcheck or a key goal. Of course, it is always a special feeling to score goals in a big game like that; I am proud of my individual effort and all of the team’s success. In that game, we needed to kill big minutes of PK and if the team had not done that, maybe the outcome would have been different.”
With Angie Cerilli, also a Team Canada alumna in ISBHF play, spoiling Melissa Rae Kunzelman's bid for a shutout, less than two minutes after Bergeron’s goal, it would be the closest the X-Treme would get to reducing the Capitals lead.
As the clock ticked down, Bergeron placed the game out of reach, putting the puck past X-Treme goaltender Serena Vilde with 1:15 left. In what proved to be the insurance goal, assuring the national championship, there was a tinge of coincidence as the assist was credited to Carole-Ann Upshall, a member of the 2019 championship team, who would also a place on the tournament All-Star Team.
Dating back to their university years, Bergeron and Upshall were cross-town rivals. Of note, Bergeron was garbed in the Carleton Ravens black, while Upshall wore the white and burgundy jersey of the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Unifying in a championship cause, it added a tremendous luster to a group of gregarious players that waited two years, combining patience, anticipation and a solid skillset to successfully defend a title that holds a treasured place in Bergeron’s career.
“Every year brings something unique, either the destination, the rivalries, or the circumstances.
This year was definitely a year to make a statement for our team.
"We have been itching to play for two years. We need the competition, we need the sport, not only because we are competitors at heart, but because hockey is a big part of our friendship.
Winning in these conditions cements the fact that we are a solid team, that we can never be taken lightly, and that we will compete no matter what life throws at us.”
1st Period Scoring Summary
4:40 Ottawa Capitals - Goal by Bannon; assists from Jacobson and Desmier (PP)
2nd Period Scoring Summary
12:43 Ottawa Capitals - Goal by Bergeron; assists from Blomberg and Jacobson (PP)
11:11 New Tecumseth Xtreme - Goal by Cerilli; assists from Pollock and Birkett
1:15 Ottawa Capitals - Goal by Bergeron; assists from Upshall (PP)
*All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated,*
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