Squad placed first in round-robin, but lost out on the medal round due to goal differential
By Nathan Rumohr
St. Thomas More Collegiate, Notre Dame Secondary, and Little Flower Academy are often at sporting odds as their girls' teams face each other in various sports. But four students and a coach put aside rivalries for hockey as they all played for the same team at the B.C. Winter Games in Vernon Feb. 23-26.
"There's always been a rivalry between STM and Notre Dame, so it was kind of cool that we played on the same team," said Grade 8 St. Thomas More student Justine Johnson.
Johnson joined fellow Grade 8 schoolmate Olivia Ramos, and Notre Dame students Claudia Funaro, Grade 9, and Carley Spagnuolo, Grade 8, on the bantam female hockey team for the Fraser River Delta zone.
"It was really funny when we met before the games," Ramos said. Spagnuolo and Funaro showed up in their Notre Dame attire when they met with Johnson and Ramos. "It wasn't weird for us but there were lots of jokes about each other's school, and which school was better."
Little Flower Academy alumni Melanie Jue coached the team, which included the foursome and 16 other girls.
"She was fabulous, friendly, funny, encouraging, and an all-around great coach," said Spagnuolo, who plays goalie.
"I thought Melanie was great!" added Ramos, one of the team's centres. "She was really cool with the team and definitely an inspiration to us. It was a huge surprise when she said she attended LFA, because we had another rival school on one team!"
"I loved our coach. She was very nice and knows the game of hockey very well," added Funaro, who also plays centre.
The team tied for first in the round-robin despite being outsized by many of their opponents. However they failed to make the medal round because selection considered the total number of goals scored.
The team then suffered a 10-0 loss in their second game against the Vancouver-Squamish zone.
Jue told the team she was proud of their effort, and for her kind words she was on the receiving end of a team prank.
"When we finished playing all our games and were watching the final, we duct-taped her to the seat in the arena," said Johnson, who played defence. Jue, a multi-sport NCAA athlete, was a good sport about the prank, but told the six girls involved they'd better not fall asleep on the bus ride home.
"I was one of the six and I was nervous!" Johnson confessed.
Overall the girls loved the experience and bonded both on and off the ice.
"Our team came together very quickly. We bonded really well, which made it easier to play on the ice," Johnson said. "At the end of the games we had a choice to ride home with our parents or to go on the charter bus again with the team. We all stuck together and went home on the bus."