The Brooklin High School Varsity Girls Hockey team set some very high goals for themselves this year; repeat their LOSSA Championship, qualify for OFSAA, and compete for a provincial medal.
When the horn sounded to end their final game of the season the girls had pulled off a 3-0 victory over John F. Ross from Guelph, and captured a Bronze Medal at OFSAA. The third place showing at OFSAA was the final piece to an amazing season that included a second consecutive LOSSA Gold and winning the Brooklin Bears Elite Eight Tournament. Since the hockey program started in 2015, they have won a LOSSA Silver, two LOSSA Golds, and have place 8th and 3rd at the OFSAA tournament. For a school that is only in its third year of existence both the coaches and players are very happy with the team’s performance so far.
“This team has come a long way in a short period of time since we were born in 2015. We are really fortunate to have a core group of players that have been with the program since the beginning leading the way,” said Head Coach Jason Taylor.
Back in 2015, the Bears’ coaching staff selected a very young team that was comprised of mainly grade 9 and 10 players who have served as the foundation of the team. Each year a few new players were added, which improved the quality of the team. One of the major differences between high school and club/rep hockey is that in high school the team is usually comprised of players from various ages, which can sometimes create challenges. With this group however, there are players from all four grades who contributed to the team’s success. Another key was the fact that all of the players on the team excepted the role given to them by the coaches and did whatever they could to help make the team better. Maggie MacEachern and Daniella Calabrese are two of the original team members who started out as grade nine rookies and are now the team leaders.
"Our coaching staff gave us high expectations to live up to, and I think we all had the same standard for ourselves. Having players of various ages, we thought it was important for us to create a very close-knit environment. Everyone knew their role on the team both on and off the ice, and every person being able to execute their responsibilities created solid depth,” said Assistant Captain Daniella Calabrese.
"It definitely requires a lot of work ethic and sacrifice. We had to accept our roles on the team, no matter what they were, and perform to the best of our ability. Our team ranges in age and hockey playing experience, which required us to try our best as a team and make sure everyone felt like they contributed towards our goals,” said Captain Maggie MacEachern.
Another key to the Bears’ success this year was the goaltending and overall defensive approach to the game. Grade 12 goaltending tandem Taylor Beam and Hannah Polonsky, who have been there since day one, led the team throughout the playoffs and at OFSAA. The Bears also got solid goaltending from grade 9 rookie Sarah Coe who will carry the torch into next season as both Polonsky and Beam will graduate in June. The stingy defense was one of the main reasons why the team was so successful at OFSAA finishing the tournament with an impressive 14-5 goal differential including three shutouts.
From the very first game of the season, the Bears look poised and ready to defend their LOSSA title. After finishing on top of the standings during the regular season, the girls defeated Dunbarton in the semi-finals and then Donald A. Wilson in the finals. Going into the OFSAA tournament as the third seed, the Bears were looking to better their eighth place finish from the previous year. They got off to a great start winning their pool with victories over Sacred Heart (3-1), Chatham-Kent (1-0) and John F. Ross (2-1). In the quarter-finals Brooklin knocked off St. Peters from Peterborough 3-0 moving them into the final four. In the semi-finals, the team faced a very tough opponent from St. Maximillian Kolbe from Aurora. The Bears had already beat SMK 4-1 in the final game of the Elite Tournament back in December. Unfortunately, this time SMK was able to pull-off a very close victory 3-2 scoring the winning goal with just minutes to play in the game. After losing a heartbreaking game, the girls had to rebound quickly and play the Bronze Medal game just a few hours later. Putting the tough semi-final loss behind them, Brooklin was able to come out and secure the Bronze with a 3-0 rematch win against Ross.
Over the course of the past three years the girls on this team have become more than teammates, they have become best friends. This sentiment was highlighted by both the players and the coaches.
“This bunch of girls became a group of best friends and the relationships we built inspired us to try our hardest for each other. We were a team of sacrifice and heart, as we had the ability to bounce back from tough shifts or games and leave it all on the ice,” said Calabrese.
“My teammates are my best friends who remind me to always have fun and work hard for each other, which for us is a big part of our success," exclaimed MacEachern.
Although the Bears did not reach their ultimate goal of being crowned provincial champions, most of the team will be back for next season and will have their sights set on the OFSAA gold.
“Although bronze is not exactly the outcome we had hoped for, and we will be losing some key players next year, our team is extremely proud of this accomplishment and we are excited for next season and the bright future of Brooklin hockey,” noted Calabrese.
Whatever the future holds for the girls, each member of the team will always remember the bonds that formed this year and the friendships that will last a lifetime.
"Playing hockey in high school is something I will never forget. The memories made while playing on this team were simply remarkable and even though we didn't win OFSAA this season we are looking forward to competing for the championship next year,” said MacEachern.
The coaching staff and the rest of the team would like to thank all of the graduating players for their efforts and wish them the best of luck in the future. In addition to goalies Beam and Polonsky, positional players Claire O'Donoghue, Kristy Millson, and Emily Peacock will also graduate in June.
Coach Taylor had some final words for the season that will serve as motivation for the team as they enter the off-season:
“Brooklin High School is blessed with a ton of hockey talent, and when you combine that talent with teammates that want the absolute best for each other, the Bears were bound to succeed. This past season was full of highlights from an undefeated regular season, to a second consecutive LOSSA title, to the bronze at OFSAA. Knowing this group, they'll look to build on those accomplishments next year."