With all due respect to the other five major midget hockey teams in the province, the St. John’s Pennecon Privateers could be facing their toughest challenge to date when they take to the ice for an exhibition match against Canada’s national women’s team later this week.
In preparation for the 4 Nations Cup being played in Clarenville and St. John’s next week, the national squad requested a game against the local major midget powerhouse, and the Privateers did not hesitate to answer the call.
The contest is set for 4 p.m., Sunday at the Glacier in Mount Pearl.
“It’s an honour for the boys to be asked to play against, if not the best women’s team in the world, one of the top two,” says Privateers coach Wally Bray.
“As kids growing up, they were seeing some of these women on the television, winning gold medals for Canada, so at first, I think they’ll have to get over their awe of that.”
The 4 Nations Cup is an annual women’s tournament that began features the top four countries from the most recent Olympic or world championships.
Female international rules apply to the game, which plenty of contact, but no bodychecking.
Bray isn’t concerned that his charges, who are often looking for the big hit in regular league play, will cross the line.
“My experience with boys playing girls is that they’re not hitting them.
“I don’t think you’re going to see any dirt and I’m certainly not going allow that from our fellas.”
Some of the players sharing the ice with the Privateers on Sunday include 2010 Olympic gold medal winners Gillian Apps, goalie Kim St-Pierre, Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser, widely considered the best all-around female hockey player on the planet.
It won’t be the first time the national squad take on a major midget team; while preparing for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the team played 28 games against major midget teams throughout Canada posting an 18-10 record.
While Sunday’s game serves to give the national squad a warm-up before their tournament opener at Mile One Centre against Team U.S.A. next Tuesday, it offers the Privateers a true test of their own abilities with just two weeks to go before the Monctonian AAA Challenge.
Bray says it’s valuable experience “to have that level and for me to see, at this point, where they stand up with a better skilled team.”
“This is a good test on a skill level and their ability to read and react to their breakouts and power plays. It makes us have to think a step quicker in our own.
Bray adds though, that his charges are not entirely sure what to expect.
“They’re not sure of the tempo, they’re not sure how they’re going to react to not being to get their body in the way.
“But they are pretty hyper about it and looking forward to it.”