Firsthand Account: Mariners show resilience at hockey nationals
By S1 Natassia Lei
Sailor 1st Class Natassia Lei, a member of both Naval Fleet School (Atlantic) and the CFB Halifax Mariners women’s hockey team, has provided this account of the team’s recent silver-medal win at the CAF National Championship.
Pregame: After a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hockey returned at the 2023 CAF National Women’s Hockey Championship held at CFB Trenton from 20 – 25 March. Representing Atlantic Canada were the Halifax Mariners, supplemented by players from as close as CFBs Gagetown and Greenwood, and as far as CFB Gander. Off the ice, the team was composed of a variety of trades: from pilots, divers, and sailors, to musicians, technicians, clerks, and MPs. On the ice, the only thing that mattered was the “M” on the front of the jersey.
1st period: The tournament got underway with a matchup between the Mariners and the Valcartier Lions. The East Coast team had been hoping to quiet the Lion’s roar to a mere meow, but it was not to be; 4-1 was the final score in the first game. The second game did not end much better with another loss, 4-2, to the Trenton Flyers. Finally, a naval classic against the West Coast Esquimalt Tritons led to another notch against Mariners with a 3-2 victory for the sandy-bottom sailors.
2nd period: Despite the disappointing trio of losses in the round robin, this didn’t deter the Mariners. Rather, it provided the opportunity to reconsider the team’s strategy and stick to the sound fundamentals inherit in a winning team: win the battles, control the plays, and most importantly, have fun. As we headed into the semi-finals against the tournament favorites, the Valcartier Lions, the determination and drive manifesting from the players hearts showed itself on the ice. Coming out strong, S1 Amber Gaudette led the way with a top-shelf goal. Valcartier roared back with one of their own to tie the game 1-1. Yet, just as tenacity is a virtue in life, so too is it one on the ice. Halfway through the third period, S1 Rebecca Warren, driving down the right board, pursued by three Lions, deftly deked the goalie and put the puck between the pipes to ensure a 2-1 lead for the Mariners. This would prove to be the game-winner and send the East Coasters to the finals against the Trenton Flyers, the hometown team.
3rd period: The Halifax Mariners approached the finals in a calm, cool, and collected manner. Putting their previous loss to Trenton behind them, the Mariners dug hard on the ice and kept their opponents on their heels. While Trenton was the first to light up the scoreboard, the Mariners swiftly tied the game. The battle continued through three periods of regulation time with nail-biting saves from S3 Adeline Small, a giant presence between the pipes. One of the great draws of sports is that one cannot write a more dramatic finish; the gold medal game was going into overtime. Unfortunately for the Mariners, the next goal came on a well-placed deflection from the point. Final score, 2-1 Trenton.
Postgame: While the championship is over and the time is fast approaching to hang up the skates for the summer, this does not mean the end. Far from it. After the hiatus of CAF Sports due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, it was the utmost pleasure to return to the ice wearing the Mariners Jersey. Looking ahead, the majority of the team will be returning next year for another shot at gold.
All-stars: The team would like to thank Isaac Habib, the PSP Sports Coordinator for his enduring efforts in support of CFB Halifax Women’s Hockey; Charlene Arsenault for dedicating her time and expertise in coaching; and, most of all, to our friends and families in supporting us on this amazing journey on and off the ice.