The Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats opened their season with two wins and two losses at home at their Preseason Showcase.
"We were very happy," said Wildcats head coach Terry Pavely of the weekend. "Obviously losing games is not what you want to do, but it is a learning process."
The Wildcats opened the tournament with a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Avros Friday afternoon. Tori Carlson and Karlie Bell both scored to tie the contest for the Wildcats, but Winnipeg scored the only third-period goal for the win. Hannah Reimer, Mikayla Swallow, Tori Kendall, and Keely Chalk all picked up assists. Brooklyn Weisgerber suffered the loss in goal.
The Avros finished 4-0 to win the tournament. "Winnipeg is a very good hockey team," said Pavely. "They had their tryouts in May so they had been practicing for three and a half weeks and you could tell They got a couple power play goals on us and I think they got two or three on everybody. For us to play them 3-2, we thought we competed hard and we did a lot of good things and at the end we had a chance to win. It will be a good measuring stick when we play them at the end of the month at the Central Plains Tournament in Portage. The Wildcats bounced back with a 6-3 win over the Prince Albert Bears later that evening. Rookie Merissa Zerr scored twice, while Keely Chalk, Tori Kendall, Bell, and Carlson all added singles. Jasey Book picked up the win in goal. Chalk picked up a pair of assists for a three-point outing. Swallow, Gabrielle Gray, Kayla Kirwan, Carlson, and Kate Scidmore all added single helpers.
Pavely felt that a win over a Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League rival was an important outcome from the weekend. "When we play PA, our kids should go in not expecting to win easily, but I think that they will know that if they play well we will have a chance to win and we will be in a game... Beating them, it hopefully gives us a little confidence to know that we can play with the teams that have been good in our league year after year."
Swift Current faced the Westman Wildcats on Saturday evening and allowed two third-period goals in a 2-0 loss to drop to 1-2. Pavely said that college coaches and scouts in attendance felt that it was the best game of the tournament. "Even though we lost 2-0, the pace was very good. We outshot them and I haven't seen us play at that pace in a couple of years."
The Wildcats finished the weekend off on a winning note with a 3-2 victory over the Red Deer Chiefs Sunday.
They led 2-0 after the first period on goals from Taylor Kirwan and Scidmore. After a scoreless middle stanza, the Wildcats allowed two third-period goals but got the game winner from Bell to clinch the win.
Book picked up the win in goal Sunday to finish 2-0 on the weekend. Scidmore, Zerr, Kendall, Jessica Pele, Carlson, and Brenna Thomson all earned assists in the win.
Pavely was encouraged that his team scored 11 goals in four games after struggling last season to create offense.
"That might have been a month of goal-scoring for us in the last couple years," he said.
"Overall, we were extremely happy. We feel like we have a little bit more offensive upside. I think the flip side of that is that we have a lot of kids that are used to playing a little bit more pond hockey. So we have to figure out a way to balance the offensiveness and not take that away from them, but yet teach them a little bit of structure, teach them when to make some safe plays."
Pavely felt some of his veterans really stood out during the weekend.
"You can really see the difference in some of our veteran players, especially on the back end. Kayla Kirwan and Gabrielle Gray, they just seem way more confident this year. I thought they both had very good weekends," said Pavely. "They just carried themselves with way more confidence and an edge that they were elite players, instead of trying to keep up with everybody they wanted people to keep up with them."
He also felt the rookies adapted well to the AAA Midget level.
"I thought they did really well. They contributed with some points. Merissa Zerr had a couple of goals this weekend. Kate Scidmore had a goal and an assist. A lot of those young kids just have a knack for the net, they are very offensive and they see the ice well. They look for plays and they look for ways to get open. We were extremely happy and the biggest thing was the compete level we had. Every single game we played for 60 minutes."
Pavely has high hopes for his rookie class.
"Once they learn what we expect defensively, maybe what we are looking to do when we get odd-man rushes, and on the powerplay, the breakouts, and the systems we want to use, I think the combination of their offensive instincts and the structure we set in place, I think there is potential for some of these kids to flourish at this level."
The Wildcats will continue their preseason schedule at home this weekend when the Lloydminster Steelers visit for a pair of games at Fairview West Arena. The two teams will face-off Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It will be another good test for us," said Pavely. "They are a real good hockey team. We played them last year and both games were one-goal games. I think we may have tied one and lost one up there. They were young as well. They were just at a tournament at NAIT this weekend so we know it is going to be another real tough weekend for us."
The Wildcats will play a demanding preseason schedule ahead of their SFMAAAHL regular season opener on October 5.
"We want these young kids to get their feet wet against good competition. If you start your season off playing a bunch of weak teams sometime you get a false sense of where you are at. We don't want to get that, we want to test ourselves so that they know that at this level it is about competition night in and night out."