GRAVENHURST - Featuring a few local faces, the Barrie Jr. Sharks girls hockey team had knots in their stomachs facing off against an international powerhouse in the Chinese National Women’s Hockey Team.
Sharks tie up Chinese Olympic hockey team, 3-3.
OLYMPIC-SIZED ASSIST. Bracebridge’s Kirsten MacDougall scored an assist for the Barrie Jr. Sharks in a recent exhibition game against the Chinese National Hockey Team in Vaughan. (Submitted photo)
When all was done however, the knot was in the scoreboard.
Dap Thach, Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce president and Jr. Sharks assistant general manager, explained it was a friendly exhibition game Sept. 22 to warm up for the impending season.
“(It was) exhibition in name only. The game provided a great test for the Jr. Sharks to rise to the challenge,” he said, adding it was “a spirited and exciting game.”
Travelling down to the sports village in Vaughan to face the Olympians, the Barrie club features Kirsten MacDougall from Bracebridge on defence, while Ryleigh Richter from Gravenhurst also dressed for the game.
The game opened with Barrie’s Alexis Joyce scoring in the first period with a top-shelf wrist shot in close, but China equalled the scoreboard by the end of the first.
Thach said in the second, China came out of the gates determined to get the go-ahead goal.
“The stellar goaltending work by the Sharks’ Sarah Stephens allowed the teams to remain even,” he added. Alex Bond put the Sharks ahead with the team’s second goal but again, near the end of the second, China managed to even the score up at two all.
Having already played a full 40 minutes of hockey, the Sharks had 20 more to go in the third and Thach said the girls were gaining confidence.
“Playing an experienced Olympic team, most people would expect that a young team such as the Jr. Sharks would wilt under the pressure,” Thach said.
Showing great work ethic and determination, the Sharks again got the go-ahead goal with Joyce’s second goal of the game.
“With just under 15 minutes to go, the possibility of scoring a win and major upset against Team China was on everyone’s mind,” Thach said.
With just under 10 minutes left in the game and China pressing hard to get the equalizer, the Sharks suffered a frightening blow when goaltender Stephens had to leave the game due to injury. Call-up goalie Kailen Jeffries was tossed into the heat of battle.
Not expecting to play, Jeffries showed a level of composure beyond her age Thach said.
“Jeffries stood her ground and kept China from getting the equalizer,” he said. “It seemed that the miracle was in the making.”
As had been the case in the first and second periods, with three minutes left and showing desperation, China managed to score the tying goal with a scramble in front of the Barrie net. That is where the scoring ended with the Sharks holding tough for the three-all tie.
Bracebridge’s MacDougall managed to pick up an assist on the first Sharks goal.