Raiders’ present and future is bright
The Holy Cross Raiders girls hockey team returned from the COVID-related absence with a vengeance.
“For the past couple of years, we weren’t able to have a team because of COVID but now we had the opportunity to play with all these Grade 9s who have come in and are very talented,” Holy Cross right winger Maddie Ciampa said. “I thought this was the year we were going to go to OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) and win it all. It came down to the final stretch and we did as best as we could. It didn’t turned out the way we wanted, but we were happy that we won a medal.”
The Raiders ended up winning a silver medal at the OFSAA A/AA championships in Stratford; a medal Giampa started to dream about early on in the process.
“I knew some of the (Grade 9) girls because they play in my association and as soon as I heard that they were coming to our team I knew that we had an opportunity go somewhere.”
Off to play hockey at the University of Waterloo this fall, Giampa was hoping to end her high school career with a flourish.
“We only qualified for OFSAA one other year and that was in Grade 9. It didn’t end up happening because of COVID so I was looking for Grade 12 to be the year that we did it and we finally did,” the 17-year-old Niagara-on-the-Lake resident said.
The Raiders did it with a roster made up of only 13 players.
“Usually you don’t have such a short bench on a hockey team but we made it work. It was quality over quantity, I guess, because we played lots of teams that had four lines and we destroyed them,” Giampi said.
She admitted being exhausted when the OFSAA tournament was over.
“We were extremely tired. I know some of the Grade 9s had their own playoff game the next day and if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t have been able to play.”
It was all worth it when the silver medal was placed around her neck.
“The other Grade 12 (Elise Fenwick) and I looked at each other and we were in shock that we had actually won a medal. We were in awe that we had made it that far and we were just beyond happy.”
Giampa was a big part of the Raiders’ success.
“She is a phenomenal skater with a great shot and she was our leader and our leading goal scorer all year,” Holy Cross head coach Mike Accursi said. “She was the girl who was the heartbeat of our team and pushed us all year.”
Making up the team were Isabella Bouvier, Anna Corfield, Sophie Costantini, Ava Cusick, Olivia Damiano, Fenwick, Giampa, Priscilla Marotta, Madeleine McCready, Caileigh Tiller, Chelsea Tiller, Victoria Turner and Madison Vanderspek.
“To be honest, at the beginning of the year we didn’t even know if we would have enough players to field a team,” Accursi said. “Coming into this season we really didn’t know what we had but we had six Grade 9 girls come in and some of them were extremely talented: Pat McCready’s daughter; the two Tiller twins; along with a couple other Grade 9s who were really good hockey players.”
Accursi had high hopes for the squad after watching the first practice.
“I kind of knew where the new girls had come from and they were pretty decent hockey players and I turned to one of the girls who helps me coach and I said, ‘We may got to OFSAA this year’ and it was just because of the talent we had. We didn’t have a lot of numbers but the girls we had were all very good.”
Playing with such a small roster was a challenge all season and especially at OFSAA.
“All of the other rosters had 20 and most of the other teams had five girls sitting out. They had a full taxi squad,” he said. “The nice thing about it is those girls who are really talented played a lot so we were always rolling. But we played three 15-minute periods and that’s a lot of hockey for these girls. By Game 6, the girls legs were gassed.”
Seventh-seeded Holy Cross went 2-1 in pool play at OFSAA, defeating 12th-seeded Clarington 6-1 and 14th-seeded Sainte-Marie 4-2 before losing 5-1 to top-seeded St. David. Holy Cross beat No. 2 seed Napanee 3-2 in quarter-finals and No. 5 seed St. Mark 6-2 in semifinals before falling 3-0 to St. David from Waterloo in the final. St. David finished the season unbeaten.
“We went through a really tough schedule to get to the final and they got two quick goals on us and then the rest of the game was really even,” Accursi said.
Holy Cross lost a pre-season tournament game to Blessed Trinity and then went 6-0 in Niagara Catholic Athletic Association league play, outscoring their opponents 30-9.
The Raiders beat Denis Morris 6-0 in NCAA AA semifinal and Lakeshore 9-1 in final, At the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association playdowns, the Raiders defeated Brebeuf 3-1 and Sir Winston Churchill 6-1.
Losing only two players to graduation, Accursi is already looking forward to next season.
“Our hockey team for the next several years is going to be very good and I know there a few good girls coming. Matt Vinc’s niece is in one of our feeder schools and she plays triple A boys hockey. I know there is a big group coming as well that is very talented,” he said. “We are going to do some damage around here and hopefully we can turn that silver medal into a gold medal.”