Expectations were pretty high early on in the 2013-14 U16AA ringette season for the Guelph Sodrox Chemicals Predators.
They didn’t disappoint.
“The previous year we did end up winning Provincials and we did end up getting the bronze at Nationals and we recognized at that point where we fell short and then in tryouts the next year we had sort of those last few pieces come into the picture,” Predators coach Todd Marrow said.
“We pretty much knew we had something very special going into that next year. We even sort of retooled how everything would work as far as lines and defence and some people questioned what we were doing, but as soon as they saw them lay their first game, they realized that oh my gosh, it's just a constant barrage of offence and anytime something slips there's defence and there's goaltending that just stops everything.”
Wednesday the team is to be recognized as a member of the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 during the Kiwanis Club of Guelph’s Sports Celebrity Dinner at the Italian Canadian Club.
“I do need to pinch myself every once and in a while and just think about how fortunate I was to be involved with a team that was that skilled and that worked so well together,” Marrow said. “They were just a finely-tuned group of players, for sure.”
Officially the team had an unbeaten season that included runs through both the provincial and national tournaments. Unofficially, the Predators had a lone loss, one that came in an exhibition game in mid-February at the Guelph tournament. The loss didn’t go down in the record books because it came against an older squad, a U19AA team from Waterloo, and only games against teams in your own group counted to the team’s record.
That year the annual Guelph Ringette Association tournament wasn’t a ranking tournament for the U16AA set. There was a ranking tournament in Richmond Hill that weekend that attracted most of the top teams from the group, but the Predators wanted to play at home.
“We didn't want to go to the one in Richmond Hill,” Marrow said. “We had some exhibitions that weekend just so we could kind of be part of the Guelph weekend. We had two exhibition games that weekend against teams that we would not have normally played.”
One game was against an open squad, meaning adult women. The other was against the older Waterloo girls.
“The girls, they actually did beat the open team that weekend and we pretty much won the first period against the U19AA team from Waterloo,” Marrow said. “But they schooled us in the second period and that was a good learning experience for the girls that year just so that they knew 'OK, that's what it feels like again to lose.' That's a good reminder.”
And that lesson came just at the right time, about three weeks before the Provincials.
“Just enough time to figure out what we needed to fix and ensure everything was in place,” Marrow said.
Such was the depth of the Predators that the opposition squads just couldn’t figure out which players they had to stop in order to beat the locals. The answer really was that you had to stop them all, from the goaltenders out. That was especially true at the Nationals in Regina that season.
“They said that they knew that when we came into the tournament that we were going to be the team to beat,” Marrow recalled. “A lot of times teams from different provinces don't see each other that much so they kind of scout each other through other teams or statistics off of tournament websites. They had a really hard time figuring out who is the player to cover.
It might also have been Marrow’s easiest year coaching wise. That tends to be the case when a team does that much winning.
“I think my job was mostly about managing expectations that year,” Marrow said. “There are going to be rough patches here and there and it's just knowing when they're coming or when they're possible and then just sort of smoothing them over. We knew we had something and we knew deep down everybody's expectations is to win Nationals because we won the bronze the year before and we won the Provincials the year before as a first-year (U16) team. Naturally, the only thing left is to win the big championship, the Canadians. We never once put it on the kids that we are expecting you to win the Canadians because that would've been really unfair.”
But Marrow does have one regret about Wednesday’s dinner as he’ll be the team’s lone representative at the head table while the rest of the squad will be at a table or two on the floor and all are expected to be in attendance.
“It will be incredible (to see them) and to see some of the parents as well,” he said. “I have to sit up at the head table as one of the recipients, but honestly I'd kind of like to sit with all the team.”
Players on the team were Selena Case, Mariah Coverdale, Emma Eccles, Samantha Gorgi, Janna Griffioen, Kelsey Hamilton, Katrina Hart, Madison Jarvis, Neely Jarvis, Anna Lawrence, Gillian Marrow, Madison Seabrooke, Nicole Shaw, Stacey Warner and Rose Williams. Joining Todd Marrow on the coaching staff were Dave Eccles, Karen Lawrence, Lori Seabrooke, Gary Shaw and Arlene Warner.
Others members of the Hall’s class of 2020 are standardbred horse trainer and driver Ben Wallace, hockey players Paul Brydges and Brad Pirie and sports photojournalist Rob Massey.