The Lakehead University women's hockey team in Thunder Bay, Ont., hope their winning ways last a few more games.
They are the first Canadian club to compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, and now in their very first season they have earned top billing heading into the Division 2 national championships.
"It's a great feeling," said head coach Dan Calvert of his number-one ranked Thunderwolves, who carry a record of 15 wins and only three losses into this final tournament of the year.
"The opportunity for them to go to this level and compete for a national championship, they're really excited." The team is looking good and since they'll be playing teams with a lower ranking, if they stick to their own game plan, "we'll be fine, we should advance," Calvert said.
The secret to the team's success this year lies in the relationships forged through this pioneering experience, he believes.
"The team is really starting to pull together now — you can see it in the last half of the year and that bonding, you can see it in their play, on an off the ice."
'Stepping stone' for women's hockey
In fact, the association is so impressed by the addition of the Thunderwolves they are hoping to include six more Canadian teams, beginning with a club from Bishop's University in Quebec, and another from Soo College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Organizers have also invited the National Hockey League brass to come watch some of the championship tournament games, an opportunity not lost on the Thunderwolves players.
"They are so excited about that, just the recognition that they'll get from this, and the fact this event is another stepping stone in the development of the women's program in North America," said Calvert.
The tournament, which begins March 12, is a 12-team, pool-play format with the top team from each three-team pool advancing to the single elimination semi-finals.
The tournament schedule has the Lakehead Thunderwolves playing the Aquinas College Saints from Michigan in their opening game Thursday, March 16 at 6 p.m. (CST). They will then take on the Navy Academy on Friday, March 17 at 6 PM CST to conclude pool play.
The puck drops on the championship game on Sunday, March 19 at 12:30 p.m.