This is the second in our three-part series previewing the 2022-23 season for the Lakers and follows the chain of success linked between the North Bay Ice Boltz and the Nipissing Lakers women’s hockey team.
The Nipissing Lakers women’s handbags team rose to new heights during the 2021-22 season, becoming the first team in the school’s history to compete at a U-Sports National Championship event. The Lakers went all the way to the gold medal game before bowing out to the Concordia Stingers.
With a silver honor around their necks and a run to the championship that won’t soon be forgotten, the success of that season can be linked back to the grassroots of girl’s hockey in North Bay.
Part 2: The particular Nipissing Lakers run to the U-Sports final and how the particular Ice Boltz graduates helped the Lakers get there
It’s the farthest any Nipissing Lakers team has ever gone in a single calendar season. The U-Sports National Championship is the goal of every University athlete in Canada, and the Nipissing Lakers women’s hockey team found themselves playing for the national title on March 27.
The team was aided by several home-grown talents in Maria Dominico, Mallory Dominico, Britney Zack plus Madison Desmarie who had come through the North Bay Ice Boltz system before joining the Lakers.
“They knew what that meant to North Bay, ” says Head Coach Darren Turcotte. “When we went to the U-18 nationals with the Ice Boltz (in 2013) and saw the support we got out there, I knew there was a ton of support in North Bay for women’s hockey. ”
That support has transferred into on-ice success.
Maria Dominico is already the school’s leading scorer in terms of points (74) and goals (38) and has three of the top five highest single-season point totals with her best coming in her rookie year in 2017-18, a 26-point campaign in which 15 of those were goals.
Call it fate, or call it destiny, but Dominico was primed to be a star with this team from the very beginning.
“If you look up the picture associated with when they first announced the particular Nipissing Lakers Women’s Hockey Team, there’s a picture of me and [ NU Director of Athletics] Vito Castiglione’s daughter standing there with dance shoes sticks posing for a photo op, ” says Dominico.
In 2019-20 the Nipissing Lakers time of year ended against the York Lions in the second round of the OUA playoffs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire 2020-21 campaign was cancelled, so by the time they hit the ice for the start of the 2021-22 season, it had been 18 long months since the Lakers had played competitive hockey. A 4-0 start to the season was just the tip from the iceberg. Finishing second to the University of Toronto within the East standings and handing the Blues just their second loss of the entire period in the last game of the regular season, the Lakers experienced momentum going their way into the single-game elimination post-season.
After defeating Ryerson [now Toronto Metropolitan University] 3-1 at home in game one, the Lakers then travelled back down south for a rematch against the U associated with T Blues.
The Blues held the 2-1 lead until the final moments of the first period until Jetta Derenoski scored at 18: 37 to tie the game. The fifth-year forward scored again at 9: 39 of the second to give the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish. The win sent them to the McCaw Cup final as well as secured them a spot in the U-Sports Championship final.
“When we beat Toronto, I think that’s the most we’ve ever actually celebrated, ” says Dominico. “Knowing their history, having won the particular McCaw Cup in the past couple of years and always being at the top of the standings – that was one of the best moments of last year. ”
Dominico says the whole playoff run somewhat came as a surprise to the whole team.
“It’s like that saying, ‘It will happen when you least expect it. ’ We were very humble last year as a group and I don’t know how many of us were ever expecting to get to Nationals. Not that we underestimated our ability, it was just the way the growing season was structured, and coming off a big turnover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we just felt very humble throughout the whole thing. ”
Malory Dominico joined her older sister Maria on the La lakers beginning in the 2019-2020 season. Malory showed off some offensive flair of her own, scoring 11 times in the girl rookie season while earning 2020 OUA Rookie of the Year honours.
She says not only is it an honour to play for her hometown team but to be able to represent North Bay on the national stage was something she never imagined she’d get to do.
“It was a really cool experience for us. I know Maria and Madison Desmarais mentioned North These types of and the North Bay Snow Boltz in every interview they did during that week inside Charlottetown, ” she says.
After beating Toronto in the OUA semi-finals, the team dropped the McCaw Cup finals, the very best prize for OUA Women’s Hockey, at home to the Brock Badgers.
“I think celebrating against Toronto might’ve gotten to us a little bit, ” says Dominico. “But our mentality was that all of us still have a chance to prove ourselves on an even bigger stage. ”
Dominico says they had a lot to prove once they got there. “That became our main focus and even before the OUA finals against Brock, Darren said to us, ‘No matter how today’s game goes, I’m proud of you and we’re still winners. ’ I think we ended up celebrating more when we won silver than Concordia did winning gold at nationals. ”
Dominico scored in the semi-final game of the Nationals tournament, a 4-0 win over the particular UNB Reds.
“The fact that we were playing against UNB against Lilly George and Jana Headrick who are also former Glaciers Boltz, it just made for a crazy experience. I didn’t feel like I had my best season overall and so it was great to finally get that big goal in that big game. ”
Another Ice Boltz alumni, Madison Desmarais also scored in the 4-0 win over UNB. She says the overall experience was one she’ll never forget.
“We figured it out at nationals, after not playing that well against Brock in the finals, ” she says.
“It was an awesome experience and our itinerary was pretty tight but we got lots done, had lots of fun and arrived home with a silver medal. ”
Britney Zack emerged through the Ice Boltz system as well and says the support from North Bay was felt the entire time they were in PEI.
“It wasn’t just from our friends and family, it was the entire school of Nipissing University, it was the Ice Boltz, it was the community. We even heard that the Battalion were showing replays and streaming the game during their intermissions, and that was really cool. ”
Zack says the whole week preparing for the U-Sports finals went by quickly.
“We actually had a scare with our bags because we could see them being packed onto another plane before we took off, but it made its way to us, ” the girl says.
“We had a couple of practices prior to the games started and we had a little bit of down time to explore the city, but we’re still students so we still had to be mindful of assignments that were due that week as well. Overall though it was surreal. The particular team had such an adrenaline rush going into each sport, knowing we were just a few wins away from a gold honor with every win. ”
The team captured the particular imagination of the city for that week and the city showed their appreciation with many fans turning up to Memorial Gardens as the Lakers returned home.
Turcotte states, “Coming home after the U-Sports championship, I was just waiting for that experience that the players had been going to get when they obtained off the bus and Northern Bay did not disappoint. ”
Zack agrees. “To see all those fans and all those Ice Boltz players waiting for us to get off the bus when we got back in order to North Bay was crazy. ”
“That was insane. Never thought I was going to see that, ” says Mallory Dominico. “It is a small community but it is really a hockey community. ”
“It was an unreal experience to come home and hear from all the people who were streaming the game and talking to people that I didn’t still realize were interested in handbags before, but they chose to watch us is pretty cool, ” says Desmarais.
Maria Dominico says this is the reward for having a team that is so closely linked to the grassroots organization in the community.
“I made a point to mention in every interview how much I love playing for the hometown and how proud I am as a graduate of the Ice Boltz, ” she states.
“I think of teams in the GTA plus elsewhere around the league and we just don’t see that same kind of support. They don’t have young girls’ hockey organizations who go out and support them and cheer them on at the home games like we do. I think it’s such a benefit of living here that we get that support. ”
In Part Three we’ll preview the Lakers’ upcoming season which gets started on October 21 against the Lions at York College.