It was a question of which team had the right amount of finesse in the neutral zone Jan. 17.
For North Toronto, in pursuit of a Tier 1 girls division title, overpowering their rivals Northern was crucial in garnering them South Region honours.
Winning 3-1, the Norsemen were led by the on-ice prowess of Danell Im. They proved to fight hard in the corners and force turnovers in the neutral zone.
Coach Joel Gardner commended his charges for their physical spirit.
“I think we got most of the loose pucks,” he said. “We were the first there especially when we dumped the puck in.
“We’ve got lots of players who really see openings and see plays developing.”
Netting the first marker for the Norsemen was Im, who got in alone on Red Knights goalie Victoria Saunders, and wired it over her blocker side.
Not five minutes later, the Red Knights would be forced to kill off Devin Moir’s high sticking penalty. However, North Toronto would add an infraction with Tara McCann’s tripping penalty at the end of the first.
Starting the second a man down was no handicap as the Norsemen shut the door on Northern’s powerplay thanks to netminder Brittney Hartwick.
With 4:12 left on the clock, North Toronto’s Samantha Pui would score the eventual game winner via Kaitlyn Lewy.
Though his charges were down two, Northern coach Frank De Leo never saw his troupe relent.
“We didn’t quit today which is good,” he said, adding two key players were missing from the lineup.
In order to get his blueline comfortable, he kept two attackers close to North Toronto’s Im.
“I told them to be more aggressive in the neutral zone to read their passes better,” he said. “North Toronto was making cross-ice passes. We had to anticipate better.”
The added pressure on the Norsemen’s forward went unnoticed, however.
“They would put two people on her, but (Im) would still distribute the puck,” Gardner said. “She cycled really well. She turned around behind and used the forecheck.”
Adding to the Red Knights presence along the boards was Ariel Silverstein. Although she sat in the box on two penalties, De Leo appreciated her toughness.
“She had her best game of the year,” he said. “She got the penalties there but she played a physical game — I like it.”
In the third, Northern would finally find twine after the Norsemen’s final marker on the powerplay.
Down 3-0, they replied immediately after a power play goal with Alex Rodriguez’s shot being fed from linemates Emma Meyboom and Moir.
Next on the agenda for the Norsemen was Etobicoke Jan. 25, but don’t rule out a rematch of the classic midtown rivalry.
“Hopefully we’ll get our players back and finish off the season on a high note and make the playoffs,” De Leo said. “I think there’s potential to see North Toronto later on in the season.”