The teammates from Elgin County help Bluewater win the U18A title
April 19, 2023
By Rob J. Ross
Goalie Mya Hepburn and forward Rechelle Kuiper are Ontario Women's Hockey Association provincial champions.
The teammates from Elgin County won U18A gold with the Bluewater Hawks, defeating the North Halton Twisters, 3-1, in the final April 16 in Etobicoke.
"It was an amazing experience and a great way to end my U18 season," said Kuiper, the Hawks' captain. "Everyone played their best all weekend and it really paid off. Scoring in the final just topped it all."
With the Hawks leading 2-1, after two periods, Kuiper added insurance in the third period and the countdown was on.
"I was so nervous at the end because we had gotten a penalty in the last two minutes and even though we were up by two, I still couldn’t calm my nerves," Hepburn said. "I was also very sad for the year to end. It's such an amazing team and we were all super grateful for the win."
Bluewater advanced from pool play with two wins and a tie, before defeating Saugeen-Maitland, 1-0, in overtime in the quarterfinals and Whitby, 2-1, in the semifinals.
"What stood out about our team, was our close relations on and off the ice really brought us together to work well together and play as a team not as individuals," Kuiper said. "Team strengths when in a tournament like we were with such high level teams, our quick puck movement along with just determination to want it more than the other teams is what I think led to the gold."
Bluewater finished with a 47-7-10 overall record, winning four tournaments, including OWHA gold along the way. The Hawks scored 171 goals and allowed 52.
"I've only been to provincials a few times and this was the year that I knew we were going to go far," Hepburn said. "The drive and effort was very impressive all weekend. You could tell that every girl and all of the coaching staff was set in winning. Even from the beginning of the season."
A student at Parkside Collegiate, Hepburn lives just outside of St. Thomas, making a long commute to Strathroy for Hawks' practices and home games. Same for Kuiper who lives on a a farm near Rodney.
"It takes almost 45 minutes to get to practice," Hepburn said. "Sometimes when we have a late night and I know I'll have a busy day, I have to remind myself of the importance of putting in the work and giving 100 per cent everyday."
Hepburn had three shutouts at provincials.
"The gold feels amazing," Hepburn said. "I am really proud of myself for getting shutouts in all three of the games I played this weekend. It feels great to go no goals against in any tournament especially provincials."
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