Five Antigonish products are key contributors to the top team in the Nova Scotia Female Midget ‘AAA’ Hockey League.
Landyn Pitts and Tori MacPherson are in their second seasons with the Northern Subway Selects, while Sara Stewart, Megan Smith and Mairead MacPherson are rookies with the program.
“Putting hockey aside, they are great people,” Selects’ head coach Craig Clarke said.
“They and their families are incredible. And, for people who know me, I don’t say something like that lightly.”
He added “it is not an accident” these players come from great families.
Clarke said the quintet “bring it” every time they are on the ice.
Sara, Landyn and Tori, by leaps and bounds, form the top scoring line in the league.
“They are able to put teams in the blender,” Clarke said, with a laugh, in describing their abilities.
Sara leads the loop in both goals (25) and points (40), while Landyn, with 30, and MacPherson (26), are second and third, respectively, in scoring.
Clarke said a common thread that makes the trio so special is their unselfishness.
“They really excel,” he added of the trio’s puck-sharing abilities.
Clarke noted no matter how skilled players are, if they are selfish on the ice, their potency can be negated.
“They don’t have that problem,” he said.
Sara echoed that selflessness theme.
“We move the puck really well and pass a lot,” she said, in offering reasons for the line’s success.
Tori added, “we are always trying to get better.”
“I think we have great chemistry,” Landyn noted.
Clarke, in expanding on what the three bring to the table as individuals, said Tori has “steadily improved.”
“She is one of the top handfuls of skaters in the league, no question,” he added, noting he has coached her since peewee.
He also described her as soft-spoken and unselfish.
Saying Landyn has most often received attention for her offensive abilities, which he called “deserved,” Clarke said she warrants credit for being a “classic 200-foot player.”
“She is so responsible; she doesn’t sacrifice anything to do things offensively,” he added.
Clarke said Sara possesses “an elite-level shot,” which pairs greatly with her ability as a “tremendous puck mover.”
“Sara is a rookie and she is running away with the scoring race,” he noted.
Calling her a “great skater with a strong skill set,” the head coach praised Megan for her versatility.
“I can put hey anywhere on the ice and she knows what she has to do,” Clarke said, adding she “keeps getting better.”
“She has a really high hockey IQ,” he noted.
“You may get around her, but she is going to take a chunk out of you."
-Craig Clarke on Mairead MacPherson
Clarke described Mairead as a “classic strong, steady and powerful stay-at-home ‘D.’”
“She fits that mould perfectly,” he said, adding the defender is a “tough person.”
“You may get around her, but she is going to take a chunk out of you,” Clarke quipped.
He noted her smile and warmth, off the ice, belies her on-ice demeanour.
“Mairead is ferocious,” Clarke said.
‘Push each other’
The players agreed it is great to be part of a contingent from Antigonish. They are able to, amongst other things, travel together to practices in New Glasgow at the Selects’ home rink, the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
“We really push each other,” Stewart said.
The group have a lot in common, including getting their start with the Antigonish Minor Hockey Association (AMHA).
And, for them, the sport is very much a family tradition.
Mairead remembered going to the rink for as long as she can remember to watch her older brother, Callum, who is a members of the Pictou County Weeks Crushers of the Maritime Hockey League (MHL).
“I have always loved it,” she said.
And, of course, there is the family element for Sara and Megan, whose families are not only involved in playing, but also coaching.
“And Antigonish is a hockey town,” Megan noted.
Tori said she is “really thankful” for what the sport has given her.
“I have made so many great friendships,” she added.
As of press time, the Selects continued to lead their league with a perfect 17-0 mark.
Pitts said the Selects are focussed on winning provincial and Atlantic championships, while earning a spot in the 2020 Esso Cup – Canada’s National Female Midget Championship – which will take place in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
“We have a pretty special group of players,” Clarke said.