Friday, February 16, 2007

A few Dawson stories...

... As you might know, I have been following the Dawson Blues this season. My teacher - it's for a sportswriting class - said he would create a website where we could post our stories. It hasn't happened.

So here are 3 recent feature-ish stories. I think they're interesting... so they might interest you too!

Just as a bit of background, Dawson is the school where shootings occurred earlier this year. And the women's hockey team is undefeated with 5 games left in the season. 2 years ago, they were in the last few teams.


Women’s Hockey

Dawson Blues still unbeaten with 6 games left

By Naila Jinnah

The Dawson Blues' 7-2 win over the John Abbott Islanders this weekend brought their record to an impressive 21-0. With only six games left in the regular season, the Dawson women’s hockey team is on the road to an undefeated season.

But the team’s perfect record does not equal perfect play. The Blues are having trouble focusing on their game, especially when they are not facing their closest rivals, the St-Jerôme Cheminots.

“They shouldn’t be paying attention to who they’re playing,” said Blues coach Scott Lambton. “They should be paying attention to how they want to play. Unfortunately, today it didn’t work.”

Today wasn’t one of our better games and I think that has to do with a lack of focus on the game,” said second-year player Mallory Lawton. “When we play against St-Jerôme, we’re focused for like 2 weeks. I think that we have to stay focused for every game and not just specific ones.”

Lawton is one of eight players who were also on the Blues’ roster last season, when Dawson finished second in the league with a record of 23-4. St-Jerôme was first with a perfect 27-0 record.

This season’s role reversal is a source of pride for team, and testament to their talent.

“I just think we did a really good job with the recruiting,” said Blues’ head coach Scott Lambton. “A lot of very good hockey players came to our team this year.”

The Blues have ten new girls on the roster, five of which came from the Quebec Avalanche, an elite women’s hockey team that trains players to play in the Women’s National Hockey League.

It was luck, while tragic, that brought the girls together at the beginning of the season. The Dawson shootings forced the cancellation of the first game of the season, originally scheduled for the following Sunday.

“I think it played a big part in the chemistry of the team,” Lambton said. “They have really come together from such a tragedy. They bonded very quickly.”

The pressure of winning has only strengthened that bond, while the leadership of veterans like Lawton has given the team the push they’ve need a lot in recent games to regain their focus.

“You try to take each period at a time,” Lawton said. “You do good things (on the ice) and when a player doesn’t work you tap them on the back, and you keep (the game) going.”

“You’ve got to stay positive. If you go into it negative, and you say ‘We can’t do this’, automatically you’re done.”

Coach Lambton does not think it’s a fear of losing that’s causing his team to slack off in so-called easy games.

“It’s just giving a consistent effort,” he said. “Nothing’s going to come easy, and there are going to be some games where things aren’t working in terms of passing and stuff, but what should be there each and every game is your effort.”

“The last game against St-Jerome was a good wakeup call,” Lambton said, “because I think we have been getting overconfident.”

Lambton wants his team to concentrate on refining its play rather than focusing on its 21-0 record. By looking at the individual game statistics and holding practices full of skill development, he hopes the Blues will step up their game in time for the playoffs.

“I want them to take more risks,” he said when asked if the team should keep its play simple. “I want them to be really aggressive, and I want them to be really creative. And just always remember to switch it up. Risks are good, you learn from risks.”

But what about the risk of losing?

“I think you have to think that, you have to,” said Lawton. “You can’t go into every game thinking we’re going to kill this team. If you’re not having a good game, you start to panic. We feel like we have to keep going with our streak, and you have to get it in your head that you can lose.”

“You never know what can happen, and you got to be ready for it,” she said.

The last six games of the regular season will be challenging for the Blues. With no more match-ups against St-Jerôme, the team will have to find a different form of motivation. There’s no question that Dawson is a talented team, but a lack of focus and effort could be the weakness its opponents are banking on to serve the Blues their first loss of the season.

The Dawson Blues next take the ice against the Lévis-Lauzon Faucons at the Ed Meagher Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 2:20 pm.


Women’s hockey

Dawson shootings bring motivation, chemistry to Blues

Now 22-0, only 5 games left for undefeated season

By Naila Jinnah

With five games left in the regular season, the Dawson women’s hockey team are on the road for an undefeated season. The Blues brought their season record to an impressive 22-0 after beating the Lévis-Lauzon Faucons by a score of 4-1 on Sunday.

No one could have predicted that such a young team in a budding program would have such a strong season. Then again, no one could have known that Dawson College would be the target of a killer’s wrath.

“I think it played a big part in the chemistry of the team,” said Blues’ head coach Scott Lambton. “They have really come together from such a tragedy. They bonded very quickly.”

The Sept. 13, 2006 shootings made Dawson a media favourite, so it comes as no surprise that the women’s hockey team’s success has been covered in many of the local media. Although no one on the team knew her personally, the death of Anastasia De Sousa had an untold impact on them. The Blues were scheduled to start the season on the Sunday following the attacks, but out of respect, the game was cancelled.

“Yes, we’re playing for Dawson, but we’re also playing for her,” said assistant captain Ann-Sophie Bettez. “Even though she was no one at the beginning and now she’s known by everyone, we have to play for her in a way.”

Each team member wears a black band on her left arm to honour the memory of their schoolmate. They have even donated the proceeds of the admission to some of their games to the Anastasia De Sousa fund.

“When you go out there you play for your school and you represent them,” said second-year player Mallory Lawton. “Especially now, because it’s a school that has struggled a bit.”

It is not only the school that has suffered, but the women’s hockey program. The Blues might have finished second in the regular season rankings in 2005-2006, but for seasons before that, they were a bottom three team.

Now, they outrank the St-Jerôme Cheminots, their closest rivals, in the rankings, in a reversal of fortunes. Last season, the Cheminots finished first with an undefeated season. With the Blues well on their way to accomplishing this same feat, the sentiment around the locker room is one of pride and fulfillment.

“I think it’s a feeling you can’t describe,” said Lawton, “because no one ever thought this program would ever beat St-Jerome and the fact that we’ve done it now… It’s an incredible feeling and I’m proud, to be really honest, to be a part of it.”

“It’s very satisfying!” said coach Lambton. “We’ve put so much work in over the past four years. It’s come a lot quicker than we thought it would but it’s extremely satisfying because you know all the work that you’re putting in is paying off.”

The Dawson shootings might have brought the team together faster and more completely than expected, but no one is disputing the players’ skill, determination, and hard work ethic.

“It’s really good, considering what Dawson has been,” said Bettez. I think that we have the team to (go undefeated), and it just makes me feel good and want to win each game.”

The current roster, with ten veterans and eight rookies, knows that their success is partly due to the chemistry generated by the shootings. But it is the thought of all the girls who went through a mediocre program in the past that is motivating the team to go all the way.

“I wish I could share it with all the girls who have gone before us,” said Lawton. “This program wouldn’t be what it is right now if it hadn’t been for those teams that went 1-27, or 0-28.”

“When we go out there, part of us plays for them because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have this opportunity. We wouldn’t be where we are now.”

So while the Blues may be playing to honour the memory of their slain classmate, they are also playing for themselves, and there is no greater motivator than that.

The Dawson Blues next take on the Lionel-Groulx Nordiques on Feb 18, 2007 at 11:50 at the Ed Meagher Arena.


Dawson Blues Women’s Hockey gets a boost

Two members of the Blues family honoured

By Naila Jinnah

The Dawson Blues women’s hockey program received an unexpected bit of exposure this week, and not because the team is five games away from an undefeated season.

The Montreal Canadiens, in association with Dawson College, announced a $3000 bursary program to be awarded annually to a graduating Blues player pursuing their academic and hockey careers in university.

“The inspiration for this award was the tragedy of September 13 and our will, shared by Dawson, to promote women’s sports and academic performance,” said Canadiens’ president Pierre Boivin.

The criteria for handing out the Catherine Ward Women’s Hockey Scholarship have not yet been determined, but Blues’ coach Scott Lambton said there was no hesitation in naming the scholarship after his former defenseman.

“She just embodies everything that we want to encourage in terms of athletics, and in terms of academics,” he said. “She’s an incredible hockey player. I don’t think there’s anybody in Canada that can do what she can do.”

Ward, who is credited for turning around the Dawson women’s hockey program over the past three years, left quite an impression on former teammate Mallory Lawton.

“Catherine is just an absolute special player,” she said. “There are times where she would do these plays, and I wish I could just watch them over and over because they were really that amazing.”

“You strive to be like her,” Lawton said. “You see her do moves and you try to practice them in practice to be just like Cat Ward. She’s so much fun to just watch, and she was fun to play with even more.”

The Blues found out about the Catherine Ward scholarship at practice last Thursday, but the official announcement was made during the Canadiens’ game at the Bell Center on Tuesday.

“Before the game, we sold tickets for the Montreal Canadiens Children Foundation,” said Lawton. “It was really successful, we sold all 3000 tickets.”

“It was just a wonderful experience to be in the press room, with Catherine, and her parents,” Lawton said. “It was a proud moment for all of us, even the girls who didn’t play with her last year. You could see how proud they were to have that jersey on.”

Blues assistant captain Ann-Sophie Bettez has known Ward on and off the ice since high school. She called her friend to congratulate her, but Bettez also had her own reason to celebrate, as she was honoured with the Medaille d’Or for 2006-2007, an award Ward was awarded last year.

“I was just surprised to be nominated for it, because I was not expecting that,” said Bettez.” I was so grateful just to be rewarded because I’ve worked so hard. I think that it felt good to be rewarded for it.”

The Medialle d’Or is awarded based on athletic and academic performance, something Bettez had trouble with last year.

“She’s the best pure skater in our league, in terms of technique and in terms of speed,” said coach Lambton. “So she combined hockey with good grades, which is really nice, because last year she wasn’t pulling those grades.”

The award makes Bettez a member of an exclusive club that include former Habs legends Maurice Richard, Réjean Houle, and Claude Mouton.

And Catherine Ward.


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