The Barrie Jr. Sharks had a lot to celebrate last night in their final home game of the regular season and hope there's more to come in the Provincial Women's Hockey League (PWHL) playoffs.
The Sharks beat rival Etobicoke Dolphins, 4-3, in a thrilling game at East Bayfield Community Centre on Saturday.
Goal scorers for the Sharks were Ireland McCloskey, Alex Dusome, Aleiyah Sutton, and Taylor Battaglia with the game-winner.
The Sharks have one game left, which takes place today at Leaside against the Wildcats.
Barrie needs to win that game and hope that Oakville and Kingston lose their games, also on Sunday, to make it to the playoffs.
If they don’t win, they will head to the 'B' Tier playoffs.
A big part of the focus on Saturday, though, was the 11 players who will be graduating from the organization after the season is over.
Abigail Robinson, Rory Edwards, Kali Foerster, Julia Koski, Sydney White, McCloskey, Lilo Emerson, Julia Mumford, Battaglia, Taryn Morris, and Sharks captain Eden Dusome are all off to life after the Sharks.
Dusome, who entered the organization in 2016 as an atom player, says she has loved being a Sharks player the last few years.
“I’ve been with the same (2005 birth year) group for years. We’ve been playing so long together and it's amazing,” Dusome said. “We’re such a tight-knit group and it has been, so much fun I will miss that.”
Dusome, who hails from Midland, says the whole area is great for being a hockey player, but most roads lead to Barrie.
“Everything comes this way. Midland is nice, but in order to play a higher level of hockey, you have to come to Barrie," she said, "so a lot of great players in this area come here. Last year, we had a girl from Kapuskasing, so the Sharks draw in from all over here and farther north.”
Dusome will head to Toronto Metropolitan University after this season where she will not only play hockey but also study criminology.
Sydney White is another graduating player and her family was out in force on Saturday to cheer her on at home.
Her mother, Krista, said her daughter has been playing since she was four years old and being a Barrie girl has played in the city the whole time.
Krista said it has been great seeing the rise in the women’s game.
“It's incredible, actually, to see all the people who come out to cheer. It wasn’t always like this at all, so it's really nice,” said the proud mom.
Krista said she has enjoyed the many car rides and early practices as she watched Sydney grow into a graduating hockey player.
“It's been very special. There are lots of memories and the community that has been built is great,” she said. “The growth of the organization is inspirational and she and I have had lots of experiences together that will be cherished.”
Prior to the game, Sharks head coach Duane Eldridge said he was really proud of his team and how they’ve played so far this season.
“I’ve been able to watch a lot of them from the time they were six and seven years old, so to see them get to this point is very exciting,” he said. “You know how hard they have worked for it, the sacrifices they’ve made over the years and you can’t wait to see what their next step in the game and in life is.”
Eldridge knows his squad is in tough every year as they face teams from the Toronto area, which draw players from a bigger pool, but he's confident the local program is doing what it needs to compete.
“We compete by getting the most of our team and the effort they put forth," he said. "If you look at all the games, even if we lose, they’re always close. We can compete with those teams, they just actually have maybe one extra player who can make that one more shot and finish where we just may struggle to do so at times.
“But our players compete harder than any I’ve seen and our current executive has done a fantastic job promoting the game and creating a buzz around the area," Eldridge added.
The Sharks play in Leaside today at 3:30 p.m. The game can be seen on the Sharks YouTube channel by clicking here.