By Sam Laskaris
Deidre Debassige’s plan went slightly off course.
But she still is thrilled with how her 2015-16 hockey season has turned out. And there’s a chance it could get much better.
The 19-year-old Ojibwe, who is from the M’Chigeeng First Nation, is a first-year Psychology student at Brock University in St. Catharines. She had originally hoped to crack the roster of the Brock women’s team this season.
But after being the final cut, the coaching staff from the university squad suggested to Debassige to hone her skills locally for a year with a club team, the St. Catharines Brock Jr. Badgers.
Debassige and her Jr. Badgers teammates ended up winning a provincial crown on Sunday. They took top honours in the Intermediate A category at the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) championships.
The Jr. Badgers won all five of their contests at the provincials, which were held in Etobicoke. They edged the Etobicoke Dolphins 2-1 in the championship final.
“It was completely unexpected,” Debassige said of her stint with the Jr. Badgers. “I didn’t know anything about them until the university team introduced me to them. But I kind of like the way it turned out.”
For Debassige, this actually marked the third consecutive year she’s been a member of an OWHA championship squad. During each of the past two years she was on the winning Sudbury Lady Wolves’ Midget AA team.
“It’s really overwhelming,” she said. “I didn’t expect to have this success after I left Sudbury.”
Debassige and her Sudbury teammates also won a gold medal at their national Midget tournament last year. There is no Canadian championship, however, for those at the Intermediate level.
Debassige, who plays defence, had an assist in Sunday’s gold-medal match. She also had three other assists in the tournament.
“I wasn’t expecting our team to be that successful,” she said. “But we ended up winning all of the tournaments we entered.”
Besides the provincial tourney, the Jr. Badgers also entered and won events in Cambridge and Kitchener. And they also won the gold medal at a tournament they hosted.
The Intermediate level is for those aged 18-21. Debassige will soon have to decide whether to return to the Jr. Badgers for the 2016-17 campaign or whether to try out again for the Brock university squad.
Before she has to make the choice, however, Debassige still has some hockey left to play this season.
Though they won the provincial title, the Jr. Badgers are still alive in their own playoff for the Lower Lakes Female Hockey League. They have advanced to the league’s Final Four tournament, scheduled for Apr. 1-3 in Toronto.
And then after that Debassige will gear up for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC), set for May 2-7 in Mississauga. This will mark the fourth consecutive year that Debassige will be on the Ontario girls’ squad at the NAHC.
Team Ontario won silver medals in each of the past two national tournaments.
“I saw the roster and I think we look pretty good,” Debassige said. “We have a lot of new faces but I know a lot of those players and I think we’re going to do really well this year. We will be going for the gold.”