Friday, 13 March 2015

The shining Stars of Saskatoon

Nara Elia led the SFMAAAHL in scoring this season.
    So good. So young.
    Nara Elia and Sophia Shirley look like they are ready to play hockey in the university ranks right now. However, two full seasons still have to pass before the two top scores from the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League can jump to the post-season ranks.
    The talented duo are helping lift their hometown Saskatoon Stars to heights the program has never seen.
    The nation got a first glimpse of them on New Year's Day. In the nationally televised female final of the prestigious Mac's Midget Tournament, Elia set up Shirley for three goals as the Stars doubled up the Calgary Fire 4-2. The win completed a 6-0 run for the Stars at the Mac's, which they also won back in 2011.
    In the SFMAAAHL regular season, Elia won the league scoring title piling up 23 goals and 17 assists. Shirley was a second – a point back – with 22 goals and 17 assists. Those accomplishments are amazing as Elia turned 16 in February and Shirley is still 15.
    The large majority of players in the midget AAA are older than them, and yet they can make a lot of those veterans look out of place.
Sophia Shirley was second in SFMAAAHL scoring.
    When they hit the ice on the Stars top line, you notice them pretty fast as they make the puck dance in the offensive zone. The chemistry they have to make plays is inspiring. They are seeing a game that no one else on the sheet of ice they are playing on is seeing.
They play on a team that is deep in talent. To be fair, placing them on the Stars roster might be the equivalent of giving Superman brass knuckles to take out the bad guys. They make their coaches look like better coaches, because they are that good.
    As a result of the superhuman efforts of Elia, who stands 5-foot-7, and Shirley, who stands 5-foot-4, the Stars rocketed to first place in the Saskatchewan league with a 25-3 mark. Add in results from the Mac's and the playoffs, the Stars are an incredible 36-3 overall.
    During semifinal round of the SFMAAAHL playoffs, the Stars dynamic duo has shown they can once again take their game up another level, when the stakes get higher and the competition gets tougher.
    In Game 1 of a best-of-five series against the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats on Tuesday at the Agriplace Arena, Shirley laser beamed the game's first goal top corner on Wildcats goaltender Jasey Book. Book appeared to have a look of disbelief after that rocket beat her.
    After the Wildcats tied the game 1-1 early in the second, Elia got the puck to Shirley down low, and she potted a pretty goal on a deke move to put the Stars up 2-1. The duo teamed up to set up linemate Julia Rongve to put the Stars up 3-1. Brittany Heuchert, a veteran 17-year-old forward, potted the Stars final goal in the third period in the 4-2 victory.
Nara Elia wheels with the puck for the Stars.
     The performance of the Stars two superstars was legit solid. The Wildcats were a respectable 15-11-2 in the regular season and are also a fast skating club. They also had to be a confident team, because they dumped the Stars 5-2 in the final regular season contest for both clubs back on Feb. 22 in Swift Current.
    Elia and Shirley showed they were ready for the challenge. The only downer in Game 1 came from the fact Elia was lost to injury in the third period after being on the receiving end of a head hit from Wildcats forward Chloe Smith, who was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play.
    In Game 2 on Thursday in Swift Current and playing without Elia, the Stars showed their depth pulling out a 3-2 overtime win. Shirley had an assist, but the supporting cast came through. Danielle Nogier and Kianna Dietz scored in regulation, while 17-year-old Courtney Cormack, who recently committed to playing for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's team, potted the overtime winner.
Sophia Shirley battles for a draw for the Stars.
    The Stars will try to close out the Wildcats on Saturday in Saskatoon (2 p.m., Agriplace Arena). Elia likely won't be available for that next title, but her absence just makes her team a little bit more human.
    Shirley and the rest of the Stars have more than enough to finish the job against the Wildcats and earn a berth into the league championship series.
    Before Saskatoon's post-season run ends, Elia will likely return at some point and will once again be teamed with Shirley. With that combo together again, the Stars might be too much for anyone to handle. As it stands right now, few teams have been able to hang with the Stars as it is.

    If you have any comments about this blog, feel free to email them to