Setting the Standard with a Season to Remember, News (Central York Girls Hockey Association)

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Setting the Standard with a Season to Remember
Submitted By Admin on Mon 03 21, 22
The Story of our 2022 Central York Junior Panthers

The 2022 Junior Panthers have finished the regular season with the best record in their program’s history at 23-5-1, which places them 2nd in the Central East Division with 48 points, behind only the National #2 ranked Durham West Jr Lightning. 

Our Junior Panthers were the only team to defeat Durham West with an exciting OT victory back in February, and finished the season series 1-3-0-1 with that same division arch rival.

The Stoney Creek Showcase that takes place every fall is one of the premier events for the high-performance program, and particularly for the U22 Elite Level players aspiring to play university/college-level hockey. The 2022 event saw the Junior Panthers put up their best run ever, with an impressive 4-1 record, and catching the attention of the top teams in the province.

The Junior Panthers regular season success has qualified them for the OWHL Gold Championship Weekend (March 24-26) as well as the OWHA Provincial Championships (April 8-10), both which will take place in the GTA. This is the first time ever that the Junior Panthers have achieved this level of playoff status, with an opportunity to compete for both a league and provincial title. Of the 26 Junior teams within the OWHL, our Panthers finished the regular season 3rd in goals scored, with 100, along with an impressive 3.3 goals for and 1.5 goals against per game.

On a National level, Junior Panthers ranked as high as #9 (out of 32 teams) which is the highest ranking ever achieved by this program, and they will look to further elevate their ranking with a solid playoff performance over the next month. The growth and advancement of the Panthers-High-Performance (PHP) Program has also been reflected by the success of our other AA teams, including the U18AA team finishing atop their division with a 17-2-5 record and a playoff and provincials berth.

In addition to their on-ice success, our Junior Panthers have also been very active in supporting the CYGHA and the broader Central York community. This is something that really sets them and this organization apart from other Junior teams, and is a reflection on their leadership and willingness to give back. The Junior Panthers were the top fundraising team for the “She Shoots She Saves” program which helps purchase life-saving AED devices for parks and outdoor arenas in our local communities. The team also led an initiative during the winter holiday season whereby they collected hoodies and jackets for homeless youth across York Region in support of the 360Kids organization. They also purchased and delivered gifts to other girls living at Hope House (a shelter for young female victims of human trafficking); and participated in the CYGHA hockey equipment drive for indigenous youth – and that is just a small snapshot!

In addition to all of their volunteering outside the rink, our Junior Panthers have also been very involved with supporting, coaching, and mentoring our younger Panther teams - whether helping on the bench during games, assisting on the ice during practices, welcoming the younger girls into their Junior Panther Dressing Room, or inviting them to participate in Junior pre-game ceremonies.  The strong connections and bonds they have made with the younger players is highly visible and evidenced by the number of young fans attending Junior Panther games on a regular basis, sporting their Panther jerseys and showing their Panther Pride.

This feeling of “family and community” was further reinforced most recently when members of the Junior Panthers showed up on a Friday night to surprise and support our U11AA Team at their final regular season game. The U11AA team won their final game, achieving a 1st-place division finish with a 15-3-2 record. Junior Panther Captain Alexa Giantsopoulos has been a volunteer coach with the U11AA team throughout the 2022 season.  This team's success is indicative of the Panther development process and mentorship from Alexa and other Junior Panthers.  This is another example of how unique and special this group has been, and the legacy they are leaving for other Panther teams to strive for. We all feel very proud to be a part of it.

According to our CYGHA President (and Junior Panthers Assistant Coach), Mark Dubeau:
“We are just starting to see how our community-first philosophy is paying dividends on and off the ice. From recreational adults and youth players through to competitive and high-performance athletes, every Panther takes part in endeavours that benefit our local communities; and this all starts with the Panther Spirit that has been fostered by the Junior Panthers. Every home game is now attended by more fans than we’ve ever seen! Young players and their families are getting to know their Junior Panthers personally, communicate with and follow them through social media, and are learning what it takes to be successful both on and off the ice through their mentorship. Our Junior Panthers are amazing examples of character, resilience and determination.  The best is yet to come!”

A special thanks to the Junior Panthers Team Staff: Head Coach Steve Dempsey; Assistant Coaches Jamie Joslin Dailey, Brianna Rice & Mark Dubeau; Goalie Coach Alex Copley; Trainers Tamara Sirmakesyan & Kristen Winter, and Co-Managers Tammy McKnight & Lisa Lunney. With Steve and Mark also assuming broader roles/responsibilities with the CYGHA, they have really helped to set a new standard for the Central York High-Performance Program going forward, and for other organizations to emulate. They’ve shown that there are more important things for organizations and teams to focus on than just winning hockey games, but while doing so, they’ve also proven that you can do both. Our 2022 Junior Panthers are the shining example of how to succeed both on and off the ice! The culture that has been established is one that any parent/player would appreciate, and one that encompasses the values seen in many successful organizations: “Working in Teams”, “Trusting & Respecting Each Other”, “Promoting Equality & Diversity” & “Competing Intensely to Win”.

Congratulations to all our Junior Panther players for such an amazing season (on so many different fronts) and a special call-out to our graduating players (and families) - #2 Ahayla Julien-Medeiros, #8 Mackenzie Keenan, #22 Lauren McEachen, #24 Alexa Giantsopoulos, #27 Kaite McKnight, #49 Rebecca Morrison, #77 Brianne Winter, #95 Zoe Frantz, #99 Gaby Gareau - THANK YOU for your commitment to representing the Panther organization in such a positive way, for living and role-modelling the Panther values, and for setting the stage as examples for other young Panther players to follow.

Best of luck to our Junior Panthers (and to all our Panthers teams) in their upcoming playoffs and/or year-end tournaments, and thanks to everyone for continuing to represent the CYGHA with the utmost of class and respect.

GO PANTHERS GO!!!

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