By Sara Minden, CWHL
It was a big weekend for the CWHL with wins by four teams as well as making history. Sommer West is the first player to step off the ice and behind the bench as a head coach in the CWHL. The Toronto Furies welcome both her and assistant coach Ashley Stephenson, another former CWHL player.
Sommer?۪s experience as a player has helped her adapt to the different challenges as a coach. ???There was a little bit of pressure, but after 20 years in this league you learn to handle those pressures. I use my resources, I don?۪t claim to know everything, and no one does. That?۪s the great thing about this game, you can learn things all the time and I am open and willing to learn.? Her players obviously support her and are happy to be a part of this historic event. ???Instantly she commands respect,? says Sami Jo Small, CWHL and National level veteran goaltender, ???I?۪m really excited to be a part of this squad.?
Ashley believes in the strength of their team and the skill of their coaching as a unit, ???There are always open lines of communication and we have a great relationship. I always respected her as a player, she knows the game and she will do everything she can to be successful.? Their partnership is comfortable and proven effective after their 4-3 win in OT against Brampton, with an impressive 3 goal performance from rookie Natalie Spooner.
Despite Toronto?۪s optimism, Brampton learned their lesson after allowing 3 shorthanded goals on Saturday night, coming back to win 4-3 in OT on Sunday on a power play goal by the night?۪s first star, Gillian Apps. ???We have to outwork every team, that?۪s the bottom line,? says third star and captain Jayna Hefford with 1 goal and an assist on Apps?۪ game winner. Both players look forward to working on their systems and taking the season one game at a time. The Furies?۪ Wakefield is the second star of the night, contributing 2 goals, she is looking forward to the team becoming more comfortable with each other and improving over the season.
Both Brampton and Toronto will look ahead to their next games; the Furies facing off against first place Boston and Brampton travelling to Calgary for Alberta?۪s first game of the year.