EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — As Saturday’s schedule wrapped up, the Finger Traps knew they had lived to play another day.
Competing in their first USA Hockey/Labatt Blue Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, the team featuring players from surrounding areas of Boston was doing well with a 3-0 record. The Finger Traps had advanced to the playoffs in the Women’s Beginners Division.
“I thought we were going to struggle a lot more,” team member Keri Capobianco said. “The nets are different, too. We thought they were going to be the wooden ones where you just kind of have to get the puck in the hole of the wooden things. These nets are a little bit easier than that, too. I just had no idea what to expect.”
Teammate Stacey Huntoon was nervous going into the tournament. With each win, those nerves disappeared, and she became pleasantly surprised by how well the team was playing.
“We didn’t know what to expect, none of us had really played pond hockey,” Huntoon said. “We knew it was going to be a smaller surface and were trying to figure out how we were going to handle it. It’s been good.”
The tournament started and finished on a high note for the Finger Traps. On Championship Sunday, which just happened to be Capobianco’s birthday, the women ended up beating Hell’s Belles 10-3 to win the Women’s Beginners Division title.
It capped off a great weekend, outscoring their opponents 66-18. Huntoon thought the team played so well because of its passing.
“We kind of set up so we don’t have to skate,” she said. “Maybe it’s because we’re old and lazy.”
But winning a game, let alone their division championship, really wasn’t on their minds when they arrived in Eagle River.
“I almost never feel like I need to come out and win anything, especially something I’ve never done before,” said Capobianco, who back home runs the Women’s Hockey League of Boston. “I feel that way about hockey. I am an adult learner, so there’s no ego involved for me. I’m just playing to have fun.”
What also surprised the women is that the seven players on the team had never played together all at once. Some play on different teams in the same league, but none together.
“Yet we seem to be gelling on the ice and finding each other pretty easily,” Huntoon said.
The first game in the tournament was a feeling out process. The women, who range in age from 26-57, had to figure out their best approach offensively and defensively. Adjusting to the ice conditions with the uneven surface was a big focus.
“We definitely learned that staying in a triangle is the best situation as opposed to collapsing down like you would in a regular game,” Huntoon said.
With the 4-on-4 format, teams have differing viewpoints on if to use a goalie or not.
“I think it’s more fun to go without a goalie,” Capobianco said. “I like to move the puck, so it’s easier. On this ice, it’s easier not to skate as much if you move the puck. The puck’s going to move faster than we do.”
The women liked being outside on Dollar Lake and experiencing the unique culture of the tournament.
“It’s different. For us, it’s different hockey,” Capobianco said. “People are friendly, really friendly. There hasn’t been a sour person here, so that’s been great. The best part really, I think, is the people.”
Huntoon agreed with her teammate.
“Everybody’s just so friendly and you’re having a good time,” Huntoon said. “Competition’s there, but it’s not about winning or losing, it’s just about having a good time.”
Two-thirds of the way through the tournament, players were already talking about making the journey to northern Wisconsin an annual event.
“I would absolutely come back,” Capobianco said. “It’s been so much fun. The cold isn’t nearly what I thought. I thought it was going to be very cold, and I actually thought I was going to whine all weekend. But I haven’t, I’ve had so much fun.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.