Locals chase Cup dream

STEPHEN SWEET - Special to the Examiner

It's a toss-up between Brampton and Toronto to determine who's the closest to having a "home" game in Barrie.

But if you go by local talent, then without question, it's Brampton.

Innisfil's Amber Bowman and Collingwood's Andrea Ironside are members of the Brampton Hockey Club, which opened the Clarkson Cup, presented by Scotiabank, by falling 3-2 to the Toronto Hockey Club.

"We got better and better as the game went on, but we did have a slow start and came up against a hot goaltender," Ironside said.

Sami Jo Small made 53 saves for Toronto, stopping both Ironside and Bowman in a rare loss for Brampton between the two combatants.

"We were a bit laid back, because we knew what to expect from them," said Ironside, whose Brampton club had defeated Toronto in five of their six head-to-head meetings in the regular season.

"They came out harder than we thought and caught us on our heels."

The pair of Brampton skaters are hoping for a better fate for the rest of the weekend while getting an opportunity to play in front of family and friends.

"It's awesome," Bowman said. "My family hasn't seen me play since I played boys hockey for the most part, so it's good to be back home."

Bowman, a defenceman who was the former captain of the Ohio State University women's team, is expecting quite a crowd on hand as round-robin play continues.

"I don't know the actual number, but over the whole weekend it should be 30 or 40 family and friends, maybe even more," Bowman said.

She's relishing the opportunity to play a local game.

"It's very exciting to play in front of your family and obviously, you want to perform and have a winning outcome," Bowman said. "It's great to be playing in your home town."

But does being the local girl put any extra pressure on things?

"Not at all," Ironside said. "We thrive on that big fan base and having our friends and family there to support us."

This isn't the first time Ironside's played an important contest at the Barrie Molson Centre.

"I grew up playing some of my big games here in minor hockey, so it's nice to kind of come back," said Ironside, who starred at Wilfrid Laurier University as their captain.

"I feel like it's right in my backyard, so it's nice to have some of my friends and family here with lots of support. I'm looking forward to what the weekend will bring us."

They're hoping for a better fate in their next two games, alongside some pretty reputable players on their Brampton squad.

"I'm just out there, trying to create some opportunities for some of the big names on our team," said Ironside, who followed a line of Olympians Gillian Apps, Cherie Piper and Jayna Hefford on the ice Thursday.

"We've got some big goal-scorers on this team, so anything I can do to help those girls out, I'm trying to do."

Even in a secondary scoring role, Ironside, a rookie forward, has notched five goals alongside seven assists this season. And Bowman, who sees regular time with the man advantage, has put up four goals and seven assists.

"I have a pretty heavy shot, so I'm used (at the point) on the power play for my shooting abilities," Bowman said.

While they look forward to trying to win games in front of family and friends, they're not going to have much time to talk about it after.

"We have a bit of free time Friday night, but beyond that, we're going to leave the family and friends aside for a bit and focus on the task at hand," Ironside said.

Bowman also believes that's the recipe for success.

"I'll get an opportunity to see (my family) here and there, but this weekend is dedicated to my team and that's who I'll be with," Bowman said.

"We're in this together as a team, and if we work as one unit, we'll be successful."

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