Locals share Spartan Experience
Stanstead College’s varsity girls hockey team is having a banner year, first winning the NAPHA Championship earlier in February and, just last weekend, winning the NAHA spring tournament with four straight wins. On this championship team, which is coached by Olympic double gold medalist Sarah Vaillancourt, are two local
girls who got their hockey starts in Stanstead and Coaticook.
Leslie MacKinnon, of Barnston West, has been on the Stanstead College team for three years and fills the forward right wing position. Her statistics for the season are six goals and five assists. Leslie started playing hockey in the Coaticook league when she was eight, then played in Sherbrooke for a short time before making the varsity team.
With hockey practices four times a week, games every weekend and lots of travelling, Leslie spoke about balancing schoolwork with hockey. “When I first started playing hockey at the College it was difficult. But over the years it becomes normal and you learn to get in the groove; I’m really good at managing my time now. When the team is away we study on the bus and we have study sessions at the hotels where we stay,” she commented.
“What I like most about playing on the varsity team is learning from such an experienced coach – it’s such an opportunity. She (Ms. Vaillancourt) always has the answer for every question that we might have about the game,” said Leslie who also enjoys the closeness of a team that spends so much time together, both at home and on the road. “I for sure hope to come back to Stanstead College next year and play on the team again and after that I’m hoping to pursue my hockey into university,” concluded Leslie in the interview with the Stanstead Journal before she headed off to tutor in the Phelps Helps program.
Shayla Coates, of Way’s Mills, is playing for a third year with the Spartans, filling the position of forward left wing. Her statistics are ten goals and thirteen assists, not including the goal she made in the final of last weekend’s NAHA tournament.
As the daughter of Border Hockey’s first female player, Erin Holmes, and the granddaughter of Stanley Holmes, another avid hockey fan, Shayla is a member of a rather famous local hockey family. She began playing hockey with the Border Minor Hockey Association at the old rink in Stanstead which was built on land donated to the town by her great-great-grandfather.
“You can learn so much in three years on a team like this; I’ve progressed a lot. And the practices that we have now are so intense, but they’re fun, too; you really feel like you’re improving,” mentioned Shayla. Another aspect of playing on this international varsity team that she appreciates are the friendships she’s made. “I met new teammates who are my best friends now. We spend so much time together, especially when we’re on the road and we’re three or four per hotel room. Two of my teammates are from the Czech Republic, others are from Newfoundland and Labrador; I hope we’ll stay in touch forever,” she added. Shayla hopes to continue her hockey career at the university level, possibly in the United States.
The Stanstead College varsity girl Spartans will host a tournament at the Pat Burns Arena from March 11th to March 13th. “It’s our last tournament so it will be a good way to end the season, with games at home,” concluded Shayla.
Shayla Coates (center) with assistant coach Brittany Sharman (left) and coach Sarah Vaillancourt.
Leslie MacKinnon (left) and Shayla Coates holding the NAPHA trophy after the championship tournament in February.