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'Super special': Regina Rebels book ticket to Esso Cup in back to back seasons

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The U18 AAA Regina Rebels will compete for the national title for a second consecutive year after they defeated the Winnipeg Ice AAA at Western Regionals last week.

It was déjà vu for the Rebels facing off against the Ice as that was the team they defeated last year to earn their place at the coveted Esso Cup tournament.

“I think it’s kind of cool. I don’t think it happens very often where two teams get to go up against each other twice,” said captain, Avery Gottselig.

“It’s definitely super special especially to do it a second year in a row. So I’m looking forward to seeing how our team does because I think we have a lot of potential,” added alternate captain, Brooklyn Nimegeers.

Last year, the national championship was held in Saskatchewan as the Prince Albert Northway Northern Bears were the host team. That meant two teams from the province had the opportunity to compete for the national title.

The Rebels ultimately finished third after losing in the semi-final for a shot at the title game. They are using that as motivation heading into this year’s championship.

“It definitely motivates us to finish in first place this year. Especially at Esso, all the games were close and we had a chance last year. I think this team is super strong so we definitely have a chance this year,” said Nimegeers.

“I think definitely awesome having that experience just kind of knowing what it takes to go all the way. There’s I think about five or six of us that were on the team last year so I think just having that leadership and that experience from all of our older players just helped lead the younger ones through regionals and hopefully on our way to the Esso title,” Gottselig added.

Nimegeers agreed the experience and leadership from the veterans on the team will play a key role this year.

“We’ll have experience with it, especially us older girls. So we’ll be able to lead the rest of the team and lead the rookies through the way. I think we have an advantage going in with the experience of last year,” she said.

The team is also excited about the opportunity to leave the province this time around to represent as the Esso Cup is taking place in Vernon, B.C. this year.

“It’ll be good to somewhere new and I don’t think a lot of girls have ever even been to B.C. So it’ll be cool to go to Vernon,” said forward, Stryker Zablocki.

Zablocki has been an absolute powerhouse not just for the Rebels but amongst the Saskatchewan U18 AAA league. In just 27 games played in the regular season, she led the league with 65 points. (40 goals, 25 assists). The next closest player recorded 48 points in 30 games. Zablocki went on to lead the playoff race as well with seven goals, six assists for 13 points in just four games.

The 2024 Esso Cup will feature the five regional champion teams from across the country playing the host Thompson-Okanagan Lakers. The national championship tournament runs from April 21-27.

The final will be broadcast on TSN. 

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