The father of Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team gold-medal winner Laura Fortino says the tension of watching the sport is starting to take its toll on him.
“Hockey, right now, is absolutely killing me,” Ignazio Fortino said with a nervous laugh at the Morgan Firestone Arena on Wednesday (Feb. 26). “I’m so drained.”
It’s no wonder. Only days after returning from Sochi, Russia where he witnessed the Canadian team’s stunning comeback victory in the final against the United States, Fortino served as an assistant coach of the Bishop Tonnos Titans girls’ high school hockey team. And, with that squad, he was put through the wringer again.
The Titans trailed 2-0 – as did Team Canada against the U.S. – before rallying for a 4-2 victory over St. Thomas More Knights in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association championship game.
Laura Fortino is a Tonnos graduate who briefly played for the Titans.
“They never stopped working,” coach Fortino said of the Titans who advance to next week’s Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference playoffs. They’ll play a GHAC semi-final on March 3 at 2:30 p.m. at Mountain Arena against Halton’s No. 2 seed. The winner then faces the Halton champion on March 4 (in Halton) for the regional title and a berth in the provincial tournament.
St. Thomas More (7-2-1) finished the regular season in first place. Tonnos (6-2-2) was second in the six-team standings.
“The girls dug in and fought back,” said Tonnos’ coach Henry DiPellegrin. “They believed in themselves. They showed a lot of character.
“We took advantage of our opportunities and we shut them down defensively.”
The defending champion Titans trailed 2-1 until midway through the second period when a wrist shot from the point by Kate Randazzo during a two-man powerplay advantage found the net. Alesya DePellegrin got the assist.
Centre Jade Mancini tapped in a pass for the winning goal with five minutes, 30 seconds left in the third period. She then skated in alone to deke goaltender Emily Coles for the insurance marker 14 seconds later.
“That 5-on-3 penalty-kill goal swung the momentum,” More coach Trevor Young said. “We couldn’t recover from that.”
The Knights opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal by Sarah Hine. It was a solo effort, weaving her way on the rush past several defenders before deking Tonnos’ netminder Mary Stewart.
More than clicked on one of its powerplays when Hine scored, assisted by Laura Fable and Alex DiCosmo.
“Sarah is an amazingly skilled player,” Young said. “She has the knack for finding the net. She has scored a ton of goals for us in key situations.”
Nicole Kenyon swiped in a one-timer from close range to put Tonnos on the scoreboard 41 seconds after More grabbed its two-goal lead.
A solid performer for the Titans was goaltender Stewart, who did not finish the last game she started against More on Jan. 8. In that contest, there was a collision in the goal crease, Stewart was injured, immobilized on the ice and, after a 30 minute delay, was taken to hospital by ambulance for examination. Tonnos ended up forfeiting the game to More, which was leading 1-0 at the time.
“This was a good comeback game,” said Stewart, a Grade 11 netminder who also plays for the St. Catharines Chaos midget club team. “We knew they were going to try and run me again. We just wanted to beat them on the scoreboard.”
Other members of the Titans are Sam Lombardi, MacKenzie Lombardi, Kathryn Cipolla, Victoria Muraca, Faren Susi, Emma Verbruggen, Marissa Almeida, Elizabeth Abradjian, Olivia Missios, Kira Serafini, Kendra Serafini and Chiara Forchielli.
More and Tonnos each received opening-round playoff byes. In the semi-finals, the Knights blanked the Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 3-0, and the Titans topped the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 6-2.
Ignazio Fortino was back in time from Russia to see the Titans begin the playoffs on Monday. “I wouldn’t miss that in a million years and our championship today,” he said.