X-Treme in a new position

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

The Oval X-Treme is embarking into some uncharted territory.

For the past five seasons, Calgary's women's hockey club has been as dominant as you can get. But not this year.

With the 2006 Winter Games just around the corner, the X-Treme has 16 new players on the roster for the upcoming Western Women's Hockey League campaign and head coach/GM Tomas Pacina knows defending last year's championship will be tough.

"We still want to win the championship but we have a different role -- we're the underdogs," said Pacina, adding he's never had to bring in so many new faces in his six previous years with the club.

"I love it because the last three years, you had to win every single game, so when we won, it was a relief. It was not fun, it was not happiness. It was 'OK, we've done it'. We did what we were supposed to do."

But losing so many players means the X-Treme is putting top-notch people into the national program, as well as post-secondary schools, and Pacina is proud of that accomplishment.

"We develop players to play at the most competitive level," he said, adding many on the current roster will suit up for Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games.

Last year, the X-Treme went undefeated, including playoffs but that won't happen this season with the oldest players being a couple of 24-year-olds in goaltender Amanda Tapp and forward Monica Dupuis.

Players like Cassie Campbell, Danielle Goyette and Hayley Wickenheiser are spending all their time with the national team in anticipation of defending Canada's gold medal from the 2002 Olympics.

That means new faces like Calgarian Meagan Walton, the X-Treme's new captain, must pick up the slack.

Walton played with the team but left to go to school at the University of Dartmouth in New Hampshire where she served as the captain. Now, the 22-year-old forward is back and ready to roll.

"I always intended to be back here after my four years of school," said Walton, who first joined the Oval program when she was 12 years old.

"It's going to be challenging ... but we have expectations of ourselves and a lot of talent, so we believe we can get the job done and have a good season."

The X-Treme opens the season in Lacombe tonight against the veteran-laden Edmonton Chimos, who are the odds-on favourite to lead the five-team league this season.


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