Women won't ease off

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

DAUPHIN -- Head coach Kevin Luke remembers the look on his players' faces when he told them they'd be taking on the best women's hockey team on the planet.

"Their mouths were open," Luke, whose AAA midget Parkland Rangers face Team Canada tonight, was saying yesterday. "They take it as an honour."

By the end of the night, their mouths may be open for an entirely different reason: sheer exhaustion.

On Tuesday night, Team Canada spanked another midget-aged team, the Central Plains Capitals, 9-1, in the first-ever meeting between the female nats and this province's AAA players.

And, yes, the score was indicative of the play: the women out-shot the boys, 51-20.

"Obviously, we're going to have to skate our frigging tails off," Luke said. "We don't want to get our tails whipped."

The Rangers are the hometown team here. If 900 fans paid to watch the Capitals, you can bet there'll be a couple thousand tonight.

To be fair to the guys, their season's been over for a couple weeks, and they're forced to adjust to hockey without hitting.

Luke hopes the benefit of a couple extra practices will put his team on a little more even footing.

Getting smoked is never fun. Getting smoked by a women's team in your own back yard might force you to answer a few questions.

Besides, the idea is to help Canada get ready for next week's world championship. If you have to take one for the country, so be it.

"We're not going to hold anything back," Luke said. "Hopefully, we can give them a little more of a game. If the score is 4-3 either way, we've done our job."

And if it's another rout, you won't get any apologies from Team Canada boss Melody Davidson.

With Davidson, it's pedal-to-the-metal, no letting up, particularly this close to the tournament.

When her team began piling it on Tuesday, she didn't call off the dogs.

"I never do," Davidson said. "I guess I get criticized for that, at times."

That's been her approach ever since the last worlds in 2005, when Canada lost the gold-medal game, 1-0 in a shootout, to the U.S.

"We walked through that tournament, scored a lot of goals, and started to back off, with the worries of people thinking we were running up scores," Davidson said. "Then all of a sudden we get into a game where we had to score, and we couldn't. You learn you can't turn things on and off. We have to play our game."

Their game is relentless puck pursuit, attacks in waves, often of four players on the rush, and dogged defensive play.

"I see how they skate like the wind," Luke said. "They're tenacious. What they give you in the first minute they'll give you in the last minute."

Of course, they're in top physical condition, unlike the boys who finished their season three weeks ago.

"That's no excuse," Luke said.

Hopefully, they won't need one.

Games against AAA teams in Alberta proved to be a great training ground for Canada going into the 2006 Winter Olympics. The idea was to replicate that, here.

Davidson says the midget-aged level usually provides the perfect opposition.

"They're a little bit bigger than us, a little bit stronger than us," she said. "We match them skill-wise, and at times we're a little more skilled. But you always want to play somebody a little bit better, that challenges you in a number of ways."

The Rangers will try.

But one last word of advice.

Before Tuesday's game, a couple members of the Capitals were joking they should write their phone numbers on their sticks, and maybe get a date out of the deal.

They were kidding, of course.

Team Canada isn't.


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