This year will certainly be a Christmas to remember in the Nosal household.
Sisters Paige and Sam have been asked to join the Cambridge Turbos National Ringette League (NRL) team when they travel to Turku, Finland to defend their International Ringette Federation World Club Championship from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, 2012.
Their father, Scott, will also accompany the team as an assistant coach.
Despite not playing in the NRL, the girls were asked to suit up the Cambridge squad given their strong play for their hometown St. Clements U19 Belle AA team, coached by their mother Terry as well as their father.
Paige, 17, was not eligible to be drafted into the NRL this year while her sister Paige, 18, could have entered the draft but opted instead to play her last year of ringette in St. Clements.
“Those two girls in particular are outstanding players, and both fit into the system very well and they both do everything we like in a player,” said Turbos head coach Glen Gaudet.
“They’re quick, they’re very strong checkers, they see the ice well, they’re selfless and they put the team first, so they fit right in. And Scott is invaluable on the bench.”
The girls fly out late Christmas Day to prepare for an exhibition game on Dec. 27 before the tournament gets under way on the 28th. They’re set to face three Finnish teams, a Swedish squad, and one other NRL team, the Richmond Hill Lightening.
The coach said the team should be ready, but admitted that there are a few challenges – in particular a couple of differences in rules between the two games. For example, in Finland the teams play 60-minute games, while in Canada they only play 40-minute games.
As a compromise the tournament will be played out using 48-minute games divided into four quarters, which the coach said it could prove challenging for the players, particularly in the dying minutes of a game.
“It means a lot, those last eight minutes,” he said.
As for the Nosal sisters, they couldn’t think of a better Christmas gift than to travel to Finland and compete in the sport they’ve played for 13 years against some of the best players in the world, but they also admit to having some nerves.
“I’ve heard they’re really fast,” said Sam.
“Our team is fast too and in order to play elite ringette you have to be fast. It’s a completely new level of ringette, but at the same time I’m excited and ready to get out there.”
As for Paige, who is the youngest girl on the team, she said that the unfamiliarity that comes with facing teams they’ve never played before will be the biggest challenge for her.
“We’ve grown up playing against the same people all our lives, and we’re jumping up now to another level. That always creates a little anxiety, but it’s exciting at the same time.”
As affiliated players, the girls are eligible to play in up to seven regular season games with the Turbos, but not the playoffs. Paige, who has shuffled between forward and defence, has played for the team twice this season and collected one assist while Sam, who plays forward, has played three games and scored three goals and six assists.
They also practice for an hour every week with the team, on top of the four or more hours of ice time they get with their St. Clements teammates. They also have some experience playing at a high level of ringette, both representing the Team Ontario U19 squad at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax last year after capturing the provincial title in March.
The girls also believe playing on the same team can give them an edge over their competition.
“I think you feed off it and you’re more familiar with them, so I think it’ll work to our advantage,” said Sam.