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Tri-Cities hockey talent settle for second straight Esso Cup silver

Anmore's Leah Barnard and Port Coquitlam's Gillian Lapierre experienced déjà vu as their Fraser Valley Rush squad lost another national championship.
The Fraser Valley Rush, which included Anmore sisters Leah and Erica Barnard and Port Coquitlam's Gillian Lapierre, settled for a second consecutive silver at the Esso Cup national championship on April 29, 2023.

History repeated itself this weekend for a pair of Tri-Cities athletes at Canada's national female under-18 AAA hockey championships.

Leah Barnard (Anmore) and Gillian Lapierre (Port Coquitlam) were unable to secure B.C.'s first-ever Esso Cup title for a second consecutive year as the Fraser Valley Rush settled for silver last Saturday (April 29).

And the setback in Saskatchewan was to a team from Ontario once more.

The local players, plus Leah's sister Erica, fell 5-4 in the gold-medal game to the Stoney Creek Sabres despite holding a 3-1 lead through the first two periods.

In 2022, Fraser Valley lost the final 4-1 to the Durham West Lightning.

The Rush surrendered three unanswered goals in the third period on Saturday, including one on the penalty kill, before tying it up at 4-4.

The Sabres potted the 5-4 game-winner with 1:20 minutes left in regulation and Fraser Valley couldn't capitalize with an extra attacker in the final seconds.

Leah Barnard kickstarted the contest by scoring her first of the tournament 3:16 minutes into the first frame, and 20 seconds into a power play.

Stoney Creek's Ava Beck was called for body-checking, providing the Rush with the early chance to get on the board.

The 18-year-old Barnard added an assist on the 4-4 game-tying goal with 7:27 minutes left in the game.

Barnard, a Western University women's hockey commit this fall, finished with four points in five games to close her senior season.

She was also named the BC Elite Hockey League's (BCEHL) female under-18 AAA player of the year shortly after the Rush won back-to-back provincial titles.

Both Erica Barnard and Lapierre totalled four points each in seven games at the 2023 Esso Cup.

Barnard tallied two goals and two helpers, while Lapierre, who's committed to Saint Mary's University in the fall, notched four assists.

The Rush finished with a record of 4-3 at the tournament, which took place at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert, Sask.