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Tri-City connection propels York University field hockey team to national championship berth

Seven players from the Tri-Cities play for the York University Lions field hockey team
The York University Lions field hockey team, that includes several players from the Tri-Cities, celebrates its Ontario University Athletics championship Saturday after defeating the University of Toronto Blue 2-1.

A field hockey pipeline from the Tri-Cities to York University in Toronto could help deliver a national championship to the Lions this weekend.

The Lions, with several players from the Tri-City Eagles club and local high school programs — including Jade and Jewel Lew, Caitlin Miller, Alyssa Brooks, Natalie Winter and Amira Brar — defeated the University of Toronto Blues 2-1 on Saturday to win the Ontario University Athletics championship and earn a chance to earn its first U Sports national title.

York will travel to Victoria to play the University of Victoria Vikings in the best-of-three McCrae Cup final that begins on Friday.

It was a goal by Port Moody Secondary School grad Caitlin Miller with just six minutes to play that propelled the Lions to its first OUA championship since 2017.

She corralled a pass from teammate Mackenzie Gee on the counterattack and fired a bullet that deflected off a U of T defender and into the net.

The goal capped a comeback after Natalie Brown got York on even terms off a penalty corner late in the third quarter.

The Blues had opened the scoring in the first quarter.

The Lions are deep in West Coast talent. In addition to the Tri-City players, Brown and teammate Polly Campbell are from West Vancouver, another is from North Vancouver and three more are from Vancouver.

York coach Zeeshan Minhas said the early introduction to field hockey many players get in British Columbia and the mild winters that allow them to play nine months of the year gives them an advantage.

“Kids in B.C. have more basic skills,” he said.

Miller, a defender, is in her second year at York, but her first year of athletic eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She scored twice in nine games in her freshman season and Saturday’s game winner was her first goal of this season.

The Lions finished the regular season with nine wins, two losses and a draw. Its run to the OUA championship also served to avenge the only blemishes to its record as York defeated the Guelph Gryphons — a team it tied 1-1 previously— in the semifinal and both the team’s losses were to the Blues.

• For two of the Tri-City players, it won’t be their first crack at a national title. Amira Brar and Natalie Winter were both freshmen on the 2017 team that lost to the University of British Columbia in the McCrae Cup final.

York U’s Tri-City connection:

  • Jade Lew, 2nd year goalkeeper    Heritage Woods S.S.
  • Amira Brar 5th year midfielder       Gleneagle S.S.
  • Jewel Lew 1st year midfielder       Heritage Woods S.S.
  • Sydney Bojic 1st year                    Heritage Woods S.S.
  • Natalie Winter 5th year midfielder Dr. Charles Best S.S.
  • Alyssa Brooks 3rd year midfielder Dr. Charles Best S.S.
  • Caitlin Miller 2nd year defender     Port Moody S.S.