More than 200 women players compete for the love of the game
Darren McCarty, lending a little star power to the annual Dirty 30 Senior Women’s Tournament, is caught in the middle of two admiring fans and players during championship day. (Photo by Lou Issel)
By Lou Issel and Mariah Mumford
Twenty women’s hockey teams came from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario to battle in the annual Dirty Thirty Senior Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament at Kensington Valley Arena. The 260 players competed in four divisions with championship games played on Sunday, October 27. And while they ranged in skill levels from novice to ex-collegiate, they all had something in common: a love for the game of hockey.
The tournament has fostered that love since it was founded in 2010 by Michele Monson who, with husband Gil Ruicci and dear friend and Red Wings great Ted Lindsay, also launched the Michigan Women’s Senior Hockey League almost 30 years ago. Today the league boasts more than 40 plus teams with 700-plus players with a minimum age of 30.
Since last year, the tournament has undergone several changes. For one, Monson handed off the tournament leadership to Amy Finkbeiner, general manager of the Kensington Valley Arena and an active MWSHL player.
Another major change was the absence of Ruicci and Lindsay, both of whom passed away last March. Lindsay was a big part of the tournament finals, dropping pucks at face-offs and in general talking with the players and posing for photographs. Although neither man could truly be replaced, Red Wings great Darren McCarty gladly filled in for Lindsay, doing the honors for the championship games in stellar fashion.
“Darren McCarty really stepped up for this, and the ladies loved him,” said Finkbeiner. “It was so much fun to watch him interact with everyone. I think he had as much or more fun than the players did.”
For more on McCarty at the tournament, click here.
Here are roundups of each of the four championship games (photos by Lou Issel and Marian Mumford):
REC 2 DIVISION: The Polar Vortex of Cadillac faced off against the Lynx of Greater Detroit. The Lynx finished the first period up 2-1, but the Polar Vortex scored five more by the end of the game for a 6-2 victory.
Polar Vortex head coach Jim Kalk, who had two daughters on his team, was very impressed with the entire tournament. “All the players on all the teams were very good sports and played good hockey in every game,” he said. “We didn’t win last year, so this was a special treat.”
Lynx captain Nicole Zanier was happy for her team despite the loss. “This was a great, very fast game, as was the entire tournament. We loved being here and want to give a shout out to our goaltender Jennifer Lambarth. And having Darren McCarty here was so really nice and so much fun!”
ADVANCED REC DIVISION: This one went the distance and then some, with the Illinois Stars defeating the Spartans 3-2 in OT. The Spartans were first on the scoreboard thanks to Deana Wiegand's shorthanded goal, assisted by Alison Malty, at the 8:13 minute mark of the opening period. In the second period, the Illinois Stars were able to tie the game with an even-strength goal from Kirstin Peahl, assisted by Amanda Pfeiffer. Shortly thereafter, the Stars took the lead on a goal from Amanda Swade, assisted by Shanon Holman. However, at the 3:33 minute mark of the third period, the Spartans were able to send the game into OT with a power play goal from Janine Martinez, assisted by Wiegand.
Moments into OT, an Illinois player was sent to the penalty box for tripping. Despite the penalty, the Stars were able to score on Sarah Brownlee’s unassisted breakaway goal to claim the championship.
Illinois Star team manager-player Dianne Rubinstein could not have been happier with her team’s performance. “This game was a complete team effort, from top to bottom,” she said, adding that the Dirty Thirty is the team’s “favorite tournament of the year.” According to Rubinstein, the Stars have competed in the Dirty Thirty Tournament for 10 years and have been crowned champions an astonishing seven times.
REC 1 DIVISION: The O’Leary Hawks defeated Honey, I Shrunk the Puck 2-1 in regulation. The Hawks scored first at the 6:31 minute mark of the first period on a goal from Katie Buelow, assisted by Wendy Stibitz. They tacked on another goal in the middle of the second period from Marcie Walker, assisted by Lisa Waldock and Katie Buelow. Late in the second period, Jenna Donnelley scored for Honey, I Shrunk the Puck, assisted by Gail Penhollow and Lindsay Godsey. With :37 seconds left in regulation, Honey pulled its goalie but was unable to tie the game with the extra attacker.
Notably, Donnelley’s was the first and only goal against the O’Leary Hawks in the entire 2019 Dirty Thirty Tournament. “This tournament is always run very well and we had a lot of fun,” said O’Leary Hawks player-manager Marcie Walker, who, with Carrie Sirola, founded the team more than 30 years ago. Sirola and Walker are the only two members of the original team still on the roster.
NOVICE DIVISION: The Iron Maidens notched a 3-0 victory over the Grinders.
“This tournament was awesome, and we love to play in it,” said Iron Maidens player-manager Kate Bemish. “Our average age is 49, and we have so much fun. To have DMac (McCarty) here was a real treat, and we thank him and the Red Wings!”
Grinders player Debbie Birmingham noted: “This tournament was a lot of fun and very well organized. The refs were fine. The pizza and prizes were great. Darren McCarty was so nice and so friendly. When we staged that fake fight as he dropped the puck for us, he just loved that!”
Finkbeiner, the new tournament director, was pleased that her first year at the Dirty Thirty helm “went very smoothly. We had a great staff, excellent officiating … We had good words from the teams about how much fun they had.”