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(Posted 9:30 a.m., March 26)
Gloucester-Cumberland ringette team wins championship for teammate diagnosed with leukemia

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Emma Flynn-Mantyla (right) and her sister Tia hold up the championship trophy after the Devils won the provincial AA championship on March 11. FACEBOOK PHOTO

If the Gloucester Cumberland Devils U14 peewee team needed any extra inspiration to win the provincial AA championship they didn’t have to look any further than their own dressing room and teammate Emma Flynn- Mantyla.

The 13-year-old was diagnosed with leuke- mia on February 21 and had to start treatment immediately which meant she had to sit out the provincial championships which took place in Ottawa from March 8-11.

With their teammate providing extra inspriation, the Devils opened the tournament with a 7-2 win over the Nepean Ravens. Taylor Forrest scored a hat trick for the winning side and Emma’s sister Tia was credited with an assist on the team’s sixth goal.

After suffering a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Ice, the Devils reeled off four straight wins to earn a spot in the playoffs as the third seed. They upset the second place team from Guelph 10-3 in their semi-final thanks in large part to Forrest’s second hat trick of the tournament. Maya Howard and Kyra Sullivan added two goals each in the game, while Julia Wilson, Katie Bray, and Maya Valasquez scored a goal apiece.

In the other semi-final, the fourth place team from Waterloo upset the top seed from Central Whitby 4-3 in overtime to earn a date with the Devils in the final.

In the championship game, Waterloo scored the only goal of the first period to take a 1-0 lead into the half-time break.

A penalty assessed against Waterloo with just 18 seconds left in the opening period meant that the Devils would start the second session with the man advantage. It took just 40 seconds for Howard to tie the game on a goal that was set up by Sullivan and Camille Desmarais.

The score remained knotted at 1-1 until the later stages of the game when the floodgates swung wide open for the Devils.

Howard scored her second of the game on a pass from Sullivan with just under four minutes left. Thirty-nine seconds after that, Forrest scored to give the Devils a 3-1 lead, and then Howard put the cherry on top with her third of the game 26 seconds later.

Emma Flynn-Mantyla (centre) joins her Gloucester Cumberland teammates on the ice after they won the provincial championship. Photo courtesy of Pete Sullivan

Flynn-Mantyla watched the entire game from the stands wearing her Devils jersey.

After the final buzzer sounded, she was allowed on the ice in a wheelchair and wearing a helmet for safety for that she could join in the celebration and pose with her teammates for the group picture.

For head coach Dave Mainwood, who has been coaching ringette for more than 40 years, it was an experience he won’t soon forget.

“In 40 years I’ve been lucky enough to have had some pretty memorable moments including a couple of national championships, but this one was definitely very special,” says Mainwood.

The U14 Gloucester Cumberland Devils pose with the provincial championship banner and trophy. Photo courtesy of Johanne Gagnier

Emma’s mother, Peggy Flynn, says there was no way her daughter was going to miss the team’s championship run.

When the family first found out that Emma had leukemia she was actually playing in a game at Carleton University.

“We got the call from the doctor on a Saturday and the she said, ‘You have to get to CHEO right now.’ And I said, ‘Well, she’s on the ice.’ And she said, ‘Pull her off the ice.’ And I said ‘okay’ and then I let her play because I didn’t want to panic her,” said Flynn. “So after the game I took her to the hospital.”

Emma was at the hospital receiving treatment on the first day of the tournament.When the team won both of their games on Day 2 she was in the stands.

“She really wanted to be there for the team and to support them. It was hard for her to watch and not be able to play, especially with her little sister playing, but it was good because I think the team really rallied around her and turned things around,” says Flynn. “She went to every game after that.”

As the final minutes ticked down in the championship final, one of the parents got Emma a wheelchair and a helmet so she could go on the ice and be with her teammates for the celebration.

“It was bittersweet. We are so happy for the team and for my other daughter, but it’s really difficult for Emma not to play, especially now that they are going to the Eastern Canadian Championships in Halifax. She really wants to go but it’s difficult,” says Flynn.

The initial prognosis for Emma’s illness is pretty good, says Flynn. “It’s one of the more treatable types of leukemia and they caught it very early.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help offset any unforeseen and unexpected expenses incurred by the family. Donations can be made by visiting www.gofundme.com/Emma039s-fight- against-leukemia.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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