by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
When the sport of futsal entered the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) in 2010-2011, there was six schools participating.
Since then, it has gone through various formats and reincarnations, with regular season tournaments followed by ACAC men's and women's futsal championships.
Last year (2015-2016) with only four schools participating, it was decided to scrap the regular season games and instead focus on a three-day championship for 2016-2017.
This new format attracted three new schools with the University of Alberta Augustana Vikings, The Kings University Eagles and Lethbridge Kodiaks kicking it up with the Olds College Broncos returning after a one-year hiatus.
The remaining four teams consisted of original ACAC futsal members Ambrose University Lions, Keyano College Huskies, Lakeland College Rustlers and Medicine Hat Rattlers.
Of these four schools, the Huskies were four-times defending champions in men's futsal and Medicine Hat three-time defending banner holders for the women.
How would the additional teams change the odds of Keyano and Medicine Hat continuing their respective streaks?
This question would be answered at the 2017 ACAC Futsal Championships taking place March 2 - 5, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta and hosted by the Lions.
Women's Futsal Gold
Rattlers would make it to the women's gold game following scores of: Rattlers 12-Kodiaks 2; Rattlers 5-Broncos 1; Rattlers 4-Lions 1 and Rattlers 3-Rustlers 2.
Their opponent would be the Vikings from Camrose.
The Vikings had recorded scores of: Vikings 8-Huskies 2; Vikings 9-Rustlers 1; Vikings 4-Eagles 3 and Vikings 6-Lions 4.
In a fast-paced game, Vikings opened scoring early with Laura Graham stopping and lofting the ball over the goalie to make it 1-0 at 19:30.
Teammate Tara Berger made it 2-0 at 9:19 with an awkward left footer from 21-feet out bouncing past net minder Kassidy Suberlak.
Rattlers hit the scoreboard at 19:03 of the second frame with Meagan Clarke taking a cross court pass from Cassidy Larochelle.
A penalty shot called at 11:57 found Clarke tying the game 2-2.
Following a timeout with 6:37 remaining, the 5-foot-10 Clarke earned her hat trick, scoring the winning goal 46 second later with a blast on the doorstep of the Vikings goal.
When the final whistle blew, teammates piling upon goalie Suberlak at the three-point line, the Rattlers became the four-time consecutive ACAC champions and their fifth title overall.
"She (Clarke) played outstanding and when she puts on a performance like that...she is unstoppable," said Rattlers head coach Cassandra Westerman.
"I think there was a lot of pressure on the girls (as three-time defending champion) and they felt it especially in the semi-finals and they knew they had to perform."
Of the new tournament format, Westerman said, "I thought it was really neat to see the sport grow and with more fans and more support. There was passion throughout the weekend whereas before we were competing against the same group all of the time. It's a long weekend and it can be exhausting but it was neat."
Bronze medal went to the Rustlers with a 3-1 final against the host Lions.
Men's Futsal Gold
The Huskies returned to men's gold medal match for the sixth consecutive in a row with their opponent for the second consecutive year in a row the Rattlers,
Huskies had beaten the Rattler last year in Medicine Hat by a 5-3 margin.
This time around, on a neutral court, the two teams had advanced to the final match by outscoring their opponents 30-13 for the Huskies and 25-13 for the Rattlers.
Prior to coming into this tournament, the Huskies had won, be it regular season or playoffs, 50 games while losing only eight. They had outscored the opposition an incredible 298 goals to 141.
Huskies opened scoring at the 20:34 mark of the opening 25-minute half with Daniel Alejandro Caceres Landaeta bouncing a low shot off of the leg of Rattlers' goalie John Wall.
Rattlers would tie it at 1-1 with a half court strike by Chris Tully at 16:05.
Victor Cambeiro caught the Huskies goalie out of the net with a score at 7:36 to take a 2-1 lead at half.
In the second half it was all Rattlers, scoring five goals for a 7-1 decision.
"We knew what we were getting into, going against Keyano," said Rattlers head coach Travis Hyde. "We knew that they would be strong at the start with the adrenaline pumping and with everybody ready to play.
"It was back-and-forth between the two teams for the first bit but they had a short bench. We had a full squad of 12 and they only had six guys, so by the end of the game you could tell they were tired."
Bronze medal went to the Rustlers winning 3-2 over Olds.