Skills and Chills for female hockey players

Hockey players swarmed the South Cariboo Rec Centre at the Skills and Chills Female Hockey Weekend held from March 31 to April 2.

Goalie Sarah Balbirnie blocks a play by Robin Fry as her defender

Hockey players swarmed the South Cariboo Rec Centre at the Skills and Chills Female Hockey Weekend held from March 31 to April 2 in 100 Mile House for some action on the ice.

About 75 players attended the event, arriving in 100 Mile House from as far away as Vanderhoof, Mackenzie and Valemont, but also from bigger centers such as Prince George and Kamloops.

The girls formed two teams at the novice/atom level and four teams at the peewee/bantam level. For the peewee/bantam players, the girls were split into two A teams and two B teams, based on a player evaluation conducted on the Friday night.

Local and out of town coaches combined their expertise to make sure the players received solid instruction across the weekend, while parents and local businesses donated time and supplies to make the weekend a success.

Saturday saw the teams practice together, followed by a dryland workout led by Mitch Maladrino of Focused Fitness, who donated his time and expertise.

The younger novice/atom group finished off their play Saturday, while the peewee/bantam teams continued on to play Sunday.

“All of the games were close with the teams very evenly matched and some tough, hard battles,” says Denise Balbirnie, the organizer

Each of the peewee/bantam teams was led by older female midget players: Sienna Monical, Caily Mellott, Addie Cleave, Bronwyn Pococall, Ashley Holyk, Anya Levermann, Katya Levermann and Lauren McLean, many of whom play hockey on higher level leagues out of town.

Mackenzie Menzel and Brandon Balbirnie helped out with the novice/atom group. The teams spent time bonding and working together both on and off the ice.

“Events like this one are important to promote female hockey. Lots of times small towns like 100 Mile House don’t have enough girls in specific age groups to make up a team, so allowing players to register individually and be placed on teams allows some girls who don’t have an all-female option during their regular season to get an opportunity to experience female hockey,” says Balbirnie.

“It’s also a great way for the girls to meet other hockey players from nearby towns so there are options in the future to get together to make up tournament teams to be able to participate in some of the female tournaments around the province.”

Balbirnie also notes that when rep hockey is not an option in a player’s home town, coming to an event where they can be evaluated to play at a higher level and challenge themselves can be exciting for the girls.

The players took home a game jersey donated by Richard Duff of Napa Auto Parts or Hockey BC, as well as a toque, alongside some new skills and new friends.

“It was a fantastic weekend. The girls went home exhausted and happy and we received a lot of really positive feedback over the format of the weekend,” says Balbirnie.

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