The Second Annual Wickfest kicked off in Surrey on Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. The tournament saw 26 girls from 100 Mile House on three teams (100 Mile Motel Atom Royals, Home Hardware Midget Royals and Williams Lake Rep Timberwolves) participate in the tournament, which had 88 teams and over 2,000 players involved, some coming from as far as California and Winnipeg.
“The opportunity for our players to attend this tournament is immense. The stage is so big. For a tournament like this to give teams a chance to play against other teams they would normally never get a chance to meet is phenomenal,” said Denise Balbirnie, OMHMA’s director of female hockey.
It was the first year the 100 Mile Atom Royals attended the tournament and it was a great debut. The team won all four round-robin games and ended up winning the gold medal after a decisive 6-0 thumping over Chilliwack. The team’s goalie tandem of Sarah Tinney and Savannah Bissat conceded only one goal. Tinney racked up three shutouts in the tournament in an 11-0 win over Nanaimo, a 6-0 win over Surrey and the gold-winning game. Bissat shut out North Shore 10-0 and came close against the round-robin game against Chilliwack, which ended up 5-1.
Khya Swanson led the tournament with 13 goals and two assists. Next in team scoring was Emma Theuring with nine goals and two assists, then Brynn Ferguson scored seven goals and three assists.
“The victory was really a team effort with nearly every player getting on the score sheet and many players achieving personal bests and seeing improvement in their play with every game,” said Balbirnie.
The players on the atom team also have atom and peewee-aged players on the team. Most of them are also dual roster players, which means they play regular-season games with a unisex team in addition to playing on the girls’ teams in all-girl tournaments.
The Midget Royals also had a successful tournament, winning three games and drawing one in the round-robin stage. The team managed to get to the final but unfortunately lost to Washington 2-0. Prior to the final, they faced off against Washington in the round-robin, which ended in a 2-2 draw. The team rallied back from a 2-0 deficit with goals from Vanessa Betschart and Emily Menzel. Their wins were against South Delta, 6-2, and Surrey and California, both ending 4-3.
The Williams Lake Midget Rep Timberwolves has two local girls on their team, Jadyn Monical and Shayne Sutton.
“This team went to Wickfest last year, but saw huge improvements in their play this year with close games and finished the weekend with a win, a tie and two losses,” said Balbirnie.
They lost to North Shore 1-0, beat Surrey 2-0, lost to Victoria 2-1 and tied Winnipeg 3-3 with Monical scoring twice in the Winnipeg game and Sutton netting an assist on the weekend.
“This is a big improvement over last year and gives the team a glimpse into how they might fare at provincials as they will most likely meet North Shore again,” said Balbirnie.
Wickfest was created by Hayley Wickenheiser in 2010. Wickenheiser is one of the most celebrated Canadian athletes, with four Olympic gold medals and seven World Championship gold medals under her belt. The festival also has different events apart from hockey tournaments. Ryan Straschnititzk from the Humboldt Broncos, Wickenheiser, Cammi Cranato and some Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions played in a celebrity para hockey (or sledge hockey) game, which was attended by the Atom and Midget Royals teams.
”There was an autograph session after the game and every player got their picture taken with Wickenheiser and Straschnitzki. The atom team also got to meet Wickenheiser on a more casual level bumping into her in the lobby of the arena. She signed more autographs, posed for pictures, and even included a short conversation with some of the girls on her Instagram story,” said Balbirnie. “It was an amazing weekend and experience for all of our players.”