Winning gold at the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival (Wickfest) is something five 100 Mile House hockey players won’t soon forget.
And meeting Wickfest founder and six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser was just more icing on the cake.
“It was amazing,” said Claire Johnson, 12. “She’s really cool and amazing at hockey.”
Johnson along with Kaylee Pylarinos, Maielle Briggs, Brynn Ferguson and Shia Briggs play for the Williams Lake U13 Timberwolves, which travelled to Surrey Feb. 3-5 for the annual event. The team beat all challengers, winning 6-2 in the final game against Kelowna.
Pylarinos, 12, said it was nerve-wracking as they waited for the clock to count down to the end of the final period.
“It was five minutes left maybe. We were all just sitting on the bench waiting for the buzzer to go off,” she said. “I was pretty excited.”
Teammate Maielle Briggs agreed. “I was kind of shaking and tapping on the board so much while waiting for the coach to open the door so I could leave.”
Pylarinos had played with the 100 Mile Atom Royals when they won gold at Wickfest in 2020. Unfortunately, she was unable to be at that tournament so having a second chance at meeting Wickenheiser “was awesome.”
Playing for the Williams Lake team involves a bigger commitment with extra travel time for practice. The five young athletes say it is worth the effort.
“It’s a great team and going to Williams Lake you get to meet new people and make new friends,” said Johnson, assistant captain for the Timberwolves.
“I think it is really worth it,” said Brynn Ferguson, 11. “I moved up to Williams Lake because I wanted to have a better opportunity to play with the girls than in 100 Mile because in 100 Mile they did not have a rep team for girls but Williams Lake did.”
Pylarinos said she feels she has improved a lot with the Timberwolves.
“In 100 Mile I don’t think I played that great,” she said. “I used to be (defence) but last year I moved to forward. It was really scary but I love it.”
When asked what comes next, Briggs said, “The next step is to make it into the provincials and win.”