Vancouver Island’s biggest all-girls hockey tournament just keeps getting bigger, and this year’s annual Female Fall Face-Off was no exception.
Wendy Pierce, female development coordinator for Sooke Minor Hockey, said there were teams from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland that couldn’t take part because there simply wasn’t enough space.
“We could have double the amount of teams come if we had another ice surface,” she said.
The event allows female hockey in B.C. to gain more exposure, have a tournament that’s within their own association, and just a chance to bond with teammates and other players.
However, exposure isn’t generally a problem in Sooke, said Pierce.
“There are 300 members in Sooke Minor Hockey, a third are generally female.”
Even so, every year is different with girls either graduating to a higher division, or leaving to play in Island regional teams. This year, some juggling was required having some younger girls play up a division so there would be enough players to fill out a roster. This has allowed a team to exist in every division from atom to midget continue for the sixth consecutive year.
The bantam division, coached by Julie Lafontaine, is one such team.
“We lost a lot of bantam players this year and we have three peewees that we had to bring up so we had a squad of 11,” said Lafontaine.
There are also some peewees that are affiliate players, meaning they play on peewee teams but if there are no scheduling conflicts can sub in positions for bantam, like goalie.
Because of so many new additions, she said everyone is still getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. A good example of this was their second game of the tournament against Kelowna on Friday night.
The first period was tied 1-1 with a goal for the home team by Desiree Cumming. Kelowna scored a go ahead goal making it 2-1 and then Kendall Parkinson tied it up once more just before the halfway mark. The offence wouldn’t produce any more after that and Kelowna pulled ahead 3-2, and scored an empty net goal in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter after Sooke pulled their goalie in a last ditch effort making the final game tally 4-2.
Lafontaine gave top performance to goalie Naomi Yasuda.
“(Kelowna) had a bigger bench (and) they certainly outshot us, that’s why Naomi played really well because she probably faced twice as many shots as their goalie.”
The coach described her group as a “workhouse team” that finds success when they grind out plays and try to win every little battle on the ice.
“We don’t have any fancy finesse players that can skate up and down the ice with a puck and get a goal. They’re the type to have to try really hard.”
Still in search of their first win this season, only having enough players to fill two lines certainly doesn’t make things any easier. It does makes the team made up of Grade 7, 8 and 9 girls really work together though, she said.
“If they keep doing this, we’ll start winning some games.”
There have been some individual successes — on Friday’s skills competition, consisting of a speed race, stick handling drill, iron cross and shooting, Parkinson placed second overall in the tournament.