Two women hockey players from Sooke rose to the top 10 per cent of women players in BC.
Ashley Penney and Erica Pierce were both selected to participate in the BC Hockey U18 BC Cup games in Salmon Arm this year. The games were held from April 23 to 27, and one can only participate if invited in by hockey scouts.
BC’s top 80 female players were recruited, from a field of 800.
Both Ashley and Erica started playing hockey with the Sooke Minor Hockey Association, where they played on competitive teams (as opposed to recreational). They both attend EMCS. Ashley is in Grade 11, and just played her final set of games with BC Hockey’s U18 Winter Cup. Erica is in Grade 10 and has another year try out at the Winter Cup.
Ashley has been playing for 13 years. “Just recently, I played for North Island Impact,” said Ashley, “just because there wasn’t as much opportunity down here,” referring to Sooke. “I played one year on the boys league,” she said, referring to a stint with Sooke Midgets.
Erica has been playing for 10 years, and most recently played with the Female Major Midget Hurricanes from Campbell River
According to Wendy Pierce, Erica’s mother who sent us this lead, “These elite athletes worked hard to obtain invites and complete this gruelling four-day camp, which is the first step in the BC Hockey high performance process for selecting the U18 BC Team for the 2014/2015 season.”
Of the 80 players invited to participate at the BC Cup, 40 are selected for a consecutive series known as the provincial camp, from which the final selection is made for the BC team.
Not making the cut the final 40 was a bit of a disappointment for both girls, though each appreciated being able to play at the BC Cup games to begin with.
Ashley figured it was money and opportunity that stood in their way.
“Id’ say it was all the girls there that had money to go to the top schools, like pursuit of excellence, OHA (the Okanagan Hockey Academy),” said Ashley. The big difference is “they are on the ice everyday, they train every day, and they have a lot more opportunity than us down here.”
Opportunity for the girls is limited to the hockey academy that EMCS hosts, one term, once a year.
According to the EMCS website, “The aim of our academy is to enhance individual skill development through added ice time with quality instruction in a fun, safe, enjoyable, and challenging learning environment.” Participants in the Academy are on the ice three times a week, and have “multi-sports session” twice a week.
It’s a great option, but it’s very short term, lasting only one semester each year.
“It was my last year,” said Ashley, it being her second year of two years in competing for the BC Cup. She had been training for it, “both mentally and physically … but … it was tough.”
Ashley intends to stay with hockey for the foreseeable future. “It’s something I do want to pursue going into university or college,” she said. With one more year to go, Ashley hopes to get into either UBC or University of Alberta, and she’ll apply for their hockey teams when she gets there.
Erica, though one eye on the distant future, is primarily focussed on the here-and-now.
Erica, who has another shot at the BC Cup games next year, is hoping to have a chance to make the top 40 cut. “I think it will be tough,” she said, “but there’s always the opportunity.” For this year, though, she was in it mostly for the experience.
Having more opportunities to play would definitely help her grow, she figured. Being Island-bound does limit your opportunity to be noticed by scouts.
“To get into the top 80,” Ashley explained, “they watch you throughout the season and you have to get an invite to go.”
“Throughout the season,” added Erica, “they scout you, and 80 are invited.”
Given the competition, though, both Erica and Ashley emphasis that your love of the sport must be the biggest driver for anyone interested in pursuing competitive hockey.
“You’ve got to continue to love the game,” advised Erica.
“You can love the game,” added Ashley, sagely, “but it won’t always love you.”
Persist, said both women, and you will get some reward out of it. It just might not be what you expected.