PORT McNEILL—The first game by a TriPort Minor Hockey Association girls team went into the loss column Saturday. But you’d never know it from the faces of the 15 peewee and atom skaters after their exhibition game with against Campbell River at Chilton Regional Arena.
“It was really different, and really fun, too,” said Sarah Case, who has played goalie on “integrated” teams made up mostly of boys throughout her Port Hardy Minor Hockey career.
The team, christened the She-devils, was put together this season by Port McNeill coach Boni Sharpe. Initially, she planned to try fielding a team of players solely from the Port McNeill Minor Hockey Association, but once word got out she was swamped with responses from both Port Hardy and Port Alice.
The team now has 15 players from all three community associations, competing under the authority of TriPort Minor Hockey, which oversees all of the programs.
“I’m expecting big things from these girls,” said Sharpe. “I think we’ve got a good program going here.”
The She-devils certainly gave Campbell River a good matchup.
The first period was scoreless before goals by Cassidy Bellavance and Hayley Hunter midway through the second gave the visitors a 2-0 lead. Emma Mitchell of Port McNeill then scored the first goal in She-devils history, off an assist from Tiffany Watson of Port Alice, to make it a 2-1 game.
It stayed that way until the final seven minutes of the third period before Bellavance and Hunter each added a late goal for the final margin.
“This is only the second time we’ve skated together,” said Mitchell. “We’ve only had one game (a practice scrimmage with the Port McNeill peewee boys) and two practices.”
Campbell River, on the other hand, is a game-tested club that competes in a regular schedule with eight other girls-only teams on Vancouver Island.
“The (Campbell River) parents in the stands were shocked,” said Sharpe. “They told us that team doesn’t lose very often, and they usually have pretty one-sided wins. I don’t they expected a new team from little ol’ Port McNeill to give them that kind of a fight.”
Of course, there was no actual fighting. Port Hardy’s Saphron Purdy, however, did earn the distinction of drawing the program’s historic first penalty on an inadvertent trip in the third period.
“Embarrassing, but fun,” Purdy said when asked to describe the moment. “It was great to bond with the other girls. We’ve always played against each other until now.”
Several of the players noted how well they seem to get along despite the lack of ice time together.
The team includes Kerrigan Sharpe, Mercedes Trevor, Rebecca Bosma, Mandy Foldy, Mackenzie Murgatroyd, Madison Van Will and Mitchell from Port McNeill; Rebekah Ankenmann, Kate Gough, Emily Keamo, Tianna Walkus, Case and Purdy from Port Hardy; and Watson and Becca Spafford from Port Alice.
All of the girls skate on integrated teams with boys, and many of them had an especially busy weekend. Foldy and Walkus are members of the North Island Eagles atom development team and played two additional games with the Eagles on the weekend. Van Will is an atom-level skater playing “up” with the peewee She-devils, and she skated all weekend with the Port McNeill Ice Breakers in the annual Port Hardy atom tournament. And Case, a first-year bantam who is eligible to play with the peewee girls under Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association rules, refereed multiple games in the Port Hardy atom tournament.
To top if all off, they all regrouped Sunday afternoon in Port McNeill for their semi-weekly practice at Chilton Arena.
“These girls are spending their whole weekend in arenas, and it’s not because they don’t want to,” Boni Sharpe said. “They’re all totally committed. We’re going down-Island to an all-girls tournament in December, and these Campbell River parents said they’ll do well.”