Avalanche ready to pour over competition

It's an odd expression to use, considering their name, but the Avalanche hockey team faces an uphill battle this season, as it does every season.

It’s an odd expression to use, considering their name, but the Avalanche hockey team faces an uphill battle this season, as it does every season.

As the Yukon’s only girls’ rep hockey team, the Avalanche has a smaller talent pool to draw from and little opportunity to play other high-level female competition.

Still, with about 10 returning players on the bantam squad of 16, and more experience under their belts, head coach Louis Bouchard feels good with the way things are shaping up.

“Some of the girls have been skating all summer here and down south,” said Bouchard. “They had a fitness program to follow, so they’re looking better at the start of this season than they did at the start of last season.”

In March, the team, which just finished their tryouts and player selection, became the first all-girls team from the Yukon to play at the provincial level, competing at the BC Provincials.

“We did finish last, but it was a good experience for everybody,” said Bouchard. “Unfortunately in our bantam division there’s only AAA, so our girls have to fight against AAA bantams and down south the programs are so well developed and they were all 14-year-olds. Last year, we had a bunch of peewee-aged (players), but they’ve all moved up since.

“For their first big tournament, they did well.”

Unfortunately the Avalanche will not be able to return to the BC Provincials in the new year because of a schedule conflict with the Arctic Winter Games, being held in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

“There’s not enough girls to field two teams and there’s not enough coaches and volunteers to handle two teams, so we’re going to go tothe

Arctics,” said Bouchard.

However, because the Arctic Winter Games is an under-20 tournament, not all the Avalanche players are guaranteed a spot on the team.

“So some older players are also going to be joining us,” said Bouchard.

To prepare for the Arctic Games and another tournament in March, the Richmond Ice Classic, the Avalanche will be playing in Whitehorse’s peewee house league. The league will also give players like Jocelin Wynnyk, 14, time to get used to new positions.

“It was really hard at first because I just started goalie this year,” said Wynnyk. “It’s so much fun – I’m going to stick with it.

“There’s only four goalies that are girls in the Yukon.”

For Wynnyk, who started playing net in February, good goaltending comes from both physical and mental toughness.

“It’s really about the mindset as well,” said Wynnyk. “If you get a whole bunch of goals scored on you, you can’t just give up or else you’re letting your whole team down.

“And the actual conditioning, being in shape, is hard.”

Last February, the Avalanche also finished third at the Yukon Peewee Championships in Teslin, but if Bouchard gets his way, there may be another tournament coming to the territory in the future.

“We are trying to organize a friendly tournament with Fort St. John, BC, because we have some midget girls playing there,” said Bouchard. “Our older girls end up in Fort St. John playing midget hockey because there’s no girls midget team here.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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