Yukon will be represented in women’s university hockey, college hockey and in the Junior Women’s Hockey League this season.
Whitehorse’s Angela Burke is playing for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, Whitehorse’s Tamara Greek is hitting the ice for the Richmond Pacific Steelers, and Marsh Lake’s Jocelyn Wynnyk and Dawson City’s Lynsey Keaton are set to play for the SAIT Trojans.
Unlike the other three, who are all first-year rookies, Burke is a veteran of her team. The 21-year-old left-winger is beginning her fourth year with the Pronghorns.
“I feel like there’s been a lot of growth, not only individually, but in our team,” said Burke. “We have a really strong core group of girls and we’ve really developed with each other through the years.”
The Pronghorns hosted a preseason tournament last month and won six-straight games to win it. They opened the regular season with two games against University of British Columbia, last year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) western conference champs, this past weekend.
The Pronghorns lost 5-4 in a shootout Friday and won 3-2 on Saturday. Burke finished the two-game series plus-2 with an assist.
Since Burke has been on the team, the Pronghorns’ best finish was in the 2011-12 season, making the first round of the CIS playoffs. Lethbridge was eliminated by the University of Calgary Dinos, which included Canadian Olympic gold-medalist Hayley Wickenheiser
“This year she’s not playing on UFC, so I feel like the league is a lot tighter,” said Burke. “There’s no obvious powerhouse this year, so it’s actually really exciting.
“We have a really good feeling about this season and we hope we can make CIS playoffs and make it to nationals. That would be an amazing experience, just to be playing at that national level.”
Burke, who is majoring in psychology, plans to play with the team during her fifth and final year at Lethbridge next season.
“I’m eligible to play CIS for five years and I’d like to play out my hockey career as long as I can,” said Burke.
“My role on the team keeps increasing every year, on and off the ice,” she added. “I was named fittest player on the team this year, which is pretty huge seeing that I come back to the Yukon every summer.
“I have been training under (Whitehorse coach) Jake Jirousek with All Out Hockey. I’ve been training with him since Grade 12, so obviously he’s been a huge influence and has really helped me develop, even in post-secondary. He’s down here in Lethbridge this year and continues to be a huge supporter, coming to my games.”
Greek is “living the dream” in the JWHL.
The 17-year-old is playing defence for the Richmond Pacific Steelers while in her last year of high school in Vancouver. Playing for the Steelers is already opening doors, she said.
“I think it was a huge step for me in the right direction,” said Greek. “This is opening a lot of opportunities for university – I’m in contact with quite a few. I’m really glad I came here this year.”
Just four games into the regular season, Greek has already travelled to Vermont and Boston with the team. The Steelers lost their season opener but won their last three and are currently tied for second in the league.
Greek was spotted by the Steelers while playing at the 2013 Female U18 B.C. Cup and the Banff Hockey Academy Bears last season.
She was the only Yukoner invited to the 2013 Female U18 B.C. Cup.
Last season the Banff Bears won the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League with an astonishing 29-1-0 record. Greek was seventh in points for the league’s southern division with 20 assists, 14 goals, for 34 points in total.
Right-winger Keaton and goaltender Wynnyk will be working to improve on a dismal finish by the SAIT Trojans last season. The Trojans from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology – or SAIT Polytechnic – in Calgary placed last in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference league last season.
“I absolutely love it,” said Wynnyk. “There’s something about the team and the atmosphere that’s really good. The fact that you’re playing with girls who are at your level and can challenge you as well is really good. And the program is set up really well.
“I like everything about it. I’m really glad I came to Calgary. I had a few offers, from like Ontario, or to go play in the States, but Calgary is like a bigger version of Whitehorse it seems. It still has that small town feel.”
The two 18-year-olds are in their first year at SAIT. Keaton is studying welding and Wynnyk plumbing.
The Trojans are currently 4-4 with one more preseason game before the start of the regular season. Two of those losses came against Burke’s Pronghorns from the higher level CIS league. The Pronghorns won 8-0 and 5-1.
“That was a bad weekend,” said Keaton.
Wynnyk is one of three goalies on the team. She’s in the running for the starting-goalie spot, she said.
“Talking to the coaches they said they’d like me to be the starter for the season, but I have to really prove myself, that I can handle it,” said Wynnyk.
Wynnyk was on the Pacific Steelers last season and played midget female for the Prince George Cougars the year before that.
Keaton has played at numerous National Aboriginal Hockey Championships for B.C. and last year for a new pan-northern squad called Team North.
“It’s been really fun,” said Keaton of playing for the Trojans. “It’s been really different compared to the (Whitehorse rep team) Mustangs that I played on.
“It’s more intense … you have to try harder.”
All four Yukon women are alumni of the Whitehorse Mustangs rep hockey program. They have also represented the territory at major Games.
All but Burke played on the Yukon women’s hockey team at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax and Yukon’s bronze-winning junior female team at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games. (Burke did play at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.)
All but Keaton played on Yukon’s silver-winning junior female team at the 2010 Arctic Winter Games in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Greek and Keaton both hope to play for Yukon at the 2014 Arctic Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Wynnyk is unsure if she’ll be able to make it.
“I would love to, but schooling wise, I won’t be able to because of my schedule – I won’t be able to take that much time away,” said Wynnyk. “There’s still a little possibility, but it’s not looking too good.”
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