Whitehorse Mustangs see rise in co ed rosters

It's not uncommon for female players to be selected for the Whitehorse Mustangs "boys" teams, but this season it's a little different.

It’s not uncommon for female players to be selected for the Whitehorse Mustangs “boys” teams, but this season it’s a little different.

There are four female players on rosters for the Whitehorse rep club’s ‘A’ teams this season, including the atom, peewee and midget teams.

Though females players have made Mustangs A squads in the past, this season marks the first time three A squads each have one or more, and the most overall in recent history.

On the A team rosters are Linsey Eby with the midgets, Maddie Nicholson with the peewees, plus Piper Fordham and Olivia Blisner with the atoms.

“I was pretty happy to make the team,” said Eby. “I honestly didn’t think I would.

“The boys are a lot quicker with pass-ups and are a lot more fluent with their stick handling. I’m not used to the faster-moving game.”

Eby, 17, is no stranger to wearing a Mustangs jersey. She played for the Female Mustangs – the rep club’s only all-female team – the last two seasons. She also played for the Northern Avalanche female rep team before the Avalanche joined the Mustangs program.

Eby, who is playing defence, is the first female player on the Midget A Mustangs since goalie Crystal Stewart in 2004.

Whitehorse’s Tamara Greek, who is now on the Richmond Pacific Steelers in the JWHL, played on the Midget B Mustangs a couple seasons ago, as did Angela Burke before she started playing for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns four years ago.

Eby decided to go for the midget team rather than the Female Mustangs to get more ice-time and more tournament play, she said.

“It’s more ice-time,” said Eby. “All the girls are awesome, but you feel more of a mentor than a team player with them.

“There’s more ice-time and more games.”

“She decided to come out and she did quite well, so she made the defence core,” said Midget A Mustangs head coach Barry Blisner. “It’s a big jump for her, but I think she’s up for it.”

Both Nicholson and Olivia are “AP” or associated players on their respective teams. This season Mustang teams have increased A team rosters from 15 to 20 players. The additional five AP players practice with the team and can fill in for players who are unable to travel to tournaments.

Nicholson, who plays right-wing, is an AP for the Peewee A Mustangs, but is also playing for the Female Mustangs.

“She’s on the peewee team, but she’s not in the top 15 that will be going to tournaments. But if someone gets hurt or for some other reason we need her to fill in, she’s available to do that,” said Peewee A Mustangs head coach Kirk Gale.

“She’s a strong girl and she’s getting better every year,” he added. “There are just a few things she needs to work on in her game.

“She’s a good hockey player. She’s dedicated, she’s working on her game and right now she’s with the girls team.”

Being named as an AP did little to quash Olivia’s excitement.

“I was pretty happy,” said Olivia about making the team. “It’s a bit harder than different teams I’ve played on. Practices are faster and have harder drills.”

Olivia has gone through timbit, novice and tykes on co-ed teams, so playing with boys is nothing new to her.

“I’ve played with them my whole life, so it’s no different really,” said the 10-year-old.

“She was very excited,” said father Barry, the midget coach. “It’s been a great experience for her so far.

“She’s been skating since she was four or five. Of course she has her older brother (Jack) who has played for the Mustangs for a number of years and we always have a rink in the back (yard).”

Fordham, who is a winger like Olivia, is not an AP player on the atoms. She is already showing her grit, said Atom Mustangs coach Clint Mylymok, the new head coach for the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association.

“She’s very competitive and not afraid to get involved either,” said Mylymok. “She has some pretty decent skill … She’s taller than a lot of the boys on the team and she fits right in.

“She’s a gamer too on the bench. We had our first game the other night and she’s blocking shots, she’s physically engaging, she’s not scared out there at all.”

Eby will have an important decision to make in December. Next year’s Arctic Winter Games and the B.C. Hockey Championships are taking place the same week in March. She will have to choose between playing for the Mustangs in B.C. or for Yukon’s junior female team at the Arctics in Fairbanks.

She is undecided at this point, she said.

Eby played on Yukon’s silver-winning female team at the 2010 Arctic Winter Games, the bronze-winning team at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games and on the territory’s female team at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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