More and more of Vanderhoof’s fairer population are donning hockey gear and taking to the ice.
“There has been an increased number of girls starting to play hockey over the past four to five years, age 10 and under, and this year we decided to try to add an Atom age group to the girl’s program we already have running here in Vanderhoof,” said John Prestmo, a divisional manager for female hockey of Vanderhoof Minor Hockey Association. Forty girls are taking part in Vanderhoof’s female hockey program this year.
With insufficient participating girls from Vanderhoof, managers contacted Fraser Lake and Fort St. James, as well as included eight-year-old girls in Vanderhoof’s third-year Initiation program to boost numbers.
The Atom Girls team of the Nechako region is now comprised of five Atom and five Initiation players from Vanderhoof, three Atoms from Fraser Lake, and four from Fort St. James. All participants also play on co-ed teams in their age category, so Atom Girl-dedicated practices take place every second Thursday night in Vanderhoof.
“There has been great response to this and the girls are having a blast,” Prestmo said. “It’s always been a struggle finding games for the older girls because of a lack of teams to play, but it seems easier for this age group as there are teams in Prince George, Burns Lake, Williams Lake, [and other communities.]”
Playing their first games against a Prince George Atom team on Dec. 10, Vanderhoof, the Atom Girls team were down 1-2 during the third period when they scored two goals within six minutes, winning 3-2 at their first game.
“First game, first win, first everything,” said coach Steve Little. “I was impressed at how they played in their very first game.
“They work well.”
Hockey drills remained the same, as the players already understand the game.
“Girls used to just quit at Bantam hockey; this gives them more opportunity to play,” Little said.
Arley Funk, who just turned eight in October, is a wing forward for the team.
“It was fun, playing with some older players and watching them get goals,” said Funk. At her third year in hockey, Funk also plays soccer and her favourite is getting goals as well as being a team player, she said.
“I sleep a lot, so I have the energy to do it.”
After playing another Prince George Atom team on Dec. 11 in Vanderhoof, the Vanderhoof Atom Girls will compete in a Christmas Tournament on Dec. 19 and 20 in Prince George.