The Northern Capitals of the Female Midget AAA league will have a visible Williams Lake flare this season when six lakecity hockey players will suit up for the Prince George-based team.
Brette Kerley, Paige Outhouse, Sara Vermeulen, Pyper Alexander, Bronwyn Pocock and Cadence Peticlerc-Crosby — all from last year’s 2017/18 Midget Female Williams Lake Timberwolves provincial championship winning team — are making the trek north to chase their hockey dreams at a higher level of competition.
Kerley, Outhouse, Vermeulen, Alexander and Pocock, all forwards, and Peticlerc-Crosby, a goaltender, each impressed Capitals head coach Justin Fillion this summer during the team’s identification camp.
“Not in my recent memory has there been this many from Williams Lake,” Fillion said. “There’s been players from Williams Lake over the years but I don’t think we’ve ever had this many girls a part of the Northern Capitals at once, for sure.”
The girls are living with billet families, and are all attending school together at Prince George Secondary School helping provide support to each other while they make the adjustment of playing for a new team, and living in a new city.
Fillion said he’s looking forward to having each player on the team, and added they all bring unique skill sets to the club. He had nothing but praise for the lakecity hockey products and noted they will be looked upon to help lead the team to success in its 30-game regular season.
“At our ID camp, that was my first time seeing Brette,” he said. “She was arguably one of the best girls out there. She’s big, she’s strong and she skates well. She’s only 15, but I think she’s going to be a big part of this program for the next few years, and I just see a bright future from here for here. All of these Williams Lake girls have been well coached and they know how to win.
“They’re always hunting pucks and they don’t like to lose battles in the corners.”
Fillion said Paige, 16, will be a strong centreman for the team and has the speed, skill and hockey sense to be a leader.
“I really notice she has a very leaderesque quality to her,” he said. “I think a lot of the girls look up to her, and I’ll lean on her in kind of a leadership role. She’s another girl who’s always hungry and wants to be better each and every time she gets on the ice, and it’s a fun thing to be a part of and a fun thing to coach.”
Vermeulen didn’t attend main camp due to a previously planned family trip, however, Fillion said she’s another hard-working player, and pairs that with skill.
“She’s going to be a good asset for us up front playing forward and definitely adds some depth to our lineup, and is another girls that’s going to be here a couple years and we expect big things out of her,” he said.
Alexander, another of the team’s younger players, has stood out from the crowd as always having a smile on her face, Fillion said.
“She’s got just a real good energy around her,” he said. “And she’s a talented player. She can score a lot of goals in this league. She sees the ice really well, and she’s a good player already and has a lot of room to grow. If it’s not this year, then the next couple she’ll be lighting up our league.”
Pocock, at 17 years old, will also be looked to as a leader, and Fillion said he expects big things.
“She’s a speedy, good-skating forward, and she’s going to add a lot of top end speed to our lineup,” he said. “She’s a girl who can really take advantage of the other team’s defence — beating them wide or beating them in the corner.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get her a scholarship so she can play hockey next year, and as a coach I see a lot of potential.”
Peticlerc-Crosby, at 14 years old, is the youngest player from Williams Lake to make the jump to the Capitals.
She was invited to attend the camp to help out as the team was short a netminder, however, was quickly offered a position with the team, Fillion said.
“She’s definitely pushing for that starting job,” he said. “She’s just bantam age, and coming into camp I only had one goalie registered and I knew she was the goalie of the Williams Lake team that won provincials last year, so I reached out to her family and asked them to come to camp.”
Fillion said Peticlerc-Crosby is a player coaches want on their team because of her work ethic and her compete level.
“Every shot she’s battling for position,” he said. “She’s making saves a 14 year old, in my mind, has no business in making and that all stems off her compete and want level. For her to only be 14 and have that desire, I think the sky’s the limit for her.”
Their parents, meanwhile, said their farewells at the start of the school year — a sad, but also moment to celebrate as they watch their teenagers head off to pursue their passion.
For Cindy Outhouse, Paige’s mom, she said 16 is way too young to leave home.
“We’ve been through this before,” she said. “Our son left home to play hockey at 15. Our twins left for university at 17. My heart is always heavy when they’re away. They are so very young. But, they have dreams and aspirations, and who am I to stand in their way?
“My husband and I purposefully taught our kids to chase their dreams, that they can do anything they put their mind to. When their dream takes them away from home we just have to support them and be proud of them. Yes we miss them, but we love them, support them and enjoy our moments together.”
Elisabeth Pocock, Bronwyn’s mom, said she’s said her daughter won’t be in Williams Lake this year, but said she’s excited for her to play a higher calibre of hockey as she’s been in love with the sport since she was seven years old.
“She’s talked about it for some time, trying out for the Northern Capitals,” Elisabeth said. “It was not an easy decision as it is her Grade 12 year and moving away form home and friends. She has been there just over a week and is settled at school and her billet family has been very welcoming, which has made the transition of leaving home easier for us.”
As for what the season holds, she said everyone’s excited to see what the team will do this year.
“Justin [Fillion] has great enthusiasm for the upcoming season and is committed to helping the older girls on the team have an opportunity to possibly go further with their hockey careers after.”
For Kristina Peticlerc, having her daughter who is entering Grade 9 this year away from home was a bit of a surprise.
“We weren’t really expecting it,” Kristina said. “We were asked to go help out because they only had one goalie and I had suggested we go up there just to play with the girls because it’s a competitive level and to get some of the rust off her skates, and we went and they really liked her and offered her a position on the team.
“We came back home after that weekend and talked a lot about the pros and cons and what the opportunity could mean for her and if this was what she wants to pursue in life and left it up to her to make the decision. She’s really confident in her decision and pushing herself to the next level.”
That said, Kristina said it’s amazing to see such a great group from Williams Lake succeeding at a high level of hockey.
“They have so much heart and dedication for the sport and I’m happy they’re chasing their dreams,” she said.
“It’s a big thing for all of them, and I’m proud of all of them. They’re really good hockey players and I think the best is yet to come, for sure.”
The Northern Capitals will get their first taste of competition beginning Sept. 14 when they travel to Calgary for the 2018 Fire Starter Tournament.
“It’s a huge showcase with a lot of Canadian and American universities there to hopefully see these girls, and especially the Williams Lake players, can get some eyes on them and attract some interest and I firmly believe there will be some, for sure,” Fillion said.
“My coaching philosophy is to get those 17 year olds places to play next year and I’m going to do everything in my power so they can play hockey, and make sure it’s a great experience.”