Williams Lake’s Laine Grace (back row

Williams Lake’s Laine Grace (back row

Team North claims first U16 BC Cup

Team North, for the first time ever, are the Female Under 16 BC Cup champions.

After an exciting weekend of games, practices and training at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan, the North region team defeated Lower Mainland Green 2-1 on April 7 to win the 2013 Female Under 16 BC Cup.

Five Williams Lake players — Laine Grace, 13, Ruthie Jackson, 14, Victoria Byer, 15, Stefanie Martin, 14, and Sarah Hermsen, 14 — helped comprise the North region squad, becoming the first team from the region to ever hoist the Female U16 BC Cup.

Marissa Nichol (Chetwynd) opened the scoring for Team North in the final, assisted by Cassidy Bell (100 Mile House), followed by the team’s second goal by Katie Young (Quesnel) off passes from Deborah Wraight (Terrace) and Nichol. Both goals were scored within the first seven minutes of the game.  Just a couple minutes later, Olivia Ramos (New Westminster) got Lower Mainland Green on the board with help from Amanda Pollock (Surrey).

The five lakecity players said it was an amazing experience, especially to win the tournament after heading into the tournament the underdogs.

“It was a great game,” said Byer, who paired with Jackson to form one of the team’s defensive pairings. “We worked hard and we worked as a team and were all together the whole way. It was a good game for both teams, because we were both strong.”

Jackson added they were fortunate to gain an early advantage, and said hanging on for the one-goal win was a hard-fought effort on everyone’s part.

“It was intense,” Jackson said. “All our goals were in the first seven minutes and nobody scored after that. It felt really good to win.”

“We were the underdogs and people weren’t thinking the north would win, so that was cool,” Grace said.

The team’s path to the final consisted of a 3-1 win over the Kootenays, a 3-1 victory and a 2-1 triumph against Vancouver Island, plus a 2-1 shootout win in the semifinal over Lower Mainland Green.

Williams Lake’s Kelly Call (manager) and Jane Nicol (trainer) travelled with the team to the tournament, which also had players participate in fitness testing, a social media seminar, a session on strength and conditioning and a banquet, which featured a speech by two-time Canadian Olympic hockey gold medalist, Gina Kingsbury.

Byer said the team came together exceptionally well considering they had just a one-hour practice session in Duncan to prepare for the tournament.

“We were probably the closest team,” she said. “None of us had really played together but we all came really close together like family.”

Jackson and Grace said it was an excellent opportunity to play among the top female players in the province.

“The highlight for me was getting the privilege to play with so many great players and meet so many new people,” Jackson said.

“Meeting everybody was great,” Grace added.

Both Grace and Hermsen were first-year players and will have the opportunity to suit up for Team North next year at the BC Winter Games. Byer, Martin and Jackson will move up to the U18 division next year, where the selection process for Team BC’s squad at the 2015 Canada Summer Games will be selected over a period of several months.

Team North was coached by Prince George’s Carl Johnston, with Terrace’s Mario Desjardins taking on the assistant coaching duties.

At the BC Cup Lower Mainland Blue defeated the Kootenays 5-1 to claim third and the Island beat the Okanagan 6-3.

BC Hockey’s Female High Performance Program was established to identify and train athletes and team personnel for possible participation at Provincial, National and International events.  The objective of the Program is to enhance the overall performance of BC athletes, coaches and officials in high level sporting events.