Whitehorse Daily Star

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OUTSIDE EXPERIENCE – Isabel Paquette of Watson Lake skates after the puck as teammate Cassie Cebuliak of Whitehorse follows during Atom girls hockey exhibition game action in Vancouver last weekend. Photo by SARAH LEWIS PHOTOGRAPHY

Newly-formed Yukon Girls Atom Travelling Team faces first female rivals

A young group of aspiring hockey players faced their first female competitors last weekend.

By Marissa Tiel on January 13, 2017

A young group of aspiring hockey players faced their first female competitors last weekend.

The Yukon Girls Atom Travelling Team, which was formed in December, travelled to Vancouver last weekend to play a series of exhibition games against Vancouver-area teams.

“We did excellent. The girls had a blast,” said Pat Tobler, the team’s coach. “They really enjoyed playing as a team and we were very competitive.”

The girls faced the Tier 1 Vancouver Angels and lost two competitive games 3-1, 4-2. They played the Tier 3 Vancouver Angels and won the game 10-2.

Their second game with the Tier 3 team they combined forces and played with teams comprised of players from both sides.

Their final game was against the Tier 1 Burnaby Wildcats.

Team manager and assistant coach Len Walchuk said the game was fast-paced and although the Yukon team was outshot 34-28, the final score was only 4-1.

Taylor Bierlemeier was the Yukon’s top scorer of the weekend with 12 points.

Goalie Alix “The Wall” Walchuk faced more than 120 shots over the weekend and let in very few. She earned the nickname for turning away the oncoming shooters, said coach Walchuk.

While there are local opportunities for older all-girls hockey teams in the Yukon, not much exists in the way of the younger athletes.

In the recreational and minor hockey leagues, the girls are mixed in among the boys teams, said Tobler.

Before the atom team travelled, they played a handful of games against three Whitehorse Minor Hockey boys teams.

The games in Vancouver were the first the Yukon girls have played against other female teams.

“It was great to see the girls enjoy the weekend, come together, play as a team and have a fun weekend,” said Tobler.

As the team was assembled late last year, Walchuk made a few phone calls to try and organize a trip. The Vancouver Girls Hockey Association was immediately interested and came on board to help organize the games.

“We wanted to make an easy trip ... one flight,” said Tobler. “Len just made a call down to Vancouver and the girls’ association and Vancouver was super keen on having us down there and essentially they made ice available and set up all these games so all we had to do was show up.”

Fourteen girls with 2006 and 2007 birth years made up the roster.

The Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association and Yukon Hockey have both shown an interest in further developing girls’ hockey in the territory.

With the success of this team and their trip down south, it appears there is a lot of interest, said Carl Burgess, Hockey Yukon president. He said they are in talks with BC Hockey to host a female jamboree sometime this spring.

Burgess also pointed out that the atom team will likely feature many of the skaters who will represent the territory at the 2023 Canada Winter Games.

“It bodes really well for those girls,” he said, “If what happened this weekend is any indication of what could happen six years from now.”

The Atom team doesn’t have any immediate travel plans.

“But given the success of this trip,” said Tobler, “I’m sure there’ll be more interested.”

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