The West Kootenay Wildcats host the best Pee Wee girls teams in the province this week, as BC Hockey’s 2019 Female Provincial championships skate into the Trail Memorial Centre on Thursday.
Teams from the North Shore, Kelowna, Victoria, Surrey, and Prince George will compete in the four-day tournament against the Wildcats starting Thursday and culminating in the final match on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
“Everything came together very well,” said Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association’s female hockey director Mark Buckley. “The only problem is our Junior teams are doing too well, so we may have to juggle the ice around a little bit, but other than that, it’s all good.”
The one major threat to the provincials schedule is a potential Game 6 in the Trail Smoke Eaters-Vernon Vipers series, which is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m., pushing the Wildcats vs Kelowna Rockets game to the Castlegar Rec Complex.
“I hope they (Smoke Eaters) take it in four, if not, we’ll end up playing one game in Castlegar, so it’s not a big deal.”
Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association hosted the Pee Wee championship in 2010, and rallied this past year to throw its hat into the ring once more, with parents and volunteers coming together to make it happen.
“Clare DeWitt’s been awesome, she’s done a lot of work, and our parent group has done a ton of work, we’ve got a lot of support from our sponsors in the community.”
The Pee Wee Wildcats play in the GTMHA Pee Wee division, and improved steadily throughout the year, highlighted by a gold-medal win at the Kamloops Pee Wee Girls Rec Tournament, and silver at the Hayley Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival in Surrey in February. The dedication of the players and their parents has been inspiring as girls from across the West Kootenay have travelled to Trail for practices and games throughout the season.
“I love our team,” said DeWitt. “It’s made up of girls aged 10-13 (Atom to Pee Wee age). We have one girl who travels from Nakusp so she has somewhere to play girls hockey, we have two who cross the mountain pass from Grand Forks every week to come to practices and games, then we have one girl from Nelson and three from Castlegar, plus our local GTMHA kids.”
The Pee Wee Wildcats are coached by Trail sisters Katie and McAyla Yuris, who rebooted the program last season and hope to grow and sustain interest and compete level in girls hockey from Pee Wee right up to Midget.
“They’ve been incredible,” said Buckley. “The whole family not just the girls. Katie actually coached my daughter at the Bantam level in Castlegar, and she was one of Olivia’s favourite coaches.”
The Wildcats will face tough competition, but have found success against teams from larger centres throughout the year, and would like nothing more to finish the season off with a provincial title.
West Kootenay plays the North Shore Avalanche to kick off the tournament at 10:30 a.m., then play the South Island Royals immediately following the Opening Ceremonies at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday.