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Powell River U11 Queens finish season undefeated

Hockey club played 34 games during 2023/2024 campaign and won them all
INCREDIBLE YEAR: Powell River U-11 Queens hockey team posed with banners they won this past season, for winning the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association league play, playoffs and three tournaments, going undefeated and scoring 101 goals, while only allowing five.

Powell River Queens under-11 hockey team has concluded an undefeated season.

Team manager Elise Statham said this past season, a group of feisty girls wove their own story into local hockey lore with a legendary inaugural season in Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association’s (VIAHA) U-11 female recreational division, coming out without a loss in their regular season and playoff games.

“They skated their way into qathet history by earning the first ever female banners that will hang in Hap Parker Arena,” said Statham.

In regular season play, the U-11 Queens scored 101 goals against the opposition and only five goals were scored against them, according to Statham. The girls won three tournaments, including WickFest, which is the female hockey endeavour of Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser; the Burnaby Remembrance Day tournament, and the local Queens Cup. They never lost a game in tournament play, either.

“The real victory is knowing that these Queens were part of achieving something far greater than they ever could on their own individual merit,” said Statham. “All season, they practiced hard, worked on their individual and team skills, and rose to the occasion every opportunity they had to step onto the ice.

“The community rallied behind them, too, with incredible fundraising, sponsorship and, of course, cheering from the stands. It truly takes a village or, in this case, a coastal community with heart.”

Statham said the Queens program owes so much to the women who paved the way for them, including Jodi Mastrodonato, Traci Abbott, Suzi Wiebe and Julie Venselaar.

“Only five years ago, our entire Queens program had girls from U-7 to U-18 skating together once a week,” said Statham. “Now, our female Powell River Minor Hockey Association (PRMHA) program boasts three ice times and two recreational teams (U-11 and U-15) in VIAHA league play, with hopes of there being a U-11, U-13 and U-15 next year.” 

Statham said special congratulations go out to the U-11 Queens and their incredible coaches Adam Culos, Jaymie Ollson, Ashleigh Tassell and Josh Statham, and fundraising coordinator Jocelyn Ciarniello.

Promising development

Venselaar, female hockey coordinator for PRMHA and head coach of the U-15 team, said the U-11 Queens were phenomenal and she was so proud of them, as were the coaches and manager.

“They all did a great job,” said Venselaar.

She said the development of the players is amazing and the program is showing that some “pretty great players” can be produced here without them having to leave to find good hockey elsewhere.

Venselaar said there were 76 girls registered in the female PRMHA program, and there were also a few girls playing hockey here who weren’t registered with the female program. She said 76 players was the highest number since she became involved in the program. She added that in addition to developing their hockey skills, the players are having a great time.

“It’s fun to win, obviously, but it’s also fun to learn, improve and be with a team, travelling together, going away to tournaments and playing competitively,” said Venselaar. “That’s a huge part of it as well.”

Venselaar said the U-15 team did amazingly well in VIAHA and tournament play this past season, finishing fourth in the league and third in playoffs, losing the semi-final game in double overtime to the top-seeded team.

“We’re having successes at all levels,” said Venselaar. “One of the things I’m really proud of this year is every girl who registered for hockey who wanted to play on a girls team was on one. That’s hard to do with the age range we have but VIAHA was really interested in working closely to ensure we could get all these girls on a team.

“I was so thankful to them for showing support for the girls in our community.”

Venselaar said players are lost if they don’t have regular games, because they want to play. She said being involved in VIAHA is the only way to do that and it is a huge commitment. There was lots of travel, but it went really well.

“VIAHA made a schedule that really worked for us for the most part,” said Venselaar. “The coaches were dedicated to getting everyone there. The U-15s had a rougher go because they played from Victoria to Port Hardy, so there was a lot of travel.

“The amount of community support we have here is incredible. We had to do a lot of fundraising to afford this. Every year I am blown away with the generosity in our community to support the girls. This year we needed lots and we got it. I’m so thankful.”

Proud coach

Culos said it was a privilege to hold the U11 Queens coaching position this past hockey season.

“It was pretty remarkable in the big picture; it was a treat to coach them, for sure,” added Culos. “My biggest satisfaction from a coaching perspective is watching these kids mature on the ice and off the ice as well. We’ve moved from female hockey players to hockey players, if that makes sense.

“They are breaking that so-called glass ceiling. They are not just female hockey players. It’s great to see the sport grow, as well as the girls.”

Culos said the players are amazing, they listen and work hard.

“They put in the effort and they have earned what they’ve got, so kudos to them,” said Culos. “We had good competition in the VIAHA, but we also went to tournaments where we had good competition as well and fared well. It’s good for the girls and opens their eyes to opportunities.

“They did very well in every tournament, playing hard and playing well and they grew as a team, which is probably the most important part. As a group, they really came together and blended. That was one of their recipes for success.”

Culos said the U-11 team played 34 games this past season and didn’t lose a single one, including preseason, three tournaments and then league play and playoffs.

“It was amazing,” added Culos. “The girls improved and got better. It’s exciting times for Powell River Minor Hockey.”

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