Penticton girl thrives at OHA
Alyssa MacMillan’s sophomore season with the Okanagan Hockey Academy female team has been about becoming a top forward.
At the same time, she wanted to improve her offensive output in the Junior Women’s Hockey League from last year’s rookie season in which she scored once and had seven points in 28 games. This year the 15-year-old finished with eight goals and 14 points in 28 games.
“Watching videos from last year and from this year, the improvement is crazy,” said MacMillan, who skated with the OHA three years ago but didn’t play. “I don’t think I would be anywhere from where I am if I didn’t come to OHA.”
MacMillan, a Penticton minor hockey product, has learned a lot from assistant coach Gina Kingsbury and coach Rebecca Russell.
“Just skill-wise I’ve gotten a lot better with skating and puck handling,” said MacMillan.
MacMillan mostly played forward, but also pitched in on the blueline depending on the situation. It was a switch she took a liking to as sometimes she experienced frustration up front. MacMillan considers herself more of a playmaker as she loves moving the puck and setting up teammates for the glory. MacMillan said she got off to a slow start this year then picked it up.
Playing in the JWHL against most of the top under-19 players has been good, said MacMillan. One aspect of the league she has enjoyed is the travel, which has taken the team to Boston, Syracuse, Hartford, Winnipeg and Vancouver, where the JWHL championship playoffs were held at UBC. MacMillan helped the OHA defeat the Boston Shamrocks, Alberta’s Warner School, Colorado Selects and Edge School before losing in the championship final to the North American Hockey Academy 6-0.
“It’s pretty cool. Most kids at 15 wouldn’t be able to see most of the things that I have gotten to see already,” said MacMillan, who looks up to teammate Emily Clark, former Canadian national team member Tessa Bonhomme, as well as Olympic gold medal winners Caroline Ouellette and Marie-Philip Poulin.
MacMillan said the playoffs were good and that they couldn’t have asked for a better round robin. She said she felt her performance was good, but that it’s hard to feel that way during a loss.
With a busy hockey schedule, MacMillan still managed to do well with her studies. A lot of time was missed, but MacMillan got things done during study hall and teachers are helpful. MacMillan usually completed her work before a trip and then would finish her homework during it.
“As long as you keep up with your work, and are pretty good with your homework, it’s not that big of an effort,” said MacMillan, who has an A average.
When asked what it’s like to be the only local player on the team, MacMillan said it’s kind of cool having girls from all over Canada in her hometown.