Quality of play was the reason the Okanagan Hockey Academy female midget team joined the Junior Women’s Hockey League.
Coach Rebecca Russell said the switch from the Canadian Sports School League gives their players the best in terms of competition. Along with the OHA, the JWHL also accepted the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask., last March. The OHA feels they made the right move.
“We’re doing all right,” said Russell of their play in the JWHL. “We’re growing. We always talk about sticking with the process. We’re going to get better and better. We had a good start against the Vancouver Steelers in the first weekend.”
They won 5-2, 6-2 and 6-1. Since then, the OHA is third in the Major Junior North division at 8-6-5, good for 21 points. They trail Warner School (Alberta) by six points and Calgary’s Edge School by five. The adjustment period then hit the OHA. Russell said they went to Duluth, Minn. and didn’t play as well as they expected.
“I think that was probably a good thing to happen to us,” said Russell. “The girls learned a lot from that weekend. Every single weekend we play in this league we’re going to have to be ready to go. Every game means something.”
Russell said they have strong goaltending in Hayley Dowling and Michaela Logan. Both have four wins, while Dowling has the better goals against average (2.15 compared to 2.58) and best save percentage (.911 to .903). Dowling also has two shutouts.
“It’s nice to have both of them and know that any given day that both of them can give you a chance to win a hockey game,” said Russell.
The team also benefits from having Emily Clark, Hannah Miller and Alexa Ranahan, considered the top three players in Canada in their age group. All three are representing Canada during the under-18 World Championship in Heinola and Vierumäki, Finland Dec. 29/12 to Jan. 5/13
“We are extremely proud of the efforts put forth by Hannah, Alexa and Emily in their accomplishments,” said Russell in a release. “The girls always bring their best and will be rewarded with a chance to showcase their abilities on the world stage. I am excited to help coach and guide them, when we are in Finland.”
For Clark, she is representing Canada a second time in the tournament, helping them win gold last year. She is hoping to help Canada repeat. Since that time, Clark has worked on her quickness and skating stride. Heading into the tournament Clark looks to be a leader.
“I want to make sure everyone is comfortable and playing their best,” she said.
It’s exciting for her to be playing with the best girls.
“It pushes you to play your best,” said Clark. “I want to take what I learn and bring it back to my team.”
Clark leads the team in scoring with 10 goals and 30 points in 20 games. Miller is the goal leader with 14 and is second with 18 points. Ranahan is the top defenceman in scoring with five points in 19 games.
“They have obviously been great,” said Russell.
Rachel Raffard, Micah Hart are in Grade 10. Penticton product Alyssa MacMillan is the only Grade 9 on the team.
“They have stepped up,” she said. “They have really been pleasant surprises for us.”