The defending Canadian Sports School Hockey League champion Okanagan Hockey Academy female varsity team are in rebuild mode.
Not that it is a bad thing. After finishing in first place overall in the regular season, and defeating Delta Hockey Academy in a 1-0 squeaker of a final for the CSSHL championship, they have graduated most of that team to a higher level of play with the OHA prep team.
“We had some really strong kids last year and they were able to move up to our prep team. That’s our goal here. They come in and we try and focus on skill development, teach them the game and move them up. We moved up nine or 10 players so we have a long road ahead of us, but hopefully we can move up some of these kids too,” said OHA varsity coach Courtney Tougas.
The result of those moves is a completely different looking varsity squad with only two returning players from the championship team.
“We have a young core and all these girls come from all over so they haven’t played much together yet,” said Tougas. “We are way younger than last year. We had kids that were in grades 11 and 12 and this year we have one player in Grade 11 and everyone else from grades nine or 10. These kids will have lots to learn.”
The varsity team hit the ice for their first regular season game on Friday, as hosts of a CSSHL showcase weekend in Penticton, losing 6-1 to Pilot Mound. OHA goalie Elly Lowe was pelted with 40 shots in the contest and Cassidy Enns (Cumberland, B.C.) scored the teams only goal on a breakaway with an assist to Kayla Kutes (Kirkland, Wash.).
OHA will get to know one another quickly this weekend as they play five games over three days during the Penticton showcase.
“This year we have some skilled forwards, but we are going to have to be a hardworking team because we are so young. We are also small so we will need to be fast and give these teams no space but right now we really have to focus on getting on the same page and trying to work as a team,” said Tougas.
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