Richmond Ravens are top Peewees in the province
After winning the prestigious Wickenheiser classic in Burnaby recently, B.C.’s top Peewee A girls’ hockey team is anxious to test its mettle against some of the nation’s best this weekend in Edmonton.
Sporting a jaw-dropping 19-1-1 record, the Richmond Ravens will enter the tournament having outscored their provincial opposition by a ratio of more than 10 to one. But coach Tony Lindsay says there is no fear of over-confidence setting in.
“Even though they have a really high skill level they’re really dedicated,” he says. “But I anticipate us to really be pushed in Edmonton and expect we’ll be underdogs because female hockey in Alberta is so strong. One of the big reasons is the significantly more girls playing and the even greater commitment to skill development over a longer period of time.”
Still, Lindsay believes this Ravens’ team can be more than competitive with their Alberta and Saskatchewan rivals.
“Right now we’re clearly the No. 1 team in the province, having lost only once (2-1 to the Surrey Falcons whom they later defeated 4-2 in the final at the Wickenheiser classic),” he notes. “It’s the culmination of a few things we’ve worked a lot on in the last five years and what these kids have learned through our skill development and spring programs.”
But being No. 1 also presents its own set of challenges. These include the need to be able to motivate yourself and accomplishing goals other than simply winning.
“Our players have the ability to do some things that are noteworthy,” says Lindsay. “They really pass the puck well and we really emphasize playing in all three zones. And once they see an open lane they’re encouraged to go to the net. In the modern game you need to transport the puck as quickly as you can. Like Wayne Gretzky was known for, we ask them to think about where the puck is going not where it is. They’re at an age now (12 and 13 years old) where cognitive development allows them to tackle more complex scenarios and so our practices reflect that.”
First-year captain Hannah Shihundu epitomizes the Ravens’ talent and dedication. A strong skater, she was awarded a letter for the good example she sets on and off the ice and the respect she’s afforded by her teammates.
“She’s a powerful skater who really sets a commanding presence, especially in big games,” says Lindsay.
Shihundu scored twice to pace the Ravens to a 4-1 victory over perennial powerhouse North Shore Avalanche in the semifinals of the Wickenheiser classic. Nicole Soon and Kirsten Abo had the other Raven goals.
Richmond jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead in the final against Surrey on goals by Abo (the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals), Karina Lannard and Madison Warren. The Falcons closed the gap to 3-2 after two periods but couldn’t muster a single shot on Ravens’ goalie Jenna Ehling in the final frame as the defence of Aish Sanders, Kate Reilly, Erika Palmieri, Madison Bigras and Hannah Green tightened up considerably. Up front, Ashili Forbes (with three goals) had a breakout tournament and combined with linemates Warren and Janey Wilson to provide a relentless forecheck. Sierra Shikaze scored two goals and two assists and was a constant threat to add to those totals, while line mate Naomi Choong also scored once.
“It was a great opportunity for our players to measure themselves against the top teams in B.C.,” said Lindsay. “We were pushed and faced some adversity but the girls came through it with flying colours. We were resilient and relentless. I was very proud.”
The provincial minor hockey association of the year in 2011-12, one of the Ravens’ most important mission statements remains to be the leading female association in B.C. As the association’s director of development, Lindsay plays an active role.
“We believe we need to show leadership at all levels, including the introductory (Tyke) level,” he says. “And we place a huge emphasis on skating for all our new players.”
This weekend, the Ravens are hosting their second annual Tyke Jamboree at the Richmond Ice Centre. About 100 players from associations throughout the Lower Mainland are expected to participate in Sunday’s event from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The format will see the participants’ names drawn from a pool to form eight teams. Each will play two 14-minute games with a line change every two minutes. Raven coaches will oversee the games, allowing visiting coaches and parents to enjoy the games from the heated seating area and take in a 10-minute practice by the Midget AAA Pacific Ravens. Each player will also receive a medal and goodie bag at the end of the day.
“We want to give them an opportunity to have a great time and for their parents to see the kind of skill development our players are getting, with the idea of them going back to own associations and applying some of those lessons there,” says Lindsay.