FOOT RACE - From left

Alberta’s best female hockey players go head to head

Players from across the province converged on the Penhold Multiplex last weekend

  • Jan. 18, 2017 4:40 p.m.

The best of the best female hockey players in Alberta converged on Penhold this past weekend, as the Alberta Female Hockey League Midget Elite All Star Game hit the ice for the first time ever.

Players from all across the province were selected to represent their teams at the game, which took over the Penhold Multiplex on Saturday afternoon, as the best players from the AFHL North Division and the AFHL South Division battled and showcased their skills in front of a packed house.

“It was a great showcase event for these young athletes,” said Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs’ Head Coach Brad Koopmans, who served as one of the coaches for the South Division at the game. “It wasn’t your typical All Star Game. Both teams wanted to win.”

Five players from the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs were among those selected to attend the new event and play in front of their home crowd on the All Star stage, including goaltenders Jayda Thompson and Rebecca Bridge, defenceman Gracyn Hollman and forwards ShaeLynn Bilodeau and Danica Polson.

“Our players from Red Deer, they showed quite well. I think our two forwards scored, both of our goalies looked well and a great performance by Gracyn Hollman on the point. It was a great event,” said Koopmans of seeing his players suit up in the white and blue All Star jerseys for the first time.

Coaches of each of the AFHL’s 12 teams nominated two forwards and a defence to represent their respective programs at the All Star Game while the goalies were selected based on statistical ranking in the first half of the season.

For Koopmans, the decision as to who he should send was an easy one.

Polson is one of the top offensive players in the AFHL, leading the league in goals and tied for the league lead in scoring.

“She’s also 17-years-old. An event like this is good to showcase these athletes that are graduating and hopefully give them another opportunity, another avenue to continue their hockey, whether that’s ACAC or NCAA or what have you,” Koopmans said of Polson.

Bilodeau, he said, is probably one of the best two-way players in the league and Hollman is an excellent shutdown defenceman for the Chiefs who also has a huge offensive upside, making her a good choice.

“Those three were obvious choices and again — being 16 and 17 — anything we can do to help showcase them a bit to continue on with their playing careers after they are done Midgets,” Koopmans said.

Meanwhile, the goaltenders earned their own spots in the game by putting up two of the top three save percentages in the South Division through the first half of the season.

“They did that themselves and it just shows that our team is basically built from the goaltenders on out.”

It was a whirlwind game which saw the South come out in full force against the visiting North and post a dominating 5-1 victory.

But the score wasn’t the most important part of the game. What is important is the event gives players a chance to showcase their skills for scouts from the ACAC, NCAA, CIS and even the Alberta Female Junior Hockey League.

“There’s a lot of girls on this team — whether they’re 15, 16 or 17 — and in the league for that matter who have the ability to continue playing and even become a student athlete with hockey when they go to post-secondary,” Koopmans said.

It wasn’t a very long All Star break for the Chiefs, though. They were back in action the following day as they travelled to Lloydminster to take on the Steelers.

They didn’t show any signs of fatigue though, coming out with an 8-2 win in the contest.

The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs are back in action on Jan. 28th when they host the Airdrie Lightning at the Kinsmen Twin Arena. Puck drop on that game is at 7:45 p.m.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com

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