A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a pair of female midget AAA hockey clubs will never forget.
The Northern Capitals hosted the Greater Vancouver Comets in what is believed to be Canada's first-ever outdoor game in the division for women's hockey, which concluded a three-game weekend series between the two teams.
The BC Winter Classic in Fort St. James this morning (Jan. 19) saw the Comets shut out the Capitals by a score of 4-0, sweeping the northwest series, 3-0.
This also marks the second day in a row a Prince George major midget team was held off the scoresheet at Ernie Sam Memorial Arena as the Cariboo Cougars lost to the Vancouver North West Hawks in a 2-0 final.
Tessa Sturgeon and Hailey Macleod started on either side of the ice today between the pipes, and were switched out halfway through the game by Cadence Petitclerc-Crosby and Jordyn Verbeek.
Sturgeon and Petitclerc-Crosby combined for 31 saves on 35 shots, while Macleod and Verbeek made 20 saves for the clean sheet.
.@GVanComets shut out @NCapitalsfmaaa 4-0 in first Female Midget AAA #BCWinterClassic in #FortStJames 🥅 Goaltenders Hailey Macleod & Jordyn Verbeek combined for 20 saves, while Jenna Buglioni, Vienna Ruben & Mackenzie Paynter got 2 points each | #CityOfPG #BCHockey @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/YO4d8TXps6— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) January 19, 2020
Greater Vancouver’s goal-scorers were Jenna Buglioni, Vienna Ruben, Madisyn Wiebe and Grace Elliott, all in regulation play.
“We’re from a pretty big town, so getting that small hockey-town feel and having all those people out to the games, it’s something super special and hockey definitely means a lot to the people out here,” said Buglioni, the captain of the Comets, who's had a busy season thus far having also represented Canada at the 2020 World Under-18 Women’s Hockey Championships.
“That event was big for me I think, just to grow as a player and a person. I felt, coming here, that there’s so many experiences that I can give to the girls back at home. We’re gearing towards playoffs here, so we had to think that this was just like any other league series and we just need to keep pushing forward and I think we did just that.”
For Ruben, the youngest member on Greater Vancouver’s roster at 14 years old, scoring a goal in a monumental event felt as good as it looked when she took a cross-ice pass to tip in the puck.
“Just being outdoors made it feel like real hockey,” she said when asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters, who also added an assist to Buglioni’s opening marker 4:25 into the contest.
“Knowing that I’m on this team, like, when I score, make a good play, it boosts my confidence and it just feels really good. It makes me more excited and really get more into the game.”
.@NCapitalsfmaaa, @GVanComets, @BCHockey_Refs & support staff are all smiles while posing for the commemorative group photo to close out the first Female Midget AAA #BCWinterClassic 📸 Perfect weather for the morning game | #CityOfPG #FortStJames #BCHockey @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/BZxMw5fCYm— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) January 19, 2020
A big difference between the girls’ outdoor game from the boys’ was that there was no pre-game practice on the ice surface before the Winter Classic.
When the Northern Capitals stepped on for the first time, a majority of the players said it was hard, making it easier for them to ‘dig in’ while skating in a smaller rink.
“It’s harder than most ice surfaces I’ve played on because it’s outside, but it was nice,” explained Kiera Mulder when as by PrinceGeorgeMatters about the conditions after warm-ups.
“It’s small and harder to adjust to, but I think we picked it up pretty fast.”
The Winter Classic capped off an eight-game season-long series between the two teams with the Comets, the third-ranked female midget AAA team in Canada, going 8-0 against the Prince George-based club.
Regardless of the outcome, there were plenty of takeaways the local athletes had from the experience, including playing in rural B.C. communities and going into schools to inspire the next generation of potential hockey players.
“I think it was a pretty cool experience,” said Capitals’ leading-scorer Brette Kerley.
“Everyone looks up to us; going into the little schools and seeing how excited the kids were to see us and just showing off Cariboo Hockey in a good way. [...] It’s pretty great considering that this isn’t really our hometown, but it feels like home whenever we stepped onto the ice.”
For Greater Vancouver Comets’ Kari Berry-Davis, seeing the big crowds in the smaller communities is what caught her eye in comparison to the comforts of Coquitlam.
“It’s a really cool environment,” she replied to PrinceGeorgeMatters’ question about the northern B.C. hospitality.
“It’s cool to see how there’s so many people here. There’s more than there is usually at our own home games. [...] Everyone I walk by says ‘Hi’ or everyone I see is friendly. One guy at the [Cariboo Cougars Winter Classic] game last night was selling soup to everyone; it’s great because there’s so many people, so many extra fans and it makes us feel really welcome.”
The first female midget AAA outdoor hockey game ended with a group picture, as well as more photo-ops and selfies between teammates and opposing players wanting to capture the moment forever.
B.C. Premier John Horgan witnessed both Winter Classic games this weekend in Fort St. James on the Nak’azdli Whut’en territory and took part in both ceremonial puck drops.
Just in the nick of time, B.C. Premier John Horgan showed up for the ceremonial puck drop for the 2020 #BCWinterClassic between @NCapitalsfmaaa & @GVanComets ⏱🏒 | #CityOfPG #FortStJames @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/ANpIMeDu9l— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) January 19, 2020