CARSTAIRS - The Carstairs atom female Bruins hockey team completed its first season recently. It's believed that the team is the first minor female hockey team in the area, although there have been ringette teams and adult women's teams.
Head coach Jill Mader said the team did very well this year and the coaches are very proud of all the players.
"We had an amazing season," said Mader. "We didn't win a banner but there was so much individual growth, teamwork and big strides for female hockey and female empowerment."
The Bruins had a team of 15 players with three eight-year-olds, six nine-year-olds and five 10-year-olds.
"Three of the girls played Carstairs mainstream hockey, which is mixed boys and girls. Two came from Crossfield's mainstream program, two came from Didsbury mainstream," she said. "One came from Funteam hockey and only one played female hockey in Olds last year but they didn't have an atom team this year for her to play on. The other five girls were new to hockey altogether but joined because of the girls' option."
The Bruins played in the Rocky Mountain female atom league against teams from Stettler, Lethbridge, Okotoks and Red Deer.
"The girls lost most of their games at the beginning of the season," she said. "We went to Wetaskawin for a great tournament in mid-November and that's where the girls really started to click. Tournaments are awesome for team building. They got their first win there and it really helped with their confidence."
After a few more losses, the team won its first league game on Dec. 22 against Okotoks.
"The rest of the year was so positive," she said. "They won another league game in January. We went to a tournament in Lethbridge where we went two and two. At the end of January we hosted our own tournament and went undefeated and won the gold."
Mader said the Bruins got great leadership from their experienced players who brought different skills to the table. As well, she added, the new players all grew tremendously as they got experience with skating and improved their skills.
In the league playoffs, the girls were seeded fourth and had to go to Lethbridge to play the top seeded team in the south division.
"We lost 6-5 in a tight race and the girls did amazing at rising to the occasion," she said. "They really played their hearts out."
For Game 2, the teams played in Carstairs where the local Bruins dominated, winning 11-2. The teams then played a sudden death four-on-four overtime, which Carstairs won with a quick goal by top scorer Riley Eckstrand.
"This was amazing and such a testament to the girls' level of improvement and love and desire for the game and each other," she said.
In the south division final, the Bruins came up short, losing twice to Okotoks: 6-5 and 5-2.
"Even though we never won the big title or topped any records, we were extremely proud," she said. "I am proud of what we were capable of through many moments of adversity and a big mix of girls from different towns, experience and background. If you asked them I am sure they would answer, 'We are Carstairs.'"