They are young, fast and in love with hockey. Some, like scoring phenom Andie Kaneda are in a rush to officially become a teenager.
“Can you put down that I’m 13?” asked the smiling Kaneda, moments after a Tuesday night practice at Wesbild Centre. She will be 12 until July 2.
Kaneda, following in her sister Maddie’s skates as a relentless roadrunner, is captain of the Sladen Moore Lakers, the only Vernon minor hockey team headed to a provincial championship during Spring Break.
The Lakers swept the Kamloops Mystix for the Okanagan Mainline title and open the seven-team B.C. Pee Wee Female AAA finals this afternoon (1:30) in Richmond against Prince George.
Kaneda, a centre, led the Lakers with 48 goals and 82 points in 46 games. Her usual linemates Emily Clarke (35-20-55) and Mairyn Tucker (22-21-43) also enjoyed productive seasons.
“I find I make good plays down in their end and I backcheck hard and I’m aggressive,” said Kaneda, a Sidney Crosby fan who was only assessed eight penalty minutes.
A guard in basketball at Okanagan Landing Elementary and a midfielder in U13 Rep soccer, Kaneda likes the make-up of the Lakers.
“We have a really good forecheck, speed and we have good goaltending (from the zany and acrobatic Samantha Head).”
Tucker, who turns 13 in May, also plays up front, chasing the puck like it has money attached.
Asked about her attributes, the Grade 7 Len Wood Elementary student who led the Lakers with 30 penalty minutes, said: “I’m smart with the puck and I’m a fast skater so I forecheck. Our passing is strong and we’re good defensively.”
Tucker, whose dad, Keith, is an assistant coach alongside bench boss Arne Head and fellow assistants Jeff Southam and Mike McCaig, is into ballet and jazz dance and music theatre away from the rink.
“My favourite NHL player is Cody Franson (Toronto Maple Leafs). I went to his house (in Sicamous) and talked hockey with him.”
Clarke, who left Tweenville in January, goes to the net like there’s candy in the crease. She likes the Lakers’ style.
“We work hard as a team and don’t fumble the puck and we keep our heads up,” said the Grade 7 Hillview student. “The coaches push you and they’re really fair abut everything.”
Clarke patrols the fullback in Rep soccer.
Cassidy Marshall, who finished fourth in Laker scoring with 18 goals and 29 points, is one of the team’s most versatile players.
“I play left wing, but I might be playing defence at provincials,” said Marshall, who hit 13 a month ago. “I like both, I’m experience at both. I guess I’m a fairly good skater, I’m aggressive and I hate to lose; I love to win.”
Marshall, also a Len Wood student, also believes the Sladen Moore crew is an unselfish group.
“We’re really good at moving the puck around as a team. We never give up and there are no individual players trying to do it all by themselves.”
Head, who pretty much spent 24/7 at the arena since she played forward and defence for the Pee Wee House Stevenson Mechanical Blues, brings talent and humour.
A chatty Cathy around and outside her crease, Head, 12, says the Lakers make her job easier with solid defence.
“Mostly our offence,” she said, when asked about the Lakers’ main strengths. “We know how to forecheck hard and get rebounds which is how we get a lot of our goals.”
Added the Grade 7 Harwood student: “Our wingers cover their points really well so I can see most of the shots. I like to challenge shooters when they get close.”
Head plays fullback in U13 Rep soccer and enjoys school hoops and volleyball.
The Lakers will face North Shore Monday, battle the host Richmond Ravens Tuesday and go up against Surrey Wednesday, all morning games. They take on Vancouver Island Thursday morning. The finals go Thursday night.
“We lost twice to Surrey this year, but we were competitive,” said Arne Head. “We are a very good forechecking team, and with the addition of Jenna (Fletcher) and Makenna (Hoffman), we have some more size. Julie Gilowski helps us in that area as well.”
Atom-age Carly Southam and their “2000 line” of Jordan Butler, Julia McCaig and Chelsea Marshall add even more zest.