They have more than five months to prepare for the highlight of their season.
And while the Sladen Moore Lakers are stoked to be hosting the 2012-13 B.C. Female Bantam A Hockey Championships next March, they also share one common goal.
“We’ve talked about it and our goal is to win our spot, not go in as hosts,” said head coach Keith Tucker. “We want a banner.”
The provincials will feature a maximum eight teams in a round-robin format, March 17-21, at Civic Arena.
For 13-year-old roadrunner centre Andie Kaneda, the B.C.s represent a trip down memory road.
“I think it will be really exciting,” said the first-year Bantam. “My sister (Madison) got to host the provincials in hockey, and she’s always been my role model. I look at the banner she won (at an away B.C. finals) and I get some inspiration.”
The Lakers, who swept the Prince George Cougars last weekend, appear to be talented enough to challenge for a provincial title.
“We have really strong forwards, we backcheck pretty hard and we use the points really well,” said Kaneda.
Captain Hunter Joseph, a 14-year-old shut-down defenceman from Lake Country, is new to Lakerville and brings experience, size and leadership.
“We’re quite speedy and grindy,” said Joseph, a smooth passer with a strong work ethic.
“Our main goal is not to just be hosting the provincials, but to win provincials.”
Alternate captain Chelsea McCaig, a Grade 9 student at A.L Fortune in Enderby, also plays a defensive role on the blueline.
“I’m a stay-at-home defenceman,” said McCaig, a catcher in fastball and midfielder in soccer. “Our team does lots of passing and we play well as a team.”
Newbie Olivia Comeau, a Calgary product who doesn’t pull for the Flames, is the other alternate captain. The Grade 9 Fulton student is a natural centre but is playing left wing for the Lakers.
“I’m coachable,” said the smiling 14-year-old, when asked about her strengths. “I think I’m a good leader. I’m a good skater and I can read the play well.
“I’ve been to provincials in Calgary three or four times and it’s fun, it’s a great experience for everyone. I think we won in my second-year Pee Wee. Home advantage really helps.”
Comeau, who cheers for the Rangers, Penguins and Predators, also enjoys soccer and volleyball. She’s impressed with the Lakers’ attitude.
“We’re really close on and off the ice and we call communicate well so that gives us an advantage.”
Tucker, a 52-year-old UBC grad, has been coaching female hockey for six years. He’s had the core group of the team for the last three years.
Veterans Kaneda, McCaig, Jenna Fletcher, Emily Clarke, Samantha Head, Makenna Southam, Taylor Vandale and Mairyn Tucker (Keith’s daughter) are expected to bring moxy and grit every shift.
“We’re about half and half with 13- and 14-year-olds,” said coach Tucker, assisted by Arnie Head, Korri Vandale, Mike Joseph and Jeff Southam.
“Cailee Bauml and Hannah Swift played for the Bantam-Midget team last year so we’ve added strength and depth.
“Two years ago when we had some Atom players in Pee Wee, we lost to Kamloops in the Okanagan final. Paige (newcomer Chapdelaine) and Olivia have given us great skill and experience.”
Tucker and staff are stressing the pass at all times system which seems to be working. They have tournaments in Kamloops and Calgary coming up before Christmas, and well in front of the provincials.
“We’re pretty good at not looking too far ahead. We’ve got our home tournament in two weeks so they’re focussed on that for now.”
Terrace, a provincial finalist last year with a dozen returnees, beat the Sladen Moore girls 5-3 in the recent Williams Lake tournament, and will be in Kamloops.
The rest of the Lakers: Bailey Berndt, Maya Baker, Amy-Rae Fox, Ripley Burd and Ailish Curran.
Corporate sponsors wishing to support the provincials are urged to call Laker GM Dave Fletcher at 250-308-7220.