Female hockey stars play in exhibition game

A typical Saturday night in Canada is for the most part a night of hockey, whether it is with professionals or with the minor hockey

A typical Saturday night in Canada is for the most part a night of hockey, whether it is with professionals or with the minor hockey group and Dec. 29 is going to be no different.

Lacoka female hockey is hosting a night to remember at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex with an exhibition game by two university female teams — the University of Alberta Pandas and Grant MacEwan University Griffins.

Organizer Sharon Klinger’s goal is to fill the arena, which is one of the reason tickets are going for $5 each. “It’s a good deal. We want to give people a chance to see female hockey at its finest.”

There are three Lacoka female teams, midget, bantam and peewee and each girl who plays with Lacoka or Ponoka Minor Hockey is going to sell tickets to the game. The team that sells the most tickets will have the chance to conduct dry land training and warm up with the teams. The top two sellers will be able to do on-ice warm up with a team before the big game.

What Klinger is most excited about is having local players, Brandi Buss from Ponoka and Jessica Abt from Bentley, who are on the Pandas team, play in Ponoka.

“The opportunity to bring them back home is huge,” stated Klinger. “They’re trail makers for our female hockey program.”

Klinger feels the Lacoka and Ponoka Minor Hockey girls will see the possibilities of continuing in female hockey.

Since Grade 3, Abt has been on ice skates, she started with figure skating but it did not take long to steer toward hockey. “I was not big into figure skating… Hockey was just way more exciting.”

The speed and competitive nature of the sport is what made hockey a natural fit for Abt who also played with her sister. She plays forward for the Pandas and her skill is checking. The demanding nature of the sport is one of the reason she has played for so long.

“It’s physical, it’s body contact…it’s a fast game too,” explained Abt.

After playing in Bentley the next step for her was with the Red Deer Chiefs midget AAA female team in Grade 11. “It’s the highest level for girls in the midget category.”

She played with the Chiefs for two years until she played for the Red Deer College Queens while doing her studies. The biggest event for her was competing at the midget AAA western Canadian championships and the Queens placed second to Notre Dame College in Saskatchewan.

Abt is currently in her fourth year at the University of Alberta, studying kinesiology. She is considering continuing her studies in physiotherapy and eventually working with athletes, however Abt wants to continue playing hockey as long as she can.

For Brandi Buss, skates are something she has always been used to. She remembers being on skates since she was three years old. It is the work involved that has kept her going with hockey. “It’s such a challenge to me.”

She feels it is the one thing she has worked on to improve her skills and it was something her family enjoyed together.

“Me and my dad and brother are so into it,” stated Buss.

Her experience has always been playing with boys teams up to bantam AA in Ponoka until she too joined the Chiefs. Buss was with the Chiefs for three years, captain for the last year.Buss also played with the Red Deer Queens and Abt for one year. It was not until she joined the Pandas that she saw the difference in players’ skills.

“Being in midget hockey is great but it went to a different level in the University of Alberta,” she explained. “It’s a more mature game…Players are a lot smarter and coaches are a lot smarter.”

It gave her a better appreciation of the behind-the-scenes work to help a team to win. At her team’s level there is not much room for error as opponents will capitalize on a mistake. What stands out the most for Buss is the amount of people involved in hockey and the networking she has been able to accomplish since she started.

Her goal is to travel while still young and move forward with her kinesiology studies and eventually go to grad school for biomechanics and equipment design. She wants to take her learning and apply it to advancing equipment design in hockey.

Buss also appreciates working with her team and supporting staff working with the Pandas. “There’s so much going on behind the scenes.”

She looks forward to returning to her hometown to play. Tickets can be purchased from any of the Lacoka players or girls in Ponoka Minor Hockey.

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