There is a youth movement at play with the Avalon female hockey team at the 2014 NL Winter Games in Clarenville.
A number of bantam-aged players (13 and 14) have been playing big roles with the club.
They’re the young guns.
From Hopeall’s Kaitlyn Mayne up front to Harbour Grace’s Samantha Pike on defence each have been contributing big time minutes and effort in the team’s bronze medal showing at the Games.
Other young players like Kelsey and Kristen Shute of Harbour Grace, as well as Abby Gambin of Dunville, Tyra Lannon of Placentia and Emma Gilbert of Green's Harbour also played important roles in the tournament as bantam-aged skaters.
This is nothing to underplay the role of veterans like Emma Russell, Kaila LeDrew, Shelby Batten, Courtney Caravan and Karissa Bradbury.
It is just impressive to see these young players contributing in an important fashion.
Avalon defeated Labrador 3-0 at the Clarenville Event Centre this morning (March 4).
Kelsey, a goaltender, posted a 19-save performance and picked up the shutout.
The female hockey portion of the Games is a tournament that features players between the ages of 13-16.
This means many of the bantam-aged players are competing against athletes who are older and stronger.
But, for the likes of Mayne, Kelsey, Pike and Gambin it’s nothing new.
The four have been playing prominent roles for their respective male minor hockey bantam teams in Whitbourne, Placentia and Harbour Grace.
This means going against some pretty stiff competition on a gamely basis and holding their own.
“It’s good practice for the younger players going against the older girls,” said Mayne.
Playing forward at the bantam level is not easy.
Especially when there is contact with male players who may outweigh you by 20 pounds or so.
Because of that, going into the corners can be especially risky, male or female.
However, that does not stop Mayne from going in there, and more than likely, coming out with the puck.
It’s something she has done numerous times during the Games.
“It’s something I practice a lot when I’m home,” she said. “In our practices, we have puck races and we have to battle along the boards. I love doing that.”
Pike and Gambin patrol the blue-line for their clubs.
Pike is a fundamentally sound force in the defensive end. Angling players off the puck, along with subtle stick checks to gain possession are just a few of the skills she employs.
“It’s something I picked up in bantam,” Pike said. “I like getting the puck out (of her zone).”
Gambin shows a bit more offensive flare on the backend for her Placentia squad.
Still rounding into form after suffering a broken wrist earlier this season, Gambin prides herself on being able to move the puck and make that all important first pass out of her zone.
“Making that good first pass gets the offense going,” she said.
Kelsey got into goaltending after watching her older brother Brandon play the position.
Now, she can count herself as one of the finest female keepers in the province.
For evidence of that look no further than her performance in the bronze medal game.
Kelsey classifies herself as an athletic butterfly goaltender, and she is not put off by having to face older shooters.
“I’ve played against older players my whole life,” she said.
Each of these four, plus the rest of the Avalon female team, have played a part in bringing the bronze medal back to the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region.
“It’s been great competition,” said Gambin.
For more coverage of Avalon’s bronze medal victory, keep checking www.cbncompass.ca