A trio of Quesnel’s finest hockey talent are off to the BC Games and they couldn’t be happier with the opportunity.
At the front of the list is Hazel Massier who was given the nod to coach the northeast zone U16 girls team.
As a long-time hockey coach in Quesnel, Massier has earned the confidence of BC Hockey officials and with that confidence came the nod to lead the northeast zone U16 female hockey team into the BC Games.
“I love it,” Massier said as to why she pursued the head coach position.
Massier has coached and mentored at many skill levels from minor hockey to the BC Hockey Female High Performance Program, as well as the Hockey Canada Skills Academy.
It’s simply a matter of passion and a commitment to the development of healthy community.
“I love the game of hockey and I love to share that passion,” Massier said of her motivation.
Leading a team into the BC Games requires all of Massier’s experience as the circumstances present several difficult challenges.
First was the selection of 20 players from a group of 36 that laced up for the January selection camp, the highest number of girls to present themselves for a U16 camp, Massier said.
“That was a good sign and the calibre is improving every year,” Massier added.
Having better players is a good thing Massier said, but at the same time it made her job of selecting players more difficult.
Massier attributed the improvement in player skill to the increase in opportunities young girls have to play competitive hockey, as well as a more dedicated approach to the game by the girls.
“The girls are working harder at it,” Massier said.
Two of those dedicated hockey players are Ava Keis and Cheyann Newman of Quesnel and Massier said she was pleased to have them on the team.
“They’re both dedicated athletes, coachable and willing to give everything they have for every shift,” Massier said of the two skaters from Quesnel.
Keis, 14, has been playing hockey since she was 6 years old and will bring elite experience with her to the BC Games.
For the last three seasons, Keis has suited up for the female Prince George Cougars hockey team of the Prince George Minor Hockey Association.
That experience, Keis said, has led to significant improvements in her game.
“My shot and skating are better and I’m in better shape,” Keis explained.
“I’m on the starting penalty killing and power play teams.
“I think I’m making more of an impact for the team this year and my confidence is definitely higher.”
Keis, who plays right wing, is attending her first BC Winter Games and admits being selected to the zone team is exciting as well as a privilege.
Given the players have little time to practice or play as a team, Keis said the biggest challenge for her and her teammates would be to learn and apply the team systems as well as communicating effectively on the ice.
“We haven’t played together before and don’t know how each other plays,” she said.
However, having Massier behind the bench will make life a bit easier, Keis said.
“She’s [Massier] coached me before, so I know what her expectations are and how she will react to different situations on the bench,” Keis explained.
For Newman, 14, who plays with the Quesnel Bantam Tier 3 boys team, the trip to Vernon will also be her first experience at the BC Winter Games and represents an important step.
“I’m happy I made the team,” Newman said.
“It’s the first step for me, I want to be on the U18 team and skate for Team Canada.”
Newman, who will line up at centre, feels confident in her individual play and is looking forward to the challenge of playing with new teammates.
“It will be difficult to come together as a team,” she said.
“But we have a stong team of girls and I am sure we are going to come together, we all want to come back with a medal.
“That is what we work for, we all want to come back with gold.”
As coach, Massier admitted coming home with gold was the goal, but her first expectation was total dedication from her players and a commitment to playing as a team.
“If we can get them to work together, who knows what can happen,” Massier said.
“The talent of many makes the power of one.”