It’s a young, but talented team that heads north today when the Yellowhead Chiefs hit the road to begin their Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League season tonight in The Pas.
The Chiefs sport only three 17-year-olds in their final year of midget eligibility, with the core of this year’s team featuring the graduating players from Yellowhead’s 2012 provincial champion Bantam AAA team.
While early expectations for Yellowhead are for a bit of a rebuilding year in its fifth season in the MFMHL, the Chiefs have high hopes for their young kids, including Tirra Lemoine who has made Manitoba’s under-18 team even though she doesn’t turn 16 until Nov. 18.
“We’ve got a lot of 97s (players born in 1997) and the core group of those 97s are the team that won (Bantam) AAA provincials last year,” Chiefs head coach Myles Cathcart said. “That group came up to midget this year, so we’ve got quite a few 15-year-olds and then a few 16-year-olds and then the three 17-year-olds, so we’re pretty young …
“I think we sort of have that expectation to get some experience this year, but as the group has come together, we feel pretty good right now and we have an expectation to be right there at the end when it is all said and done.”
In addition to their Yellowhead-region players, the Shoal Lake-based Chiefs added a couple of players from the Parkland region after its Midget AAA female team folded, as well as four Brandonites in Kirsten Brown, Jalyn Elmes, Mackenzie Bortis and Shayna Fluker, who were eligible to try out for either Yellowhead or the Westman Wildcats because Brandon doesn’t currently feature a team in the league.
“We’ve got the kids from Brandon and then we’ve got some kids from Parkland because Parkland folded and the rest of them are Yellowhead girls,” Cathcart said, noting some of the younger members of the Chiefs have already drawn interest from college and university scouts. “We’re pretty young right now, so I don’t think there are any (scholarship) offers on the table yet, but I know that there are a few girls that are being scouted.”
The eight-team MFMHL has grown into one of the premier female midget leagues in the country, with the Pembina Valley Hawks (2012) and Westman (2009) having won two of the last four Esso Cup national midget championships. The league also features the Central Plains Capitals, Eastman Selects, Winnipeg Avros, Winnipeg Ice and the NorMan Wild.
The Chiefs’ hopes were bolstered by their performance in the pre-season Showcase Tournament in September when they posted a 2-2 record.
“We did pretty good there and I think we opened some eyes for being so young and we were right with all of the teams,” Cathcart said. “We lost 4-2 to Pembina Valley and we went out and we beat Melville (Sask.) 5-1 and a few teams like that, so we’re right in the mix. We’re 3-3-1 (in pre-season play) and we have been pretty much in every game, but it will be a learning curve for the girls because they are pretty young still … But we should be just fine this year.”
After opening on the road this weekend, the Chiefs head to Hartney on Wednesday to face the Wildcats at 8 p.m., before returning home to host the Hawks next Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Shoal Lake Arena at 7:30 p.m.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 13, 2012