Now is an exciting time for female hockey in British Columbia (BC). The IIHF Women’s World Championships are taking place in Kamloops at the end of the month. The University of British Columbia’s women’s hockey team won the Canada West Championship. And, with the Esso Cup on the horizon, the BC Female Midget AAA (FMAAA) playoffs are in full swing.
BC’s FMAAA program was started in 2007, and consists of six teams located throughout the province of BC. Teams compete to win the FMAAA Championship, the winner of which goes on to face the champion of the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League in the Pacific Region Championship. The Pacific Region champion then goes on to represent the Pacific Region in the Esso Cup.
“[The goal of the BC FMAAA program is to provide] all of our female players with a level of hockey to aspire to,” said BC Hockey CEO Barry Petrachenko. “The most important thing to us is promotion of the female game.”
The Esso Cup, which is Canada’s National Female Midget Championship, is – in the words of Petrachenko – the “peak at the top of the mountain … for all of our players to strive toward.”
BC has only been represented at the Esso Cup twice. The Fraser Valley Phantom competed as the host team in 2013, and made a second appearance in 2014 when there were two Pacific Region representatives. The biggest threat to the BC FMAAA champion on the road to the Esso Cup has been, and likely still will be, the Edmonton Thunder, who have represented the Pacific Region in every Esso Cup since its inception in 2009.
Last season the Northern Capitals won the BC FMAAA Championship, and had a close best-of-three series against the Edmonton Thunder in the Pacific Region Championship. They lost the first game 3-2 in overtime and and the second game 3-1.
It is no secret that BC has been behind other provinces in terms of their female player development. However, a lot of effort has been put into the BC female hockey program over the last few years. With the competition getting tighter and some changes to the way the BC FMAAA program is structured, BC Hockey is excited to see what the next few months (and years) have in store for high performance female hockey in BC.
“We’re just excited, I mean, I just feel like with the World Championships coming up here in April and everything going the way its going, I think we’re actually getting some traction on the female game and that’s a real positive from our standpoint of course,” said Petrachenko. “This league, and this season, and everybody coming together and working together has been an improvement and a nice thing to be a part of, and we’re kind of tickled pink to be where we’re at.”
This season, BC Hockey changed the format of the BC FMAAA program, switching it from a league consisting of club teams run at a local level, to a program in which BC Hockey acts somewhat like the general manager of each team.
“The advantages there are all for the players in the sense that we standardize what everybody gets from a programming standpoint,” said Petrachenko. BC Hockey is also in charge of budgets for the entire league, which has helped to reduce some costs for teams. “We’re just excited because its gone very well this year … this season has been very very successful for us.”
The FMAAA playoffs began the first weekend of March with the quarterfinals. The two top teams in the league after the regular season, the Greater Vancouver Comets and the Northern Capitals, received byes for the quarterfinals and progressed immediately to the semifinals.
“I think you can see that our first weekend of playoffs went really well I think, the one series went three games, and the other series was 1-0 and 3-0,” Petrachenko said of the quarterfinals. The Vancouver Island Seals beat the Fraser Valley Rush and the Thompson Okanagan Lakers beat the Kootenay Wild. “I mean, tight games, the league’s been pretty good that way.”
The semifinals were close as well, with the Northern Capitals beating the Thompson Okanagan Lakers after three games (all of which had a score of 3-2) and the Greater Vancouver Comets beating the Vancouver Island Seals in two games with scores of 3-0 and 3-1.
The Northern Capitals and Greater Vancouver Comets will be facing off in the BC FMAAA Championship from March 18th to 20th at Planet Ice in Coquitlam, BC. The winner will compete in the Pacific Region Championship from April 1st to 3rd.
For more information on the BC Female Midget AAA program, please visit their website: http://bchockey.net/fmaaa/Default.aspx
Photo courtesy of BC Hockey.