Consider this weekend a chance for the Northland Dodge Northern Female Cougars to test their hockey skills against the best in British Columbia.
The Cougars put their 3-1-2 record on the line this weekend at Kin 2 against the B.C. Female Midget AAA Hockey League's finest as the undefeated Fraser Valley Phantoms (7-0) are in Prince George for three games. The key to victory for the Cougars is clear from a glance at the league statistics, which show the Phantoms having notched a league-high 31 goals this season - seven more than the West Coast Avalanche who have played two more games.
"Our goaltender is going to have to make some big saves and we're going to have to play solid team defence because they're just a powerful, powerful team," said Cougars assistant coach Stewart Malgunas.
The Cougars have shown they can match the Phantoms in both these areas so far this season, as both teams have a league-low seven goals against in the six-team league. But offensively the Cougars have found the back of the net only 13 times.
Malgunas said it's an area, especially when the Cougars are on the power play, they'll have to improve on if they're going to beat the Phantoms. He added the team has worked on its power play in practice a lot during the past two weeks and he's confident the special-teams unit is ready for a breakout game.
The Northern team will look to offensive leaders Sage Desjardins (six assists) and Madison Fjellstrom (three goals) to lead the way, but will also need veterans from last season, like Jocelyn Forrest, Megan Hickey and Ava Keis, to provide some points. Hickey and Keis are still looking for their first goals this season.
Fraser Valley is led by Mackenzie Wong and Chelsea Wilson, who sit first and fourth among the league's scoring leaders with 33 and 21 points, respectively. Wilson leads the league in goals with 16.
The Phantoms are the defending BCFMML champions and competed at the 2013 Esso Cup - the top year-end tournament in Canada for midget triple-A female players, equivalent to the Telus Cup for midget boys. Plus, the Fraser Valley squad have five players on the under-18 provincial team. In comparison, Malgunas said the Cougars have a couple players who might be able make the lineup for the under-18 team this season.
Like last season, the Cougars are the youngest team in the BCFMML. Unlike last year they are a much stronger team, especially in net. During the 2012-13 season the Cougars had one regular goaltender and relied on the availability of two affiliate bantam goalies for a second netminder during games.
This year, both those bantam goaltenders, Kelsey Roberts of Kitimat and Avery Quring of Prince George, are old enough to play full-time in the midget league.
Both Roberts and Quiring are 15 year olds and are "highly touted" around the province, according to Malgunas, having played on championship teams in the past.
With their goaltending solidified, and a strong group of young players who won the bantam league championship for Terrace last season under the guidance of new Cougars head coach Mario Desjardins, the team is on the path for success.
If there is a weakness in the Cougars' lineup this season it's the lack of 17-year-old veteran players. Of the 21 players on the Cougars' roster only two - forward Tessa Hare and defenceman Alyssa Young - are in their final year of eligibility.
"Next year, if everybody can stay together, is when it starts to get really exciting," said Malgunas.