Mario Desjardins knows he has the makings of a good hockey team .
Watching his Northern Capitals play each other in the third intrasquad game of the weekend at the development camp at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena only confirmed his suspicions, and that bodes well for the female midget triple-A hockey team.
"This is going to be another special team - they don't know it yet," said Desjardins.
"This team has a lot of skill."
Back after a three-year absence as head coach of the Capitals, Desjardins predicts his squad of northern B.C. girls will be title contenders in the six-team B.C. Midget Triple-A Female Hockey League. He knows what he's talking about, having been through it before when he molded the Northern Capitals into provincial champions in two consecutive seasons.
In three seasons behind the bench of the female Cougars/Northern Capitals from 2014-17, Desjardins put together an unprecedented run of success, compiling a 62-15-13 regular season record. In 2015 the Capitals put up a 25-3-2 record and won the league playoff championship. They repeated as playoff champions the following season after finishing second in the regular season with a 21-6-3 record and also won the prestigious Mac's Tournament in Calgary in 2016.
"I don't want to take anything away from those teams we had for those three years when I did coach major midget, that was a special team, but it was a different time and a different era," said Desjardins. "That was four or five years ago and the game has changed so much. Female players at this level are more skilled, they can skate and shoot.
"The depth of this team is going to be unbelievable. We're going to have a lot of speed, and with the system we're bringing in we're going to catch teams standing flat-footed."
Desjardins coached the Western Industrial Contracting bantam female Cougars the past two years and guided them to a third place provincial finish last season. Backed by assistant coaches Grace Barlow and Lauren Smaha-Muir, he replaces Justin Fillion as Northern Capitals head coach.
"I'm really looking forward to getting this group together and get them practicing," he said. "We think we can bring in a few systems we've never used at the major midget level that we've been working on in bantams the last couple years. Now that we have a group of players as skilled as what we're going to have this year, it's really exciting. It's going to be fun hockey to watch."
Twenty nine players tried out for the team and nine forwards, six defencemen and two goaltenders made the roster following the scrimmage Saturday afternoon. This year's team includes eight returning players from the Capitals team that finished third in the regular season (13-17-2-0) and lost in the semifinal round of playoffs last season.
The returning Capitals are forwards Brette Kerley, Pyper Alexander, Paige Outhouse and Destiny Bautista; defencemen Kiera Mulder and Brooklyn Hill; and goalies Cadence Petticlerc-Crosby and Tessa Sturgeon.
Making the jump from the WIC bantam team are forwards Brooklyn Hutchings, Ocean Anderson and Nancy Moore and defencemen Brooke Norkus, Samantha Wiley and Ella Boon. Moore was in Australia and did not attend the development camp. Three other newcomers - forwards Hailey Armstrong and Maria Ayre and defenceman Keagan Goulet - played for bantam teams in the Peace region last season.
Desjardins was hopeful there will be enough players who didn't make the cut to form a midget rep team in Prince George. Some of those players will affiliate with the Northern Capitals this season.
The 30-game league schedule starts in October. The Northern Capitals will be in Calgary for the Firestarter tournament Sept. 12-15. They'll also play tournaments in Notre Dame, Sask., Langley and they hope to be invited to the Mac's, which is reinstating its female tournament after a year without it.
The support of the WHL Prince George Cougars and their initiative to create a farm team system which involves the city's male bantam and midget teams will also benefit the Northern Capitals. Desjardins said his team will now have access to nutritionists, trainers, therapists and goaltending coaches which they did not have before this season.
"When you have those kinds of resources to work with it's going to benefit the players and you're going to make your program better," said Desjardins. That's Trevor Sprague's vision, having the north more noticed for their athletes. It's an exciting time in the north for hockey at an elite level."
Former Caps goalie Roberts on national team
Kelsey Roberts, a 20-year-old native of Kitimat who played for the Northern Capitlas from 2013-16, was one of three goalies picked for Canada's national development team, which faced the United States in three-game series that ended Saturday in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Roberts stopped 22 of 26 shots in a 4-2 loss to the U.S. on Thursday. Canada went on to win Saturday's game 2-1, after dropping Wednesday's opener 4-3 to the Americans in overtime.
Roberts is about to begin her fourth season playing for the University of Calgary Dinos, along with former Capitals centre Saige Desjardins and defenceman Taylor Beck. Roberts is the only U Sports player picked Canada's development team.
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