After taking the regional title the KPHA U-16 Girls Tier II Ice Hawks will compete for their first national championship in Amherst, N. Y., a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. April 2nd – 6th, according to Ice Hawks coach Dr. Ted Barton who started the team just three years ago. “These girls have worked hard for three years since the program was instituted and have come a very long way in a short period of time. It’s truly been amazing to watch their development over the years,” said Coach Barton in an interview during a team practice last week. “As with most players in KPHA you have those who become competitively minded along with those who simply want the recreational level of activity, but this particular group of girls decided that wanted to become competitive hockey players and have put in the extra time on their own doing additional practices above and beyond the baseline recreational activity of KPHA. It’s that extra time and effort plus the time on their own they’ve spent at home shooting pucks in their garages, practicing stick handling that has gotten them to where they are today,” said Barton.
Along with the extra time the sixteen and under girls put into their game, they had to maintain a high academic standard, “We preach that to them that it is one thing to be a good hockey player but it’s quite another to be a good student and to take this forward colleges and prep schools look at your grades first before your hockey ability when awarding scholarships,” he added. Competing at a national level for Alaskans is an expensive proposition and the team is working at raising funds to differ costs, “The kids come from families of varying means so fund raising is a must to enable all of them to go. We estimate the total cost will run in the vicinity of $27,000 with the tournament being held in New York. So our main fund raising event will be Saturday, March 22nd at the Soldotna Sports Center and will include a steak dinner and silent raffle and other prize winning events with all proceeds going to differ the team’s costs so everyone can go,” explained Barton. “This team is really something to behold and I hope everyone will come out to meet and encourage them. The gratification for me is to see how these girls have developed skill wise. Three years ago some of these girls hardly knew how to skate and now they have become some of the best players on the team, their dedication is truly amazing and are all good students as well.” Tickets for the Girls Ice Hawk’s steak dinner are available at the Lucky Puck in Kenai as well as from the team members or at the door. Donations can also be made at the KPHA website.