Four years ago

Seals program brings best of Island to town

Of the 19 girls on the team, four are from Campbell River, another 10 moved to Campbell River for the season and are billeting

Dennis Bellavance brought the Midget Girls AAA Vancouver Island Seals to Campbell River four years ago, and, after a blow-out of a first season, the team has been competitive with the other five in the BC Hockey league, as well as various hockey academy teams they’ve met in exhibition games.

At the moment, the team is sitting fourth overall with three wins, seven loses and five ties.

This year the team has 15 new players, 11 of which are in their first year of the age category. Tryouts were in August, and Bellavance has worked hard to make Campbell River an appealing place for the girls to live and play.

Of the 19 girls on the team, four are from Campbell River, another 10 moved to Campbell River for the season and are billeting, and the team practices in Nanaimo on Wednesdays with the other five who live in Nanaimo and Victoria.

“It’s a task to keep the good players, because there is always somebody chasing them,” Bellavance said.

“We’re lucky this year, because we had a good group stay.”

The team practices every weekday morning from 8:15 to 9:30. Through a partnership with the Hockey Canada Skills Academy, the girls get credits for their time on the ice, as if it is their gym class.

“They’ve allowed us to have our coaches run the school program,” Bellavance said.

The girls also hit the gym three times a week for CrossFit training. Altogether, they are on the ice practicing for eight hours a week plus four hours of dry land training.

To make it all worth their while, the team travels to four tournaments per season across Canada and the United States – all the better to get noticed by college and university scouts.

Bellavance said that there will probably be eight or nine college commitments before his current players finish their high school hockey careers.

Team captain Maryna Macdonald, who also played for BC in the recent U18 nationals, is going to Harvard to play for the Crimson in the fall of 2018 and starting goalie, Jaydlin Spooner, who is also an associate player for the Storm, is looking at playing for the University of Toronto.

“These kids are all B students or better,” Bellavance said. “I keep track, through the school, where they are at, and if they start failing – not failing, faltering – then they get called in.”

The team will play around 60 games this season. If they come out on top of the B.C. league they will play the winner of the league in Alberta to advance to the National Championship, the Esso Cup. Bellavance said the toughest team is from the Lower Mainland.

“We are right there with them, but that’s going to be likely who we have to get through to get [out of the province],” he said.

Despite the daily practices, classes, dryland and games almost every weekend, the team still has time for a bit of fun.

For Ally Goupil’s 15th birthday, Bellavance arranged for the Storm players to come out on the ice during practice with flowers and sing her happy birthday.

“I tell you, I thought she was going to have a heart attack,” he said with a laugh.

At the moment the Seals’ next scheduled home games are the weekend of March 3, 2017. They are in Victoria Dec. 17.