19U girls hockey begins inaugural season

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19U girls hockey begins inaugural season

Stillwater Rec Center always at use with teams occupying space for practice. 19U team now practices here.

Stillwater Rec Center always at use with teams occupying space for practice. 19U team now practices here.

Photo by Marlee McGuire

Stillwater Rec Center always at use with teams occupying space for practice. 19U team now practices here.

Photo by Marlee McGuire

Photo by Marlee McGuire

Stillwater Rec Center always at use with teams occupying space for practice. 19U team now practices here.

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Lacing up the skates and having the competition is now possible for many high school girls in the area as a newly formed 19U girls team has formed.

Traditionally teams are formed through the Stillwater Area Hockey Association and this starts at a very young age. The goal for many is to make the varsity hockey team at the high school level. This can be a very stressful time as the high school roster is very limited in size. Most girls drop out of the sport if they do not make the team, as other options such as a club hockey team rarely exist. 

Minnesota Hockey Association states that the rapid expansion of girls hockey since the mid 1990’s has created a situation in which some communities have more girls players than they can fit on their high school teams.

“To my knowledge, this U19 team is the first of its kind for Stillwater,” head coach Alyssa Shelton said.

Minnesota Hockey has developed the Girls 19U level in 2009. Many local hockey associations in the Twin Cities have registered a girls 19U team option, including Edina, Wayzeta, White Bear Lake and Blaine. Stillwater Area Hockey Association has just recently offered this. Many girls showed an interest in forming a team that traditionally did not have enough player interest at the 19U age class in the Stillwater Area Hockey Association.

The 19U option allows girls to continue to play competitive hockey with a lot less pressure. Currently, we compete with four other associations around the Twin Cities. We are fortunate to have some great competition nearby.”

— Alyssa Shelton

“The 19U option allows girls to continue to play competitive hockey with a lot less pressure. Currently, we compete with four other associations around the Twin Cities. We are fortunate to have some great competition nearby,” Shelton said. 

According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13. Reasons for this include academic commitments, injury, or lack of financial support. However, some may argue that most teens leave because they have not given them a way to stay.

“We picked up on each other really fast for a new team like this,” sophomore Natalie Williams said. “It is super fun and all the girls are awesome, from singing in the locker room to playing on the ice, all aspects are awesome.”

Boys at the high school level have traditionally had many options to play on a competitive hockey team outside of the high school system. With increasing interest, girls now are now seeing that these options may exist for them. The roster is filled, with 16 athletes, including two goalies.

“I believe that the goal at this level is to have fun playing competitive hockey. Coaching girls at a more mature age is fun as they work on refining their game skills, but I also teach them to be accountable and responsible as a team,” coach Shelton said. “I can be very honest and relate with the athletes, and tell them when we need to focus and step it up. The fun part is when they respond to this!” 

With a roster filled with dedicated athletes and committed coaches, perhaps Stillwater 19U girls team can make a run for a championship in the near future.

“We are excited and hopeful that it will continue to be an option locally for girls in the area to continue playing hockey,” Shelton said.

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