The bantam female South Island Royals’ hockey season came to an end last month with a fifth-place finish out of seven teams at the provincial championships in Richmond.
Based on what they knew going into the tournament, that’s about where the Royals anticipated finishing.
“That’s where we fit in,” head coach Korbe Hamilton said. “Everything was about what we expected going in.”
The lone blemish on the Royals’ record at provincials was a 1-1 draw with Prince George.
“The only time we were disappointed was the tie with Prince George,” he said. “We felt we should have had a win, but we ran into a really strong goalie. We outplayed them the bulk of the game.”
The lone rep team for bantam-age girls on Vancouver Island, the Royals included players from everywhere south of Nanaimo, including a trio from the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association: Duncan’s Logan Hamilton, and Ladysmith’s Jada Livingston and Kamryn Grooms. Hamilton and Livingston were second-year Royals, while Grooms was playing her first year with the team.
All three made big contributions to the Royals this season.
“They were very competitive,” coach Hamilton said. “They did very well. They’re all defencemen and they were among our stronger D.”
Grooms and Livingston each scored twice in the Royals’ 8-0 win over North West at the provincial tournament, and Grooms also scored in a 4-2 loss to Kelowna.
Because there were no other bantam female teams on the Island — North Island didn’t have enough players, and one player from Nanaimo was allowed to play for the Royals — South Island ended up playing most of their games this season against peewee boys Tier 1 and 2 teams.
“The top teams we had trouble with,” Hamilton commented. “But the middle of the pack we were right there with them.”
The difference in size and playing style between the bantam girls and peewee boys did have an effect on the Royals, Hamilton said. The midget Royals managed to play the bulk of their games this season against Mainland teams, and he’d like to see the same thing happen for the bantams next season.
“We’re hoping that happens,” Hamilton said. “That would be a better fit for our girls.”
The Royals did fare well against female teams in four off-Island tournaments, and also played three games against a Kamloops team that visited the Island.
Governed by the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association instead of a local minor hockey organization, the Royals played the bulk of games in Cowichan, but held practices everywhere from the Cowichan Valley to Sooke to Sidney.
“It was a bit of a battle,” Hamilton acknowledged. “Geography is a problem.”
In the end, the coach was pleased with the 2016-17 campaign.
“It was a good season,” he said. “We had an eager bunch. Some of them hadn’t played at that level yet (competitive and recreational), but they were eager to learn, and that’s all you can ask as a coach.”
Hamilton’s daughter Logan will move up to midget next year, as will Livingston, but they haven’t yet decided if they will go to a hockey academy, try out for the midget AAA Vancouver Island Seals or stay in the Royals stream.
“There are a lot of options now for girls in midget hockey,” Hamilton pointed out.