Three local players faced off with the Thompson-Okanagan Lakers in the championship match at the U18 Girls AAA B.C. Elite Hockey League (BCEHL) provincials last month.
Former West Kootenay Wildcat players Emma Kohl, Mignon Helberg and Felicia Girardo of Fruitvale all played for the Lakers in the Elite League this season helping the Thompson-Okanagan team to an impressive regular season finish and a second-place performance at the BCEHL provincial championship.
All three played for Wildcat teams, but took their game to the Elite level in 2023-24. The Elite girls league is made up of five U18 AAA Zone teams from Greater Vancouver, Northern BC, Vancouver Island, Thompson-Okanagan and the Fraser Valley.
The Lakers’ Regional team consists of players throughout the Thompson-Okanagan and West Kootenay, including representatives from Clearwater, Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna, Rossland and Fruitvale.
Last month, they played in a best-of-three semifinal series against the Vancouver Island Seals.
Kohl, at just 14 years old, scored twice to lead the Lakers to a Game 1 victory by a score of 5-1.
In Game 2, Kohl opened up the scoring with back-to-back goals in the first period. The Seals bounced back quickly, scoring two in the span of 36 seconds to tie things up.
The game remained tied for most of the second until Ava Macleod restored the Lakers lead. Cassidy Bank followed that up with two of her own as the Lakers pulled away for a 6-3 victory.
The win vaulted the Lakers to the Championship series against the defending champion, Fraser Valley Rush.
In Game 1, the Rush, who finished the regular season with a 30-2 record, showcased their offensive prowess, scoring early and often on Lakers goalie Chelsea West. Okanagan scored a late goal but would drop the game, 5-1.
Game 2 was much of the same, as the Rush were dominant, blanking the Lakers 5-0 to win the championship.
Despite the losses, Thompson-Okanagan was proud of their playoff run.
The team also announced its bid to host the 2024 U18AAA Female Hockey Club National Championships, dubbed The Esso Cup, in Vernon.