The Prince Albert Northern Bears held their spring camp on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre, where 14 and 15-year-old players were on the ice showcasing their talents in an effort to move one step closer to cracking a spot on the 2022-23 roster.
Bears head coach Steve Young says the spring camp provides a great opportunity for him and the rest of the coaching staff to take a good look at some upcoming talent, while the girls on the ice can put in some hard work.
“I think the biggest thing for these players is to just go out there and work hard,” he said. “We don’t want them to try and be someone different. Everyone that makes our team isn’t going to be exactly the same, so we’ve told them to have fun and do the things they have to do. Everyone here is an important part of putting our team together, and it’s been a good camp so far.”
With forwards Sophia Zuck, Erin Kirkland, and Carnell Olsen, as well as defencemen Paige Dawson and Taylor Leitch leaving the team after their upcoming Esso Cup tournament, it leaves some holes in the team for next season. Young says those gaps are going to be hard to fill, but is confident that whoever does end up making the team will be a good fit.
“With these girls, we want to be able to find players who can play at this level,” he explained. “It’s not an easy league to step in, so they have to have the work ethic. We can teach them that stuff, but we have to make sure the players are capable of stepping into the league and make the right choices.”
For the girls who will find a spot on the roster next season, their rookie season will include a lot of learning. Taking the step up from the U15 level to the U18 stage won’t be easy, and Young says their will be a massive learning curve for them.
“I think the first thing they’ll find is the speed is a lot faster. This is a speed game, and that adjustment isn’t that bad once you get into it. The physical play and the older girls in this league will be different, too. We’ve got girls that can be three different ages in our league, and that’s probably the big thing. The older girls are bigger and stronger, and that will be a big thing to get used to.”
At the same time, Young is spending a lot of time with this season’s team still. They travel to the Esso Cup on May 14. He says it’s been difficult at times balancing his own team with the spring camp rosters, but everything has been rolling along smoothly so far. Some of the players on the Bears roster have been helping out at spring camp as well, which has helped make Young’s job a little easier.
“It’s been tough, you’re juggling two teams,” he said. “You want to make sure that the team that’s going to the Esso Cup is 100 per cent focused, but at the same time they know that camps are going on. There’s always changes in hockey. It’s been a tough juggling act lately, but it’s a part of hockey and that’s the hand that we’ve been dealt.”