by Janet Schultz
Expansion is the word in women’s hockey this summer with the Minnesota Whitecaps joining the NWHL (more on that in another story) and Niagara County putting a team into the WNYGVIH League.
A little over 13 years ago a group of parents with high school age girls wanting to play for their high schools came together and formed the Girls For Varsity Ice Hockey Committee. I was honored to be asked to join the meeting one evening and from that time on I have covered this league and watched these girls grow on and off the ice.
As the years progressed, the league beginning its 9th season, the number of girls heading off to continue their careers at the DI, DII and club levels has grown.
Some, like Julia Duquette, have helped their collegiate team take more than one championship home and now she shares her knowledge coaching.
It has always been about giving the girls the same chance as the boys. To show their support for their high school, to play ice hockey and to find a way to continue after they graduate from high school and college.
With the addition of the Niagara County team, yet to be named, the league grows to 8 teams featuring 17 public high schools and a number of catholic schools playing under the Monsignor Martin umbrella.
So this season WNYGVIH’s first expansion team, made up of players from Starpoint, Niagara-Wheatfield and North Tonawanda, will take to the ice this season. According to Tom Sarkovics, Starpoint Athletic Director, Lewiston-Porter is planning to join that team next season.
“We are glad we could do it,” said Sarkovics. “The issue has been each school only had a couple of girls with Starpoint having about 6 ready to play.
The girls and their parents from each of the school went to their respective Boards of Education several times to make their request.
“With the merger a team was possible,” he explained.
Mergers allow for the school districts to share the expense of having a Varsity team and also give players the opportunity to play since most schools do not have enough girls to form a team themselves.
Starpoint will be the lead school with the team playing out of Hockey Outlet.
“That is a neutral arena,” continued Sarkovics who said that interviews for the coaching staff will be taking place shortly.
“I am excited,” said Sarkovics.
“We had such great support from Starpoint School Superintendent, Dr Sean Croft, AD Tom Sarkovics, and the entire school board,” said Dan O’Brien, the SCS parent who led the charge.
“We received positive feedback throughout the process,” he continued
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Beth Jackson. “I have two daughters at Niagara Wheatfield that play travel hockey. With the commitment with their travel team, they have not been able to get involved with much at school, this will be a great opportunity for them to represent their school by playing the game they love so much.”
“We are excited to play on the first ever Niagara County team and hope this creates many opportunities for girls to play in the future,” said Sarah and Amanda Jackson.
“It will be so exciting to see these girls skate onto the ice for the first time for their schools, said O’Brien. “The girls will be so proud because they worked hard to make it happen.”
For all of us who have supported this league since the beginning, it marks another step forward in girls hockey in the Western New York area, and for hockey in general.
What to expect this season…a lot of great hockey and
*Frontier/Lakeshore/Orchard Park will be looking to defend their League and Section VI championship, as well as the NYS High School Championship.
*The WNYGVIH League will be hosting the NYS Girls High School Championship at Harborcenter in February.
*The girl’s will be looking to break the record of Erin Gehen, now playing for Buffalo State College, at 112 goals, 77 assists for 189 points. Gehen set that in her four-year career in 2010-14.
*and we ask “Who will join Julia Mings with their 100th WNYGVIH goal?”
The answers will come when the league opens play later this fall.