As part of the IIHF Global Girls’ Game weekend, the United States hosted its Global Girls Game in Warrendale, Pennsylvania, where the 16U Steel City Selects (Team White) edged the 16U Carolina Lady Eagles (Team Blue) 2-1.
But while there were numerous winners and losers on scoreboards around the world, the final score in each game mattered less than the event’s greater purpose.
“The opportunity to participate in an international celebration of girls and women’s hockey is the most appreciated part,” said Kristen Wright, USA Hockey manager of girls player development. “The final score of 135-128 in favor of Team Blue, because it’s cumulative across all international games, provides a connection between the countries, but it’s not as important as the experience itself.”
This second-annual IIHF Global Girls’ Game weekend was a worldwide initiative with 38 national associations hosting one-hour games held in succession around the world.
“Just to be chosen as part of this event is special, but to do well in our home tournament against great competition is a testament to our hard-working team,” Steel City Selects coach John Mudrany said.
According to Wright, the IIHF Global Girls’ Game weekend was created two years ago to celebrate the female game and unite countries across the world in their efforts to promote and grow women’s hockey.
“Since 1998, we have seen an increase in the number of girls playing ice hockey in so many countries,” Wright said. “The IIHF Global Girls’ Game and the USA Hockey National Continuous Game highlight one of the best attributes of girls hockey: community.
“Not only does the continuous game bring players, parents, coaches and volunteers together on a national and international scale, but it also celebrates the close-knit environments that are created on girls hockey teams.”
In this age of social media, the IIHF Global Girls’ Game also provides participants a platform in which they can share their experiences.
“Female hockey players across the world can interact on social media,” Wright said. It’s motivating because participants can see other teams and countries playing hockey, and the exposure and connections created are a large part of the event’s success.
“For us at USA Hockey, the satisfaction comes from the excitement of seeing the smiles on the girls’ faces and knowing that they’re able to play hockey while being part of something bigger than themselves. Through events like this, we can give girls at the local level an opportunity to be part of a worldwide initiative.”
The fact that games were held in Pittsburgh was a major plus in the opinion of Ladd Wagner, USA Hockey Girls and Women’s Section representative for the Mid-American District.
“The Pittsburgh area is a growing hotbed for girls hockey,” Wagner said. “The positive influence of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins is helping grow the game in the Mid-American District.
“Having the IIHF Global Girls’ Game in Pittsburgh has put a worldwide spotlight on our city and will help introduce more girls to the game at the grassroots level. Events like this highlight girls playing a sport they love, which helps us grow the game.”
As part of the weekend, USA Hockey also highlighted thirty-three successive girls games across the U.S. as part of the National Continuous Game. These games represented all 12 districts and 23 states at the 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, and 19U classifications, in addition to ACHA Division I and Division II, NCAA Division I and Division III, Women’s Adult, Sled, and the NWHL.
One of the continuous games was played at the Warwick (Pennsylvania) Revolution Ice Garden between the 19U Reston Raiders and 19U Buffalo Stars. In addition, the Ice Garden is home to the Lady Patriots, who hosted their first-ever all-girls American Development Model goaltending clinic alongside their 11th annual Presidents Day Classic.
“We had 39 girls teams ages 12 to 19, so we had an abundance of goalies,” Lady Patriots President Paul Bardell said. “We offered [the clinic] to all the goalies free and put it in the middle of our tournament.
“We also brought in Rich Hansen (ADM regional manager) and Kristen Wright from USA Hockey.”
The clinic, according to Bardell, focused in part on showing coaches that it isn’t difficult to coach goalies as long they are involved in drills.
“You have to sometimes remind coaches that goalies are part of their team, and they have to keep them engaged and involved, rather than isolated,” Bardell said.
For the goalies themselves, the ADM clinic emphasized the foundations of goaltending such as lateral movement, proper stance and recovery, blocker saves, glove saves, stick saves, staying square to puck, as well as great practice habits.
The ADM has long been ingrained in the Lady Patriots.
“The ADM style of practices allows us to be more efficient, both in how we develop the skills and in how we use the ice. With station-based practices, we can put more girls on the ice for a lower cost,” Bardell said. “The girls like it because they’re moving. The practice is done before they realize how much work they’ve actually done. With the ADM and station-based practices, the girls are taught the skills to succeed.”
One of the main tenants of the ADM is ensuring that the players have fun, and the girls who participated in the IIHF Girls Global Game definitely enjoyed the experience. Grace Johnson, who had two points for the 16U Steel City Selects team, said after the game, "It's inspiring to play a game I love with my teammates and score the game-winning goal as part of this game.”
Carolyn Whitney of the 16U Carolina Lady Eagles said, “We’re proud to play in the IIHF Global Girls Game because it shows how the girls game continues to grow in the United States and across the world. It's inspiring to see more and more younger females playing the game and also be provided with more opportunities to play hockey at the collegiate, international and professional level.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.