Rocket Ice Arena in Bolingbrook, Illinois, was teeming with plenty of ponytails on Saturday, September 26, as girls ranging in age from 8 to 20+ from the Sabre Girls program, St. Jude Lady Knights, Robert Morris University Eagles Women’s Hockey team and four female officials came together for a Girls Try Hockey For Free event followed by a Puck Cancer Charity Game.
The Girls Try Hockey For Free event kicked-off this special girls-only night. A total of 40 girls participated in a 6-station ADM skills clinic run by USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager, Bob Mancini with assistance from Marcie Kierpiec, power skating Instructor, New Trier Girls Varsity Assistant Coach, Carla Pentimone, St. Jude Girls Program Director, Jackie Wedster-Kooistra, AHAI’s ADM Chairman, Jim Clare, and Sabre Girls 10U and 12U Head Coaches, Keith Mellen and Ramey Weaver. Along with the Sabre Girls and St. Jude Lady Knights, 10 girls new to the game tried hockey for free.
USA Hockey’s Mancini ran the girls through a host of drills and skills over the course of an hour and was amazed at the girls’ skill level for such a young age. “You can tell the girls have been developed the right way, with proper instruction,” said Mancini. While Mancini mainly focuses on youth players, having a chance to work with an all-girls group was quite rewarding. “I don’t usually have the chance to work with this many girls at one time, but I can tell you they are a pleasure to instruct, very attentive, and you can see how the social interaction with other girl hockey players creates a fun environment.”
Following the Try Hockey For Free ADM Clinic, the Sabre Girls 19U team hosted a Puck Cancer Charity Game against the Robert Morris University Eagles ACHA DI Women’s hockey team. Special Puck Cancer jerseys worn by both the Sabres and Eagles were auctioned off afterward with all the proceeds going to Puck Cancer. The Sabre Girls 10U and 12U teams participated by selling split-the-pot raffle tickets and conducting a chuck-a-puck contest between the 2nd and 3rd periods while the St. Jude Lady Knights showed their support by cheering in the stands. Silent Auction items, the game-worn jersey auction and sales from Puck Cancer apparel helped raise over $2300 Saturday night.
The game itself was tightly contested with the Eagles winning 3 to 1. Eagles’ Head Coach, Jennifer Wilson stated that being part of this special girls-only evening was “a great opportunity to showcase girls’ hockey in the state of Illinois. We were honored to be part of such a great event.”
“We were very fortunate to have four very talented female officials, Erin Blair, Nicole Davis, Keli Dornyk and Ceci Strom, donate their time to this great evening of girls’ hockey,” stated Puck Cancer Event Coordinator and Sabre Girls 19U Coach, Alexis Giudice.
Excellent role models for the young women both participating on the ice and watching from the stands, Blair (who coincidentally began her hockey career with the Sabre organization) was an official for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Davis has worked ACHA D1 games as well as USA Hockey National Championship games and Strom currently works as a full-time referee in the ECAC for Division I Women’s Hockey. Most recently Blair and Davis have both begun focusing on mentoring, developing and training future IHOA (Illinois Hockey Officials Association) officials. In fact, both Blair and Davis were instrumental in initiating the two new “All-Girls” Seminars that IHOA instituted this fall.
All-in-all it was a great night for girls’ hockey in Illinois – nearly 100 girls and young women joined forces to introduce new girls to our great sport and raise money for Puck Cancer.
Puck Cancer was co-founded by sisters Sue Padulo and Sandy Cross in 2006. At 26 Padulo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her love of hockey and desire to skate drove her to a healthy cancer-free life. To celebrate Sue’s survivorship Puck Cancer was co-founded with the intent to assist others whose lives have been changed by cancer. Sue and Sandy took their vision to the one place where they could count on enthusiastic participation, the ice! Hockey players, fans and enthusiasts alike share a unique passion which they have been able to direct towards making a difference in the fight against this grueling disease.