The West Kootenay Wildcats bantam AA girls’ hockey team returned home as champions from The Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, with Golden goalie Hannah Palumbo earning gold medal game MVP honours.
Palumbo, who is 12 years old and normally plays with the peewee Rockets A team, let only one goal slip past her in the championship game, and stopped all four shots in the shootout to help her team to victory.
“Everyone worked hard, I think everyone deserved MVP,” said Palumbo.
“I hope I can go back one day. It was probably one of the best weekend’s of my life.”
The team went 4-1 in the tournament, with Palumbo allowing only six goals in total.
She only had the opportunity to practice once with the team, which is based out of Castlegar/Trail, prior to the tournament.
The gold medal game presented a unique challenge for the young goaltender, who had never played in a shootout before.
“A lot goes through your head in the shootout,” said Palumbo.
“You gotta remember everything you’ve learned quickly and then use that to work through it.”
The tournament, which is affectionately known as WickFest, is an annual hockey tournament that has been ongoing for the last 10 years.
It was started by Canadian Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as a way to promote women’s hockey.
It’s more than just a tournament, however, with players participating in workshops and clinics available with Wickenheiser’s Olympic teammates.
Palumbo herself was even able to get a 90-minute session with Shannon Szabados, who is a three-time Olympian and recently voted women’s hockey player of the decade.
In fact, Palumbo even got a little one-on-one time with her hero, out of pure luck.
“My dad had moved my gear to a separate change room, and I was there all by myself with one another bag and there was a knock at the door and she just walked in,” said Palumbo.
“She told me I did a good job and that was pretty cool.”
The tournament not only allowed Palumbo to learn on-ice skills from some of the world’s best, but allowed her to develop her off-ice skills too, as she learned to work as a team and bond quickly with her teammates.
While she’s played on teams before, she’s had to play with the boys, which can be a bit of a different experience than playing with girls.
“The team was super fun,” said Palumbo. “Getting to play with them and hanging with them was the best part.”
Coming back to Golden, Palumbo is excited to take what she learned and apply it to the Rockets, as that team continues on with their regular season.
While she’s back with the Rockets for now, down the road she hopes to join the Wildcats again, with the team eyeing the provincial championships down the road.