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Gilmour girls go far to play hockey
Gilmour girls go far to play hockey
By TONY LANGE
Local freshmen and West Coast seniors are among the incoming players who will be added to the mix this year at an already successful Gilmour Academy girls' hockey program.
As a part of the North American Prep Hockey Association, a 10-team league with five teams from the United States and five teams from Canada, the Lady Lancers were able to post a 37-17-7 record last season. The NAPHA meets three times a year in tournaments where member teams play five games in one weekend. Away from the league, the Lancers also play other girls' teams in the region to fulfill their schedule.
Having a 60-game competitive schedule, great exposure to Division I collegiate coaches and a great facility for athletics and academics are a few of many perks that attract girls from near and far to Gilmour hockey, head coach Rick Filighera said.
"A lot of them are looking to go to prep school, because they are in areas that don't have a lot of hockey," he said. "And they don't have the options to get a lot of exposure to try to go play in college."
California, Alabama, Florida, Washington and Arizona are some of the states that female student-athletics come from to play hockey at Gilmour. The majority of the players, however, are from Ohio.
Incoming freshman Jocelyn Hunyadi, of Pepper Pike, will be one of the local additions to the 2011-2012 team. Having an opportunity to play at a program like Gilmour's that's only a five- to 10-minute drive from her house is just amazing, she said.
"I don't think I could be in a better position, because I love hockey, and this is just amazing that I don't have to be far away," Hunyadi said. "I can stay with my parents and my family and just have to drive every morning to get to school. I just think that's really amazing."
Players who join the Lady Lancers from out of state are immersed in the dorm program and live on the Gilmour campus. Rising senior Jayme Castillo, from Gurley, Ala., is one of those players. She has played for the Lancers since she was a freshman.
Castillo, a defender, is the smartest player on the team and understands the game, Filighera said. She is on the ice at the end of games, for power plays and during penalty-kill situations, he said.
"She's been my go-to defenseman," Filighera said. "I think the biggest thing about her is -- I always tell her this -- the game could be chaotic around her, when everything is going crazy, and she has this ability to slow it down. Nothing fazes her. She just always makes the right play, and she does it under control."
Both Castillo and Hunyadi were selected for premier USA Hockey development camps this summer. Castillo will play at the national camp in St. Cloud, Minn., and Hunyadi will represent the Mid-American District in Rochester, N.Y. The camps identify, train, educate and assess the best female hockey players in the country.
Not all players join the Lady Lancers as freshmen. This coming season two rising seniors from California will transfer to attend Gilmour Academy starting in the fall. They are Celine Whitinger, a goaltender from Hunting Beach, and Micayla Cantanzariti, a forward from Rancho Santa Margarita.
It's a situation where Cantanzariti and Whitinger played for the Anaheim Lady Ducks AAA team, but they are going to be 17, and there really isn't a team for them to play for at that same level after the 16U team, Filighera said.
"They needed to have an opportunity to play hockey going into their senior year, because it's going to be their recruiting year, and they wouldn't have had that opportunity," he said. "At the same time, they want to match it with great academics."
Cantanzariti and Whitinger became interested in Gilmour, because they played in showcase tournaments with previous Lady Lancers, Filighera said.
"Knowing of good players who had a good experience at Gilmour has helped get these other players to Gilmour," he said. "It goes hand in hand. It's recruiting. They recruit their friends, and then all these kids have the opportunity to play."
The two rising seniors also were selected to play at a USA Hockey camp this summer out of the Pacific District.
As a local, Hunyadi said she is really looking forward to being able to represent her own school this coming season.
"I'm really thankful that I play a sport where I can do that," she said. "I just plan to go there and work hard so I can show that at the school we have really good players and we have really good students."
As an eighth-grader, Hunyadi was able to practice with the high school team but not able to play games. At first, she was really nervous and scared, she said.
"Once I got to know the people, I felt a lot better," Hunyadi said about skating with girls who were one to four years older than her. "Once I got used to it, I felt like they really helped me improve, because I would go out with people who were so much better than me, and they really showed me how to improve my game and what the level of high school hockey was going to be like."
To help feed the high school program, Filighera started an all-girls youth hockey camp in 2009, when he had 36 participants age 7 to 17. Last summer, he had 59 participants, and this year, he said, he may have to add a second week to provide for the growing popularity in the camp. It is the only all-girls youth hockey camp in Northeast Ohio, he said.
The camp this year is scheduled from July 17-22. The participants stay in the dorms on Gilmour's campus in Gates Mills and are provided five ice sessions a day.
Preparing for her first season with the high school team, Hunyadi said her goal is to be ready to play the position that will best help the Lancers succeed.
"My goal is to get strong so I can go out there and be intimidating so I can have a presence on the ice, and I really want to be able to handle the puck more," she said. "I just want to be more of a team player. I want to be able to make more plays that will create goals and scoring opportunities."
Hockey is a year-round dig for Hunyadi, she said, but she also runs track and likes to ride horses when she has time. She started playing hockey when she was 9 years old after already having skating experience.
"I got set up with figure skating and quit and when I saw my brother playing hockey. I don't know, I felt like I wanted to stay with the ice, and hockey seemed like the perfect opportunity," Hunyadi said. "So I joined the team, and I just went from there."
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