A bright future ahead for girls’ hockey players

Future Looks Bright for Girls Hockey

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(ABC 6 News) – Wednesday is a day to celebrate all female athletes. Primarily, because it’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Whether you’re an adult athlete or a little girl, you can make your sports dreams happen.

For many girl hockey players, once they got up to the college level, that was the end of their hockey career. Now, they can take things even further with the PWHL, The Professional Women’s Hockey League.

“Being around girls hockey for a long time, a lot of us had to play you know, boys hockey and youth hockey because there wasn’t enough girls,” said Molly Shelton, a Coach with the Dodge County Wildcats.

There were little girls with big dreams as they watched men play pro-hockey. Those dreams came true thanks to the PWHL.

Kasson-Mantorville Senior Jerilyn Eberling says she could go on and on about how she wants to be a PWHL player.

Alyse Williamschen, also a senior, says it’s a step forward.

“Guys always think they’re better than girls and we hear that in school all the time. Even when we were little it’s just like, ‘We’re bigger, we’re better.’ It’s like no, ‘I can compete with you, I can shut you down. It’s not because of your gender. We can compete just the same level as you.'”

Being the “State of Hockey,” Williamschen knew the day for women to shine was coming.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment for what we’re doing. It’s better sooner rather than later.”

It’s not just for today’s players: it’s also for the girls who grew up not having a chance to go pro. Something Dodge County Wildcats Head Coach Jeremy Gunderson’s daughters experienced.

“When my daughters grew up playing and some of these girls here, [it’s like] ‘I worked my way to get in the Division I hockey programs.’ Now, it’s a whole different level. You still have those same opportunities but you have an opportunity to play at a level that’s professional.”

If there’s one thing we know, sports aren’t always easy. But the Wildcats want to remind female athletes big and small, don’t give up.

“It doesn’t matter who says anything about you, you go and do what you want. You go and play hard, play fast, and just have the determination yourself,” said Williamschen.

Whether these girls choose to go pro, they along with dozens of girls hockey teams have a chance to make history and punch their tickets to the MSHSL Girls’ Hockey State Tournament. That tournament begins at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, February 21st.

For more on who will be competing in the state tournament as well as section placements, you can click here.