After a hiatus for the past two seasons, the U15 AAA Central Plains Capitals are back.
They missed one season due to COVID, and last year the organization didn't feel as though they could ice a team that could compete but now the team has returned, and they couldn't be happier about it.
Ferdi Nelissen came out of coaching retirement to lead this squad. He says it's great to have the program running again.
"It's huge if you want to keep building your program in the region. It's where the U18 team can draw players from, and it's where the next wave comes up to fill the holes of graduating players. It's a progression into the next level, and for our region, it's a huge thing to have. It's necessary."
The head coach notes one of the biggest challenges they will face this year is getting all the players accustomed to the calibre of play at the AAA level.
"A lot of them haven't played AAA yet, and that's a step up, so it's up to us to make sure they're prepared to do that. The nice thing is, we already have our team picked, so we can start practicing a month early," Nelissen explains. "I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to this season."
Nelissen adds there's a new rural Manitoba U15 AAA league, which gives them 28 regular season games. He talks about how important this is for them.
"It's an organized league that gives us 28 structured games. It's a competitive league with all of the rural regions, and then when we go to the showcases we can play the Winnipeg teams. So, it gives us a real base of games," says Nelissen. "When I was looking at it, we could easily have a 45-50 game schedule this year, which is more than enough for U15. It's a big step and a step in the right direction for female hockey."
The head coach notes Rod Sveistrup, the director of female hockey for Central Plains, played a big role in getting this league going.
Nelissen talks about getting back into coaching and how excited he is to do so.
"The region approached me to take on this team, and I said I would. I like the girls that are out here so far, from what I've seen. They work hard, they have smiles on their faces, hopefully, I won't take them off their faces, and we'll just keep growing. We will grow as a group. They can skate, and they can play."
The U15 female Capitals will be preparing all month with the season getting underway in October.