This hockey team is bringing new meaning to “playing like a girl.”
The Wisconsin Jets Girls team is the only all girls mite (age 9 and under) hockey team in the region, and with COVID shifting regional play into Kenosha, they’re showing everyone what they’re made of.
With many rinks closed across Illinois, competitive teams have been making the trek to Kenosha. Due to building additional spaces and implementing strict COVID guidelines, Kenosha County Ice Rink has been able to keep their doors open, and ice fresh.
When these out-of-town teams arrive, they are often surprised to see the home bench packed with ponytails and pink hockey sticks. It’s not uncommon for girls to play and succeed in the sport, but it is extremely rare at the mite level to encounter a team entirely made up of female athletes.
The team was formed at the beginning of the 2019 season. Coaches at the rink saw a huge increase in female players and put out an open call. The response was a full team interested in skipping the co-ed experience and showing the city what a group of ladies who bond together could accomplish on the ice.
Since then, they have come together as a formidable force, claiming multiple top 3 tournament and season finishes, all while developing meaningful friendships and growing as individuals.
Their most recent victory on December 6th against the West Dundee Leafs was a great example of their incredible teamwork, drive, and skill.
The Jets Girls handily defeated the Leafs 8–0 in a game that had every team member playing at their peak. This performance was a season best that ended in a joyful pile up atop the goalie, Rhyen Kelly, to celebrate her first shut out of the season.
After the game, I spoke with Katie Boerner, mother of #74 Cari Boerner who scored the game’s opening goal.
“We felt really proud watching her, and seeing her score her first goal of the season. It’s always great to see her hustle and give it her all,” she said. She also noted Cari was pretty shy and timid coming into the league. “Being with all girls from the beginning really helped ease her in. The girls team means so much to us. It’s a place for Cari to get out, and be herself. She loves being around all the different personalities, developing friendships, and bonding with all the girls.” Katie probably speaks for many of the girls’ parents when she says, “It’s built her confidence, and given her a fun environment to relax, be active and grow!”
Cari Boerner, age 9, had this to say: “It feels great playing with all girls because we are all the same, and know one another well. We have fun because we are all girls and there are no boys.” She also enthusiastically added one last comment I promised to include, “Girls rule, boys drool.”
I also caught up with Rhyen Kelly, the 7-year-old, part-time goaltender, in an attempt to get a full recap of the game. It turns out she’s a player of few words. When asked to describe how it felt to win in her first shut out of the season, she simply pretended to faint, then yelled, “Awesome” from the ground.
These girls all have a bright future on the ice and everyone who sees them play is happy they call Kenosha their home rink.
For more information on the Wisconsin Jets Organization, please visit www.wisconsinjets.com.
By Riki Tagliapietra
With a proven track record in marketing and operations in the local restaurant industry,
Tagliapietra serves as Kenosha.com’s Director of Digital Success.
Q.What is your favorite sporting memory as a fan?
A. I grew up in Michigan and my favorite memory as a fan was watching the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1997. I remember seeing the fans throw octopus onto the ice after they clinched the cup. This is a tradition unique to Detroit.
Q. How long have you played hockey?
A. I played eight years of organized hockey during my youth for the Lakeland Hockey Association of Waterford, Michigan.
Q. Who is your all-time favorite professional athlete?
A. Steve Yzerman – he spent his entire 22-year NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings – most of those years as the team captain.
Q. How did you find yourself the head coach of the Wisconsin Jets?
A. I had been away from hockey for over 20 years. My daughter wanted to play hockey, but did not want to be on a co-ed team. When we heard about an all-girls team I found out they needed a coach and the rest is history.
Q. How did the all girl teams come to be?
A. I was invited by a friend Paul Clark to an informational session about the girls mite hockey program in the summer of 2019. From there it grew into a full fledged team.
Q. What is the best thing about coaching?
A. The best thing about coaching is seeing the kids growth in hockey and the bond they form throughout the year. The way they interact with each other is amazing. Each skater truly cares for and looks out for each other.
Q. How long have you been the coach of the Wisconsin Jets?
A. This is my second year.
Q.What goals have you set for yourself and the team, and have you accomplished them?
A. The number one goal is to increase the love of hockey in each player. As far as team goals, it is to win our division, which due to COVID, will not kick off until January. In addition, I want each player to experience the feeling of scoring a goal during the season. When a player does score their first goal, they receive a decorated puck as a memento.
Q. What opportunities are available for kids to learn to play or start playing in the league?
A. The Kenosha Ice Arena has a skating development program called Ignition which helps kids learn to skate without skating aids. Then they progress on to the Devos program which focuses on fundamentals (stops, starts, edge work, and stride technique). There are sessions offered in the fall, winter, and spring. Interested parents can also check our Facebook page for our Try Hockey for Free event, where the organization provides a free hockey lesson for those interested in playing.
Kenosha Ice Arena treats you like you are family. I believe this type of culture has allowed the girls team to grow and hopefully spread across all age groups.
Q. What skills should young players be focused on and what additional support is available to Improve a young athlete’s on and off-Ice performance?
A. Each player needs to focus on the fundamentals of skating and stick-handling. Shooting is a great skill to work on off ice. The organization releases videos/challenges for players to work on when away from the ice. We offer skill sessions in the summer and clinics to various skill levels.
Q. What opportunities are there for these young girls to stay involved after they out grow the league?
A. There are plans to have a Mite (U8) and Squirt (U-10) girls team next year, but like everything it will depend on the number of skaters registering for the program.