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Girls suiting up in league of own

November 25, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Sometimes they smell bad, mismatch their socks and get bruised, but that doesn't stop them from being girls - or from beating them.

The Mid-Maryland Icebergs is the only area all-girls ice hockey team that suits up local players with skates and sticks alongside state teammates hailing from as far west as Cumberland and as far east as Odenton.

The 13-member team is centered between practices at the Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex and Skate Frederick to accommodate players who travel from opposite sides of the state. The team is officially a member of the Hagerstown Youth Hockey Association.

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"It goes to show how dedicated these girl hockey players are," said Alan Zube, team manager and assistant coach.

The team plays in an under-15 age division in the Capital Beltway League, an ice-hockey league that this year formed seven girls' teams, Zube said.

He said the average age of the Icebergs, who have been practicing together since mid-September, is 12.

"We by far have the smallest goalie in the league," Zube said.

Zube said he knew there was a pocket of girls playing with co-ed teams around Hagerstown and Frederick. His biggest challenge was trying to convince the girls to give up checking with the boys to join an all-girls team.

Charlene Sandonato, 12, of Hagerstown, said she started playing ice hockey two years ago with a boys' team because her older brothers play the sport.

"I never wanted to play with girls," she said.

Sandonato, a defensive player, said before she joined the Icebergs, she was the only girl in the ladies locker room. Now, she enjoys talking with her friends before practice and games.

Team captain Brittany Shiben, 14, of Mount Airy, said the team has become a group of best friends. The team usually hangs out a little bit before and after games and practices.

And the boys that skate onto the ice after the Icebergs finish practice don't distract them at all. Well, maybe just a little, Sandonato said.

"They're annoying," said Mary Kate Gellerman, 10, of Ijamsville.

"Hockey's a tough sport and guys think we can't handle it," she said. "But we can."

Girls aren't allowed to check, but they can still pin opponents against the wall and use their bodies to gain possession of the puck, head coach Sylvain Cardin said.

"They don't have to worry about anyone taking their heads off," Zube said.

Cardin, a French-Canadian who has helped with the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens, said he couldn't pick a better group of kids out of the many teams - mostly boys - he's coached.

The biggest difference between boys' and girls' ice hockey is that girls tend to be less selfish with the puck than boys, said Zube.

"Sometimes they pass too often," he said.

Cardin said another big difference is intensity - boys have more.

"It's my job to bring that intensity up," he said.

The girls in the Icebergs' age bracket tend to be less disappointed after a loss than boys their age, Cardin said.

"But there are still a couple of girls that I can't talk to after they lose," Cardin said.

Since the girls have only been together since mid-September, the team's biggest challenges are to develop skating and shooting skills, Cardin said.

The Icebergs have won one of three league games so far. The team beat Montgomery White 9-0 and lost close battles with Montgomery Gold and Prince William (Va.). The girls play 12 league games and 12 non-league games against teams that have been together at least two years, Zube said.

The Icebergs' first home game is Sunday, Dec. 8, at 5:10 p.m. at Skate Frederick.

All the girls say they get teased occasionally by classmates who warn others not to "mess with them" because they're ice hockey players.

"I tried figure skating once, but it was pretty boring," Sandonato said.

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