The Kerry Park Islanders may have dropped three exhibition games over the weekend but the team still had one monumental victory.
Though verification is still pending, it’s believed to be the first time ever in the VIJHL that a female position player has taken to the ice in official game play.
Defender Aurora Kahlert was slotted into the lineup in both Kerry Park’s home games, first on Saturday night, a 6-4 loss to the Glacier Kings, then on Sunday afternoon, a 5-2 loss to last season’s VIJHL runners-up, the Saanich Predators.
The 16-year-old Maple Ridge product earned a spot on two exhibition rosters after catching the eye of the coaches in the team’s pre-season camp.
“She’s just an impressive young lady,” head coach Henry Acres said. “I thought that Aurora performed really, really well on Saturday. Like she mentioned herself, Sunday was more of a struggle — not just for her but for the entire group.”
Acres said in both games Kahlert handled herself well.
“I’m extremely impressed with her, first and foremost with how mature she is as a young person and then also what she can do as a hockey player, with how she conducts herself, and her poise,” Acres said.
Last summer Kahlert skated at an Alberni Valley Bulldogs ID camp in Abbotsford before playing her season with the Vancouver NE Chiefs U17 AAA team.
She went on to make history with her BC U18 team in early March of 2023 as a member of the first ever Team BC female squad to win gold at the Canada Winter Games.
This week she was also invited to the Female Program of Excellence prep camp in September that will see players compete for a spot on the Team BC roster for the 2023 National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Dawson Creek in November.
Kahlert still has a couple of years left of high school before moving on to the NCAA, where she’s been highly recruited.
Meanwhile, the Islanders want to keep her in the fray as an affiliate player.
“We definitely want to have her, as much as she can, be a part of our group,” Acres said. “I see her as having a really strong opportunity to play at this level next year as long as she keeps working and developing. The only thing for her is that power and strength and that speed. We’ll see how this year of development goes.”
It’ll be tricky, the coach noted, as typically affiliate players live nearby, not a ferry trip away.
“She’s got to figure out where she’s going to play and she’ll get a schedule from that team and when the schedule works, if she can get over here for a practice or a game, then we’ll make that work,” Acres said. “What she can do as a hockey player, we’re just scratching the surface.”