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Young athlete named offensive player of the year

Balmoral Hall student received honour at banquet in Vancouver

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Ryleigh Houston, who plays forward on the Balmoral Hall Blazers hockey team, was named the Junior Women’s Hockey League’s offensive player of the year.

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Ryleigh Houston, who plays forward on the Balmoral Hall Blazers hockey team, was named the Junior Women’s Hockey League’s offensive player of the year. Photo Store

A 15-year-old hockey player has been named the top offensive player in a U19 league.

Ryleigh Houston was named the Junior Women’s Hockey League’s (JWHL) offensive player of the year at the league’s playoff weekend , March 7-9 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The Riverbend resident plays forward for the Balmoral Hall Blazers in the JWHL. She scored 27 goals and 26 assists for a total of 53 points during the Blazers’ 27-game season, which started in September.

Houston, a Grade 10 student, is also one of 13 Balmoral Hall students who was recognized for obtaining an average of 85% or higher. The girls were named to the JWHL’s all-academic team at the banquet.

Blazers head coach Gerry Wilson said the fact that Houston was named offensive player of the year is impressive, considering she is 15 years old in a U19 league.

"This is the toughest junior women’s hockey league in North America, so for a young woman in Grade 10 to be the offensive player of the year is an outstanding achievement," Wilson said. "If she’s doing things like that now, who knows what’s going to happen over the next couple of years?"

Wilson has said that he’s heard scouts say Houston may be the best 1998-born player in the world.

During the playoffs weekend, the Blazers played five games. The Blazers lost to the Pacific Steelers 5-1 then lost 3-0 to the North American Hockey Academy (NAHA), the eventual league champions. Things turned around for the Blazers when they beat Washington Pride 2-0. They won again, 5-3 over Warner School and their last game was a rematch against the Steelers, which they tied 4-4.

"We battled through a lot of injury and sickness that weekend," Wilson said. "All in all, we played pretty well under the circumstances."

"I think we could have done better, obviously, but it was still a good weekend. Things didn’t turn out as great as they could have, but it was still a good weekend for us," Houston reflected on the playoffs.

Houston said this hockey season was one of her best so far, and it was mostly due to bonding with her teammates.

"We were a new team, with five to six rookies," Houston said. "When we ended our season, we became stronger and learned to play better together."

Although the season is over, Houston is continuing to improve her individual game. While she prides herself on her ability to adapt to situations on and off the ice, Houston said she does have things to work on.

"One of my weaknesses would be dealing with my emotions on and off the ice," Houston said.

Wilson said for Houston to be the whole package, he’d like her to work on her defensive play.

"It’s not all about scoring goals in hockey," Wilson said. "Offensively, she’s so talented, but defensive play is key for her to build her game."

For more information about the JWHL, visit jwhl.org

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