A Terrace hockey player is joining the ranks of the Provincial Woman’s Hockey League (PWHL), which is considered one of the highest leagues in junior women’s amateur hockey in Canada.
Myah Bowal was offered a spot on the Toronto Leaside Wildcats in the PWHL last November and confirmed at the end of May with permission from Hockey Canada. With university scouts at every game, the Toronto Leaside Wildcats has 17 players for this fall, three from outside Ontario including Bowal, Vancouver player Payton Bray, and Japanese player Kasumi Kobo.
Head coach Kim McCullough said they first met when Bowal was 11 and came to play at a hockey camp in Vancouver that McCullough put on. They kept in touch via email and then last summer asked McCullough for advice about colleges. McCullough said she mentioned the Leaside team offhand as an option, but then it developed into a serious plan.
“They provided me with some game footage from Myah’s league play, and based on that, and knowing her character and the family a little bit, I was able to see and know that she would fit in well with our team,” McCullough said.
She said Bowal is a power forward who is eager to score, which is valuable and rare in girls hockey.
“She’s a clutch player – she scores big goals in big games at key times…Those players who want the puck on their stick in the key moments and aren’t afraid of making a mistake… those are hard to find, and she definitely fits that bill,” McCullough said.
Bowal is also intelligent in the classroom and on the ice and is a very hard worker, also willing to sacrifice her body in those key moments, McCullough said.
Unlike many top hockey players, Bowal said none of her family played hockey. She got into the sport through playing street hockey with her neighbours, Brendan and Jeff Kennedy.
“We were just little and we would always play street hockey with them,” Bowal said. “After that, I just kind of fell in love with the game.”
She played in Terrace minor hockey for eight years, played one year for Bantam Richmond Ravens and as alternate for Northern Capitals (then Cougars) from Prince George, and played for the Capitals full time last winter.
In May, Bowal was invited to tryout with the top-80 female hockey players under-18 for the U18 Team B.C. After a successful tryout, she was invited to the second level of tryouts with the top-40 players, training in Richmond on July 7-10 and in Salmon Arm on August 24-28.
After that, B.C. coaches will cut down the roster to the top 25, run another tryout in September and then choose a final roster for Team B.C. That team will have various training sessions in the fall and then compete with teams from across Canada in the 2016 National Women’s U18 Championship in Regina.
Mario Desjardins, who has coached Bowal since she was nine, said it is going to be challenging to make it past the 40 for the U18 team.
“She has a good chance, like the rest of them, but it’s going to take a lot of work,” he said.
Desjardins said that players in the Lower Mainland tend to have some advantage, because selection coaches see more of their play and skill during the regular season.
“It will be up to her to put her best foot forward. She will definitely not leave anything on the table and she will definitely give herself a good chance of cracking that line up,” he said.
As for Bowal’s future, Desjardins said she has a lot of passion for the game and he is glad she is pursuing what she wants to achieve.
“She’s going to get a scholarship somewhere, there’s no question, but to get that ivy league scholarship she definitely has a better opportunity playing out in the east part of the country.”
Bowal said she is pretty excited to head to Ontario and play in the PWHL this fall.
“It’s a pretty big opportunity and Coach Kim McCullough seems amazing,” Bowal said. “You always hear that Ontario is the hot bed of hockey… and I’ve heard a lot of good things from university coaches saying that the PWHL is one of the top leagues in North America.”
Bowal said moving to Ontario will be a bit tough.
“I’ve lived away from parents for three years now, but I think that going there is going to be a lot harder because I won’t be able to come home as much,” she said. “But there are so many ways of communication now that will make it a lot easier.”
With her younger brother Kelsyn still in school, Bowal said that her parents, Bobby and Shammi Bowal, hope to visit Ontario to watch her play.
Looking back, Bowal said her coaches, trainer Terri Montuer, team mates, friends and especially her parents have helped her get to where she is now. “My parents for sure,” she said. “They are so supportive of every decision I make.”