Eleven-year-old Savannah Bissat didn’t dream of being a goalie when she started playing hockey five years ago.
But when her team didn’t have anyone in the net, she bravely volunteered.
The first time, “I got a little worried that it would hurt,” she said. “But once it started hitting me I realized that I had lots of protection and it doesn’t hurt at all.”
These days, as a goalie for the U13 rep team, Savannah deliberately gets in the way of the puck so it hits her and doesn’t slip into the net.
She’s found it’s actually fun to be in goal. “I like to catch the puck with my glove and stuff.”
Coach Brad McKinnon said goaltending is a tough job, and he’s proud of Savannah and the team’s other goalie Rowan Johnston. In October, he said the two goalies “faced lots of rubber” when 100 Mile House hosted the U13 Icebreaker Tournament Saturday. Teams from Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George came to compete.
Savannah said goalies have to stretch a lot to stay flexible, and work on having a good stance and sliding across the crease. She doesn’t particularly like the “quick ups,” which is when goalies have to get up quickly after going down on their knees to block a shot.
“When the puck is being shot and it bounces off your pads you really need to get up so you can get set for the next shot,” she said.
She devotes a lot of time to hockey with team practice on Tuesday and Thursday plus goalie training. One of the hardest parts of playing goal is “tracking the puck when there’s a lot of people in the zone,” she said. There is no real trick to this, she added, other than keeping your eyes on the puck.
In addition to playing for the U13 rep team Savannah also plays for the 100 Mile Royals girls’ team.
In 2020, the Royals attended Wickfest in Surrey for the first time. The tournament had 88 teams and over 2,000 players and the Royals won all four round-robin games and took the gold medal after thumping Chilliwack 6-0.
At the time, Savannah shared the goalie duties with Sarah Tinney and they only let in one goal. Tinney racked up three shutouts in the tournament in an 11-0 win over Nanaimo, a 6-0 win over Surrey and the gold-winning game. Savannah shut out North Shore 10-0 and came close against the round-robin game against Chilliwack, which ended up 5-1.
It was here that Savannah met gold medal winner Hayley Wickenheiser, a source of inspiration for the young goalie.
“It felt really cool to meet a Canadian gold Olympian and it felt really great for me and my team to bring home a banner for 100 Mile house.”
Her biggest highlight as a goalie came last week in Prince George when she got a standing ovation for a save.
‘The puck got shot and it bounced off my toe and it went out and I was out of my net. The other player took a shot and I caught it with my glove.”