Prep ice hockey: Two girls among stars of boys team
Ogden • It's just past 9 p.m. on a Tuesday, and Clay Hobbs is hollering instruction to his forward lines. The coach of the Davis County Independent hockey team watches as his skaters slice through the ice at the Weber County Ice Sheet, finding a way to capitalize on a 3-on-1 drill against a goalie.
After two lines fail to put the puck into the net, Hobbs reaches for his chest and reluctantly blows his whistle.
"Come on, fellas," Hobbs barks. "Pick it up."
The next line up gets it done, with the help of a 5-foot-4 speedster with a ponytail. Kyra Dellermann pushes off the ice, flanking her two teammates. She plays with the puck as she approaches the net before laying it off to a fellow forward for an easy goal.
On the other end of the rink is one of DCI's two starting goalies. And when the drill switches gears, Samantha Zvonkovic follows suit. Shots zip her way, but she repels them. Dellermann and Zvonkovic are considered part of the fellas. They're regulars on an 11-2 Eagles team that leads the state's North Division, currently owners of the second-best record in the league. Dellermann, a senior at Northridge High School, is a nifty wing on one of DCI's best scoring lines, while Zvonkovic, a junior at Syracuse High School, is a one of the club's two starting goalies who has started eight games and recorded 108 saves.
"The only difference is they get dressed in a different dressing room," Hobbs said. "They're just like the guys we yell at them just like the guys and call them guys just like anyone else."
They are, but they aren't.
They're more than just girls playing with the guys. Dellermann hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she grew up obsessed with the ice. Zvonkovic was a defender at age 5, but two years later moved between the pipes, where Hobbs says her anticipation and positioning is first rate.
"Goalies are easy to coach," he said. "I just have one theory with them: You tell them to stop the freaking puck. And if they listen to you, you're an outstanding coach. For the most part, she listens to me."
Zvonkovic said goalkeeper is her natural position. While she splits time between the posts with teammate Austin Zaelit, Zvonkovic said always being on the ice and not part of rotational lines is why she gravitated toward the position. She studies goalies in the NHL and is a regular at Grizzlies games, where she spends most of her time studying mannerisms of the guys in net.
"The game's mine," she said. "I don't have to take different shifts. I love taking the shots, having the great saves and just getting through it. I love it."
Dellermann's transition to hockey was seamless. Growing up in Winnipeg, the sport was life. She strapped on the skates and put a hockey stick in her hand when she moved to Utah at 9. In fact, after scouting her as a youngster, Hobbs drafted Dellermann in a local youth hockey organizational draft for a Pee-Wee league.
"I did whatever I could to draft her," he said. "She's somebody I wanted on my team. There's quite a few girls that play, but she's head-and-shoulders the best girl in the state with her intelligence and the way she sees the ice."
As a forward, Dellermann's adjustment to playing high school hockey was a little different than Zvonkovic. When Dellermann was a freshman playing on the now-defunct Northridge hockey team, she was a 4-11 speedster intimidated going against defenders more than 6 feet tall.
But that soon changed.
"I can out-skate quite a few guys," Dellermann said, smiling.
Her experience along with her growth allowed her to sustain the physicality of playing hockey with boys. Now 5-4 and fifth in assists on the high-scoring Eagles, Dellermann along with Zvonkovic has been forced to switch her antenna to ignoring the vitriol that comes with being a female hockey player in a mainly-male league.
"Sometimes it's like every player and every person in the stands and every father has something to say about me playing," Dellermann said, adding most of it is too inappropriate to be repeated.
It's an interesting back-and-forth for the DCI duo.
When they're not helping the Eagles toward a division title and a top seed in the playoffs, they're starring on their traveling club team, the Utah Lady Grizzlies. The U-19 club team has aspirations of qualifying for the national club tournament, and it travels to places such as Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and most recently Colorado.
They're part of the fellas, and they're not.
But Dellermann and Zvonkovic have proved that they are hockey players and have helped DCI get out to a strong start in hopes of a big finish.
"You really don't think about it when you're playing hockey," Hobbs said.
Position • Forward
Year • Senior
School • Northridge High
Position • Goalie
Year • Junior
School • Syracuse High