The New Jersey Bandits Girls hockey program has been experiencing exponential growth since Brooke Ammerman Reimer took over as Girls hockey director in February of 2021.
While the program is planning to expand even further for the 2022-23 season, there are other matters to take care of first.
The Bandits are playing in the 14U 1A portion of the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Girls Tier II National Championships that are continuing through Monday in West Chester and Phoenixville, Pa.
New Jersey won its tournament opener Thursday, rallying past Team South Dakota in overtime, 2-1.
The tournament victory was just the latest success story for a program that consisted of 13 girls when Ammerman Reimer took over. Less than 14 months later, the Bandits, playing out of the Ice Vault in Wayne, N.J., have two teams, 50 girls and are preparing to go into next season with five teams.
“The Ice Vault really decided to take on this new endeavor of a Girls program,” Ammerman Reimer said. “Bobby Reiss, the owner, knew what we were up against because it’s one of the hardest things to do, but it was a necessity to continue the growth of hockey in the building.”
One of the first steps was making the Girls team stand out within the building.
“We sat for a long time and compared ideas about how we could grow from 13 girls in the building at the time to a really strong Girls program with the idea that we could eventually have one of the best in the area,” Ammerman Reimer said. “One of the first things we did was separate out the apparel and jerseys.
“I thought if we could go with a play on the Bandits logo and add some pink and black, so that any time somebody walked into this building and saw these tremendous athletes skating, they would think, ‘Oh wait a minute, they’re girls. What’s going on here?’ and then ask more questions. He took it and made that really amazing.”
Ammerman Reimer, a member of the first gold-medal winning U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team in 2008, was pleased with how that first step worked and how conversations about the program started.
Brook Ammerman Reimer celebrates a Team USA goal with Brianna Decker at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championship.
Although she did coach 10U in Europe while she and her husband Jochen, a goaltender from Germany, were playing there, Ammerman Reimer had much more experience with instruction through camps and clinics.
With the couple living in New Jersey following the completion of their playing days, Ammerman Reimer was ready for the challenge of directing an entire program and coaching its top team.
“It takes a lot of hard work; it takes a lot of support from ownership,” she said. “We are really happy with where we are going into next season.”
As the 14U team thrived, more aspiring players came into the program with a 12-player 12U team expanding to 27 players during the season, helping confirm the plans to add more teams for next season.
The Bandits packed the Ice Vault for their 4-3, overtime victory over the Philadelphia Little Flyers in the Atlantic District championship game that secured the Nationals berth.
The exciting finishes continued when the Bandits headed south to the Philadelphia suburbs for the beginning of Nationals.
Team South Dakota scored first in the Thursday afternoon opener, early in the second period.
Jenna Kirch scored an unassisted, power-play goal less than three minutes later.
The teams combined for just 11 shots through a scoreless third period, but the Bandits needed only 44 seconds of the extra session to settle the outcome.
Caroline Almond broke up a Team South Dakota rush on the back check.
Almond and Natalie Tang, who also earned an assist, got things turned in the other direction, sending the puck ahead to Jolie Vaiana for a one-on-one.
“The individual effort of Jolie Vaiana was unbelievable, beating her player one-on-one and then having the patience and presence of mind to deke out the goalie was something pretty impressive,” Ammerman Reimer said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.