Some minor hockey teams hand out player-of-the-game or hardest-working hard hats. Tillsonburg Oxford Source for Sports atom girls award a golden jersey after every game. And Pita Pit gift certificates.
"The 'atoMc' program was a good deal," said Oxford Source for Sports coach Shane Glendinning. "McDonald's had us over there for dinner once and gave us shirts, socks, toques and all kinds of things."
TMHI re-introduced girls hockey at the atom and midget levels, and the young Oxford Source for Sports atoms girls are playing in WOGHL house league. Five of the 16 Lightning players are still novice age.
"This one here," said Glendinning, nodding toward a player in the hallway getting help with her skates after Sunday's game, "she migrated over from ringette when we brought back girls hockey this year. We've got a couple girls from Langton – one's playing boys hockey in addition to girls hockey here. One from Delhi, one from Aylmer area. And the rest are from Tillsonburg. One of the Tillsonburg girls played in Ingersoll last year, but she came back when we started this team – and she's enjoying it."
The trick will be carrying the momentum into 'Year 2.' Ideally, said Glendinning, they'd like to have novice, atom and peewee girls teams again.
"There's seven girls, I think, in the IP program right now. And I've heard there are a couple more girls from out of town who are thinking about it, so maybe we can attract some more girls from other centres now that they've seen what we've done here. Maybe they'll be more confident that the program's going to stick. If we're really lucky... novice, atom, and peewee teams next year. "
The atoms play in a mixed Western Ontario Girls Hockey League house league/C division.
"At the beginning of the season you have C teams – basically reps – and house league teams, and you can schedule games against anyone you want. So we played some 'C' teams like Stratford and Woolwich who basically dominated us. Then we played a couple exhibition games against Ingersoll, and won both. They (Ingersoll) beat us in the league game.
"Now that they've re-organized by winning percentages, it's a lot closer now. I think we're in second place right now."
The Lightning played in a recent tournament in St. Thomas. The atoms lost three preliminary games, then played in a Sunday cross-over game against the host St. Thomas.
"We've played them (St. Thomas) in league play and they beat us 15-0. In the tournament we lost 6-1... we were the only team to score a goal against them in that entire tournament. They shut out every other team."
As the Lightning move into the final month of the regular season, they will continue to focus on the technical skills of the game.
"Skating, passing, puck carrying," said Glendinning. "We haven't really done any types of attacks – I talk about it before games, draw it out and encourage it, but we really haven't practiced that because this group needs their technical skills."
Three of Tillsonburg's second-year atoms were unavailable for a pair of weekend WOGHL home games against Zorra Fuzion (Embro) the Kinsmen Memorial Arena.
"It was a good battle, the girls played good," said coach Glendinning.
"We played yesterday, same group of girls, against Watford (East Lambton), a top team in the league. We lost 3-0, but we have beaten them before (4-3 on November 8). Just a different effort today. We didn't quite have the energy we usually do."
Emma DeDobbelaer gave Tillsonburg a 1-0 lead Sunday 4:17 into the second period, redirecting the puck in the slot – in slo-mo. Zorra scored three third-period goals to win 3-1.