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Inside all that goalie gear for Lew-Port: It’s a girl

The Lewiston-Porter High School boys hockey team leads the Western New York Federation in double takes this season.

“It’s usually the referees,” coach Kevin Kirsch of the Lancers said. “They are the ones that have to get the puck out of the net after a goal. There have been a couple of guys who have come back and said, ‘I didn’t realize you had a girl goalie.’ ”

Lewiston-Porter certainly does have a girl in the nets this season: Kyra Johansson.

“It’s ‘The Boys and Kyra,’ ” she said, making it sound like a rock band. “They’re my boys. They’re my best friends.”

Johansson blends right in with everyone on the ice, thanks in part to the goalie equipment that can make anyone anonymous. The senior has had a few odd reactions when she’s gone through the handshake line after games.

“When we shake hands, sometimes the guys on the other team are like, “… Oh.” But it’s fine,” Johansson said. “I know a lot of the guys from around the area, having played with them and against them. … It’s funny when they find out, I guess. Some of the guys say funny things when we shake hands in line.”

A few girls have turned up on boys hockey teams in Western New York over the past several years, so Johansson’s appearance is unusual but not unprecedented. It’s a first for Lewiston-Porter, which is in its seventh year of interscholastic hockey – all under Kirsch, who took the roster addition in stride.

“When I was growing up, I went to a camp with twins from Buffalo who were good hockey players,” he said. Girls “have been in hockey for as long as I’ve been playing. I played for Timon, and LaSalle had a girl on the team. So I’ve been accustomed to it. … It’s another day in the office.”

Johansson has played hockey since she was 7 years old, and switched positions when she was about 12.

“I didn’t start playing goalie until I was in seventh grade,” she said. “I was on a girls team that didn’t have a goalie that year. I stepped up and said I would do it. I got stuck with it after that. At this point, there’s no going back now.”

Johansson played for the Niagara Falls Junior Purple Eagles girls team. Then that team didn’t have enough girls to field a squad, so she played in a girls league in Canada. She was the only American on the team, so she’s used to being in a class by herself.

Along the way, she also played with the boys’ teams at Lewiston-Porter since the school does not have a girls’ team. In fact, there are no girls teams in Niagara County, so playing for another team wasn’t an option. She uses a separate dressing room, as all rinks have boys and girls locker areas, so that isn’t a problem.

“When I was with the JV with the boys, I was the MVP that year,” Johansson said. “Last year, I was a backup. This year, we rotate goalies.”

“Kyra has had a good year,” said Kirsch, whose team had a 6-5-3-0 record entering the final two games of its regular season. “Every time she’s gone in the net, she’s given us a chance to win. She plays hard, she battles hard. She does everything we ask her to do. I think she’s tougher on herself that we are on her.”

One of three goalies Lew-Port uses, Johnson has a 2-1 record and a 3.90 goals-against in the five games she’s played for the Lancers.

The biggest difference between boys and girls hockey probably is that contact is allowed in the boys game. That makes the game in front of the goalie different, even if in theory the goalie is protected by rule from collisions.

“I’m not used to that,” Johansson said. “I have to keep up with it. I’ve adjusted so far.

“It’s definitely different hockey. It’s a lot faster, and the shots are a lot harder. But I don’t use the fact that I’m the only girl as an excuse. I don’t really have a point to prove, being the only girl. It is what it is.”

And if there is a little contact around the Lew-Port goal in a game, Johansson’s teammates come swarming to the net to restore order. That’s not sexism, it’s hockey: Nobody touches the goalie.

“They are protective, but they are for all goalies,” Kirsch said about the skaters on the team. “They’ve been with her through modified. They are used to it.”

Soon the Lancers’ season will be over, and Johansson’s list of double-take victims will come to an end. But her hockey career won’t be finished. She is planning on playing in college next season.

“I encouraged her to do so,” Kirsch said. “I haven’t been contacted by colleges directly, but she’s gotten more exposure through the club team.”

“I’ve narrowed it down to three schools,” Johansson said. “I’ll go visit them in a couple of weeks. They are all good teams, all D-3. I was offered a starting position on a team already. But I want to pick a school that fits me best, and not just for hockey.”

email: bbailey@buffnews.com

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