Isabella Palumbo has played on boys teams for nearly her entire hockey career. On Saturday night, the 15-year-old goalie shone at the highest level so far, starting in net for the Golden Rockets and logging her first win at the Junior B level.
“It was awesome,” said Palumbo of the game Sunday afternoon.
The Rockets had only two wins heading into Saturday night’s game in Golden. Their first was a win by default on Sept. 8 after the Castlegar Rebels dressed an ineligible player. Their second came on Jan. 5 against the Fernie Ghostriders.
The atmosphere in the Golden Arena last night was unbelievable, said coach Jason Stephens. A sold-out rink cheered Palumbo’s every save – 41 of them.
“Every time I made a save, the whole crowd went wild,” she said.
Palumbo is thought to be the first female goalie in the KIJHL to play the full 60 minutes and win.
The win is coming at a good time for the Rockets, who are 3-32-3 this season.
“The boys have had a rough year,” said Charlene Fairchild, who runs the Rockets’ social media pages.
Palumbo found out last week that she would be starting in net. The notice was to give her some time to prepare for her first KIJHL game.
“We wanted her in a game where she would shine,” said Fairchild.
The timing just fit, said Stephens, as the Revelstoke Minor Hockey Midget Tier 3 team she normally plays with had the weekend off.
She travelled to Creston with the team Friday night and learned about their pre-game routine.
At five foot three, Stephens said Palumbo does a good job of positioning herself between the pipes.
“Everything was hitting her in the right place,” he said. “She stood tall and played bigger than she is.”
The Rockets signed Palumbo as an affiliate player in December and she’s been attending practices with them about once a week.
“As she practised, we thought jeez, she can really play,” said Stephens. “She kept getting better and better at practices.”
Palumbo faced 12 shots in the first frame, blocking them all. Palumbo then allowed one goal in the second period and three in the third.
“It was kind of intimidating at first,” said Palumbo of being in net. “Then it was good.”
Palumbo’s family was in attendance and she said a few got emotional.
Her dad was also a goalie and has helped coach Palumbo for a decent portion of her young career.
“Everybody on the team was really pumped about the win,” she said.
The Rockets pulled off the win 7-4 against the Columbia Valley Rockies at home in Golden.
“The boys really rose to the occasion and played for her,” said Fairchild.
It’s likely that Rockets fans haven’t seen the last of Palumbo on the ice this season.
“A lot of it comes down to scheduling,” said Stephens. “We have to always consider what her schedule is like with her own team.”