SOUTH BURLINGTON – Saturday evening produced a busy few hours of hockey at Cairns Arena in South Burlington. Not only did the St. Michael’s women’s hockey team play a 4 p.m. game against Sacred Heart, but Vermont’s Girls 4 Hockey hosted a free learn to skate event.

Around 50 girls and boys ages 3-14 took the ice following the Purple Knights 4-0 loss to Sacred Heart. They were paired up with the St. Michaels players so the DII athletes could help their younger counterparts learn the sport.

The ice was split into two sections; more experienced skaters on one side while beginners were on the other side.

Owner and head coach for girls for hockey Meghan Sweezey explained the goal of the program.

“We are a skill development program that provides additional opportunities to mostly girls and women’s ice hockey players but our organizations efforts grow the game for all locally in Vermont,” she said. “We kind of have the ‘if you can see it, you can be it’ mentality, so we’re trying to make connections with the future generations of players.”

Saturday’s event marks the second year it’s been hosted at Cairns they’re already seeing incredible growth from last year. Only about 15-20 children participated last year while this year that number almost tripled.

Current St. Michael’s senior and advocate for the growth of women’s hockey Sophia Burns spoke about what this event means to her.

“I know when we were kids we all had players we looked up to. Giving back to the community is really important and being women’s hockey players and St. Michael’s College we really wanted to be role models for these kids. Hockey is one of those sports where it seems like it’s hard to get access to,” she said. “Just getting these kids the experience that a lot of kids didn’t get is really great to see.”

Burns said she experienced a lot of excitement and joy out on the ice from the kids during the event.

And this makes sense, these young Vermonters are being taught to play hockey by women’s college hockey players that many of them may strive to be just like.

Before young Lilah Rose took the ice, she shared her thoughts on what she’s looking forward to in only her second time playing hockey and her hopes for all the other skaters.

“[I’m excited for] seeing if we can try to get a goal in it,” said a Lilah Rose. “Hopefully everyone feels like it’s fun.”

From what those behind the glass saw on the ice, it was a fun night which came to a close at 7 p.m. when the tired little hockey players exited the playing surface.

As for the organized hockey… The Purple Knights were swept in the back to back games by Sacred Heart. They lost 1-0 in the first game and 4-0 in Saturday’s contest.

The team will look to get back in the win column when they return from holiday break in January.