Camie Matteau Rushbrook held her own with the boys for six years.
But this season, she opted to try out for a girls' team, joining the Greater Vancouver Comets of BC Hockey's Female Midget AAA League.
After a half-dozen seasons of Whistler Minor Hockey Association action, Matteau Rushbrook felt it would be beneficial to join the Comets, even if it meant driving to Vancouver twice a week for practices and spending every weekend away from Whistler.
"My love for the game was starting to grow a little bit more and I was obviously starting to gain a little bit more skill," she said. "I talked to my family and we felt that it might be a good idea to make the move from boys' hockey to girls' hockey because I had always played boys."
One major factor in the jump is how Matteau Rushbrook could further her career after high school by landing a post-secondary scholarship, and playing with the Comets gave her the opportunity to play in front of some women's hockey scouts.
"Making the jump to girls' hockey was really good for me in the sense that I could play a higher level of girls' hockey than boys' hockey, and I could get a little more exposure that way," she said. "It's probably been the best decision I've made. I had so much fun playing in Whistler, but it's been such a great opportunity for me to go play with the girls. I've made so many friends and obviously I'm learning a lot with the whole process of managing time and things like that. Everything from it is completely positive."
The Grade 11 student explained she's had to adjust her style of play based on the strengths of both her teammates and opponents. She's found success, scoring three goals and seven assists in 23 league games this season as the Comets have won all 26 of their contests.
"The games are extremely different and at the beginning of the season with the Comets, I was having a little bit of a hard time adjusting because boys' hockey is more physical and has a little bit less puck possession because of the hitting," she said. "All the girls on my team are really good stickhandlers, all have really good puck possession and I didn't really have that. It's definitely been a little bit difficult adjusting to it, but it also helps with my skill and my confidence playing girls' hockey because I get so much more opportunity to carry the puck and not be so afraid of getting hammered into the boards."
However, Matteau Rushbrook explained that while she strives to keep the edge she's developed in her arsenal, it was difficult to find the line of how physical she could be.
"At the beginning of the season, when I went over to playing with the girls, I thought I was playing quite soft because for some reason, I thought if I even touched them, I would get a penalty," she said. "I'm starting to figure it out a little bit more, how to balance my physical play that I learned playing with boys and use that to my advantage in girls' hockey."
Despite her initial concerns, however, Matteau Rushbrook is only fourth on the team with 21 penalty minutes, about half of what the team leader has posted.
Comets head coach Mark Taylor said Matteau Rushbrook has successfully transitioned into the girls' game and is giving her opportunities to prove herself in myriad situations. With a versatile player in Matteau Rushbrook at his disposal, Taylor is glad to see her play with some grit.
"There is some contact in the women's game in front of the net and she's never shied away from that," he said. "The boys' game has probably helped her in some of those areas and she's got into the girls' game and she's been really successful in those parts of the rink, whether it's battling for pucks in corners or in front of the net."
Though the Comets haven't had any great challenges in league play, the squad looks elsewhere for tough opponents, regularly playing teams from hockey academies in B.C. and travelling to elite tournaments in Ontario at least twice a season.
"We learn a lot from those experiences as a team and we grow because it's a lot harder," Matteau Rushbrook said.