Don’t tell the Rymans they play like a girl

Kierslyn and Peyton Ryman aren’t afraid to throw a cross check in front of the crease. Both are always ready to fight for position to keep the puck away from the net. And whatever you do, don’t tell either one of them they play hockey like a girl.

The two sisters, Kierslyn, 15 and Peyton 11, are just solid hockey players who love the game and can hold their own against any boy on the ice. As defensive players, opponents don’t get comfortable as both girls don’t mind a shoving battle in front of the net.

These aren’t girls who drop their gloves and throw hands, but they won’t be intimidated either.

Their love for hockey came just over four years ago when they embraced their father’s passion for the game as an amateur player. Kyle Ryman has played hockey for years in recreational leagues and his girls took the sport quickly.

Ice time for them was filled with hockey drills and not axels and spins.

“They saw me playing adult league and they wanted to try it,” Kyle said of his girls. “I was thrilled. It’s a fun sport. It’s cold, it’s not hot and it’s fast paced. I like it too and it’s something we can bond over.”

Kierslyn and her Tampa Crunch team captured the Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida captured the under-14 state championship by going a perfect 5-0 in the state tournament at the AdventHealth Center Ice facility in Wesley Chapel.

“It’s very big to win it all,” Kierslyn said. “We’ve been to states three times now and we only made it to the semifinals. The difference is winning it all is that it’s a way bigger moment. You are recognized everywhere. This is a good group.”

Winning isn’t new to the girls. Their travel hockey team have played in tournaments across the country and have brought home the hardware. Both are athletic enough to play any sport but they will take a stick and a puck over a bat and ball any day.

“It’s fun and you get to hit people,” Kierslyn said before her team took the ice at the state championship tournament. “All the sports I could have picked, I picked hockey. It’s fun and very active. I saw my dad play and then I really wanted to play immediately.”

Tampa Bay Crunch head coach Paul McDuffie doesn’t treat her any different than any player he has on the ice. He wishes there were more like her.

“She is pretty much the heart and soul of our team,” said McDuffie. “She sets the tone on and off the ice. She doesn’t say much, but her actions speak louder than her words. She is a truly talented young woman. I’m very proud of her.

“She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but when she does, her teammate are there to pick her up. She is something else. Her work ethic is what sets her apart. I hope to see her play at high levels as she continues to grow.”

Both girls had to earn the trust and respect of their male teammates. It didn’t take long.

“At the beginning of the season, it was definitely more difficult because I  was a girl,” Kierslyn said. “They saw me differently. Over time, since I started getting noticed more, they accepted me quickly. I had to earn their respect. They had to trust me on the ice.”

Peyton has a message for other girls who want to follow in her skates.

“I would tell other girls who want to play is to do whatever they want and not care what other people think,” she said. “They will have to work harder than the boys and that’s OK.”

When both stepped onto the ice on team full of boys, Kyle had little doubt his girls could hold their own.

 Thankfully both my girls are pretty tough and I knew that going in when they were playing with the boys,” Kyle said. “They are tough and handle themselves out there.”

As the older sister, Kierslyn sits in the position as a role model for Peyton. It’s not a title she wanted, but it’s a title she gladly accepts.

“I think it’s good for her to see what the hard work can do,” Kierslyn said. “I sometimes skate with her, but she learns a lot from coaches and dad. I like see her win and do well out there. It’s fun to watch her. I hope it’s the same for her.

“I don’t look at myself as a role model, but to my sister, I am a little bit. She looks up to me. There aren’t many girls out there playing on a boys team like we are.”

Peyton, who just wrapped up her season with the Tampa Bay Junior Lightning finishing with a run to the state semifinals, watched her sister’s squad win the state championship.

“I learn a lot from her by watching what she does,” Peyton said. “I see some stuff she does and I’ll try to do it in my games. She’s a role model. I look up to her sometimes. I was so happy for her for winning states.”

The challenges each face being the lone girls on the team will make them stronger and help them in life as each get older.

“They’re definitely fighters,” Kyle said of his girls. “It will make them stronger in life. There are a lot of lessons learned on the ice. The lesson they learned and take away from this is to give it everything you got. That’s one of my favorite things about both of them is that no matter what the score is or what team they’re playing, they hustle as hard as they can every day. They never stop and that will transition into life.”

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