Hockey Queens drawing more and more interest

It’s little wonder the RDP Queens hockey program is drawing more and more interest every year.

The Queens have one of the premier facilities in the country to go with the fact they’re two-time defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference champions. Add to that Red Deer Polytechnic is a highly regarded academic institution.

“The girls we had over the past two years deserve a lot of credit for our success,” said Queens head coach Kelly Coulter. “They bought into what we were teaching and it showed on and off the ice. The school also has a lot to offer. We have an amazing facility and a great support staff. We check a lot of boxes in what we can offer academically and the city is large enough yet skill has a bit of a small town feel.”

All that adds up, which was evident during the Queens ID camp last weekend.

Coulter usually brings in 20 prospects while this year he had close to 40 on hand.

“We generally invite 20 and mix them in with our veterans but this year we sent out close to 50 invites and when we kept getting more and more accepting we decided to go with the bigger group. Most everyone we offered an invite to decided to come. Usually, it’s more difficult than that with several other schools holding camps as well.”

Coulter invites a number of graduating U18 players (2005 birth dates) along with 06 and 07 top prospects.

This year’s camp saw 13 graduating players on hand, including six who have already committed for next season.

The Queens lose eight players off their championship squad, including four forwards, three defencemen and goaltender Madison Fox.

“We’re losing some quality players and leaders,” said Coulter. “But we still have some excellent leaders in our room and now it’s a matter of seeing how quickly the new players adapt to our system.”

The only position Coulter has yet to fill is a third goaltender and he has made an offer to Tora Ward of Saskatoon.

“We watched her several times during the season and she was one of the players we wanted to see up close this weekend. We’ve started negotiating with her, now it’s up to her. She can play at this level for sure.”

The Queens do have two of the premier netminders in the league returning in Izzy Palumbo and Tanya Drisotell-Dunsmore.

Palumbo led the league with a 0.84 goals-against-average and a .955 save percentage while Drisotell-Dunsmore was third with a 1.84 GAA. She also had a .923 save percentage.

Both posted a 1.00 GAA in the playoffs as Tanya was 2-0 against Lloydminster in the semifinals and Izzy 3-0 against NAIT in the final.

The Queens did lose three top defenceman in Kiera Mulder, Alex Black and Jordyn McLaughlin but have added Sylvan Lake Lakers grad Anna Trieber.

“Anna attended our camp last year and we expressed strong interest in her and she made a commitment back then,” said Coulter. “She’s very physical, makes good decisions with the puck and sees the ice well. She will be a very good player for the Queens program.”

Trieber could have also played college basketball after a strong season with David Thompson High School.

Coulter does have six other veteran blueliners on his roster, although Brooke Skrypichayko is recovering from knee surgery.

“We’ll have to see how she’s recovering,” Kelly said. “If she can return means we have a good veteran group plus we could also move Kassy (Gaudette) back as well.”

Yet Coulter is still looking to add one more rearguard if possible.

Up front, the Queens lost Madison Sansom, who tied with Avery Lajuenesse for the team scoring lead with eight goals and six assists and 14 points in the regular season. Also gone is Natalie Buttle, who finished with seven goals, and Brenna Reid and Haley Kicia.

Kelly has started to fill those spots with the addition of Sarah Webster of the Delta Hockey Academy and Coquitlam, B.C.; Camyrn Ward of Kitimat who played with the Northern Capitals AAA program; Chloe Belter, who was one of the top scorers in the provincial U18AA league, for the Edmonton Pandas,; Rylee Mepham of the St. Albert Slash, Hayley Kolosky of the Westman Wildcats from Brandon MB, and Jenna Sellen of the Eastman Selects from Sprinfield, MB.

All but Sellen were on hand during the weekend.

“She had a school commitment,” explained Coulter, who was impressed with the others who have signed.

“Webster showed a lot of skill, has a lot of really good habits and skates well,” he said. “In fact all of them showed they should fit in well with the program and I’m excited to see them when we open camp with a full squad this fall.”

A number of younger players impressed Coulter as well including 15-year-old Presley Zinger and 16-year-old Ava Greiner, both from the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs AAA provincial championship squad.

One other player who impressed was Claire Carruthers of Lloydminster Steelers.

“She caught everyone’s attention, and we’ve had conversations with her, but she’s looking at all her options,” said Coulter.

Coulter also had a number of U18AA players in camp, including six from the provincial champion Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs and seven from the Calgary Fire.

“The AA program has come a long way over the last several years since the AAA league cut down to six teams,” said Coulter. “There’s a lot of kids in the AA league who would have played at the higher level before. There’s just not room for everyone.

“We have scouts watching the AA league now and the talent pool is getting bigger and bigger.”

One of the premier AA players in the province — 16-year-old Devon McConnell of the Red Deer Chiefs — couldn’t make the camp as she was attending the University of Alberta Pandas camp.

As well the premier player with the Chiefs AAA squad — Nadia Lavoie — has already committed to play university hockey out East.

“It would be nice to get all the top players from here, but it’s a good opportunity for her,” said Coulter, who is impressed with the female program in Red Deer.

Both the U18AAA and AA teams won the provincial title and the U15AA squad took third.

“The girls program has come a long way. There’s more and more girls playing the game and starting at a younger age. They’re also getting good coaching.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at

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