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RODE: RDP Hockey Queens hope to make another title run

The RDP Queens hockey team will have a new look up front this season with seven newcomers.

The RDP Queens hockey team will have a new look up front this season with seven newcomers.

But that’s fine with Queens head coach Kelly Coulter. After all the two-time defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference champions won with defence and seven of the eight rearguards are returning.

The only new face on the back end is highly regarded Anna Trieber, who played midget AA boys hockey in Sylvan Lake last season.

“We’ve always been a strong defensive team, something I’ve preached since Day 1,” said Coulter. “I’m happy with our returning core and Anna fits right in. She impressed us right away. She shoots the puck well, has good size, a good skater and communicates well on the ice.

“They can all play so our biggest challenge will be keeping everyone happy with their playing time.”

Returning on the back end is Alesha Santos, who was second on the team in assists with nine in 20 games, Kyla Hanzel, Jessica Bouffard, Kaedence Mollin, Sarah Raymond, Brooke Skrypichayko and Kassy Gaudette, who played mostly forward last season.

Skrypichayko is looking forward to the season after battling a knee injury most of last season.

“We didn’t want to push her last year,” said Coulter. “Most of her life is after hockey and we wanted her to be healthy before she came back. She’s looked good this year and with her being her final season she’s looking forward to a good year.”

One of the other biggest changes is in goal with only Izzy Palumbo returning.

Madison Fox was going to be gone all along but it was expected Tanya Disotell-Dunsmore would be returning.

“That was a surprise that Tanya decided late to move on to other things,” said Coulter, who did add 18-year-old Tora Ward of Saskatoon.

“It’s good to add a good young goalie, but it would have been nice to have three just in case of injuries,” he said.

Palumbo returns with solid credentials. She led the ACAC in goals-against-average (0.84) and save percentage (.955) last season while posting a 7-0-0 record.

“We’re fortunate to have Izzy back for a third year. She knows the league and the way we play. She’s put in a lot of work and we’re excited to see what she brings this season.”

Ward comes in after posting a 2.28 GAA and .901 save percentage and an 11-3 record last season in 15 games.

The forwards are led by veteran Avery Lajeunesse, who tied for the team scoring lead last season with Madison Sansom with eight goals and six assists. She also notched the golden goal in overtime in the third game of the final against NAIT.

“We’re fortunate to have Avery back. She brings a great work ethic and is a leader on and off the ice.

“Overall we do have a large turnover up front, but we feel the girls we’ve recruited will do a good job,” said Coulter. “They bring in a scoring touch, some size and skill and have picked up things quickly, so we’re happy with what we’ve seen so far.

“It’s always a challenge the first month after moving away from home and getting accustomed to school, a new coach, new systems and new tactics, but they’ve worked hard.”

The Queens added two players out of Manitoba — Sarah Kolosky of the Westman Wildcats and Jenna Sellen of the Eastman Selects — two from B.C. — Sarah Webster of the Delta Hockey Academy and Camryn Ward of the Northern Capitals — two from the Alberta U18 AA League — Chloe Belter of the Edmonton Pandas and Victoria Longley of the Calgary Fire — and Jenna Mepham of the St. Albert Slash of the U18 AAA League.

Like a lot of women’s hockey, the U18AA League has improved considerably over the last several years. Belter finished in a tie for fourth in league scoring last season with 36 points on 19 goals and 17 assists in 25 games while Longley was in a tie for eighth with 31 points (15g, 16a).

Kolosky was fourth in the Manitoba U18AAA League with 37 points on 22 goals and 15 helpers while Sellen was 15th with 24 points on nine goals and 14 assists.

Both Ward and Webster have also shown a scoring touch with Ward finishing 1ith 12 goals in 31 games and Webster with 15 helpers in 30 games.

Other veterans include Alli Soyko, Julie Wagner, Jailyn Bablitz, Arilyn Toews, Mioloy Flynn and Natasha Barsby.

Coulter feels the veterans are proving to be “like assistant coaches.

“They’ve been great in terms of being teachers and transitioning the new players from what their past coaches taught them to the way we want them to play.”

The Queens went into last year’s final against NAIT as underdogs, but swept the final.

“Last year’s group didn’t want to relinquish the title and worked extremely hard,” said Coulter. “They were a cohesive group and didn’t let the standings dictate the way they played. They believed in themselves.

“We have a great culture in the room and the new players this year fit right in which makes it easier to be a strong team.”

The Queens will look to tie the ACAC record for most wins in a row this season, joining Mount Royal, Grant MacEwan and NAIT.

RDP won the first two league championships in 2000-01 and 2001-02 and in 2015-16, are tied for the most league titles with Mount Royal with five.

This year league has also jumped to six teams adding the Medicine Hat College Rattlers.

“Looking forward to it,” said Coulter. “We play 25 games and from what I see it will be a tough league.

“Girls hockey has improved so much over the years with girls starting at age five and so there are so many more talented players coming out of the U18 leagues.”

While Coulter feels his team has great chemistry, he also believes they know how to handle all situations.

“It’s important to not only have a good work ethic but to have a fun environment and to succeed on and off the ice.”

Queens open their exhibition season Friday against Olds at 7 p.m. at the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre.

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