It’s just a fact of life in college sports that players eventually move on.
Such is the case with the RDC Queens hockey team this season.
Head coach Kelly Coulter has 10 returnees, including four in their fifth season, but will have up to 15 rookies on the roster.
“We had a few girls move on in July for various reasons and we wish them all the best, but it changed our dynamic a bit,” said Coulter. “We were fortunate that we held a prospects camp in April and it turned out that a number of girls we looked at as red shirts this season are now active members of our roster.”
Three of the fifth-year players — Jade Petrie, Emily Lougheed and Julia Murrell — are up front with last year’s team MVP, Cassidy Anderson, on defence.
In Petrie and Lougheed Coulter has two of the premier forwards in the conference.
Petrie finished fourth in league scoring with 10 goals and eight assists in 24 games and was a first-team all-star. Lougheed made the second all-star team while scoring seven times to go with 10 assists. Murrell had seven goals and four helpers and was team captain. Anderson finished with five goals and six assists.
“We’re ecstatic to have those girls back and fortunate to have the right veterans to lead our team,” said Coulter. “You need players in this league to have experience. For the young players it’s a change of pace, a change of physicality and the quality of player they’re up against. You need that experience. Thankfully we have players who played at a high calibre for a long period of time.”
The Queens will be solid in goal with the return of second team all-star and academic All-Canadian Tracie Kikuchi. Kikuchi, who played one year with Olds before transferring to RDC, placed second during the regular season with a 1.87 goals-against average (gaa) and a .939 save percentage. In the playoffs she had a 0.92 gaa and a .972 save percentage.
“Tracie had a fantastic first year with us,” said Coulter. “She is one of the hardest workers on the team and leads by example both on and off the ice.”
Ariana Kresic, who played with the Central Alberta Amazons in the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League, will backup. Last season she posted a 1.84 gaa and a .913 save percentage.
The Queens also have Landry Derdall and Kirsten Baumgardt returning for a second season on defence with Keinyn Nordell and Kaely McMurtry back for a fourth season up front along with third-year Morgan Fraser.
Coulter added Catherine Longchamps (Rocky Mountain Raiders), Manitoba natives Sydnee Decorby (Yellowhead Chiefs) and Marisa Fraser (Central Plains), Swift Current grad Shelby Ballan and Victoria Johnston from the Northern Caps in B.C., on defence.
“We added size on the back end,” said Coulter. “Several of the new girls have been captains and provide leadership. All the girls are receptive to learning. They’ll be great additions to the team and future solid players in this league.”
Four newcomers up front — Jordan Burgar, Camryn Wallan, Celine Challier and Kaitlynn Linnell — played with the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs last season.
“It’s nice to have that local team feeding into our program, and it’s what we’re looking for,” said Coulter, who knew two of the girls — Wallan and Challier — from when he was in Grande Prairie.
“All the midget AA coaches do a great job of preparing their kids,” said Coulter. “I feel comfortable talking with all of them. It’s nice when you can rely on people and trust them and they’re coaching their kids so they mesh with our philosophies.”
One area Coulter hopes to improve on this season is scoring. Although the team finished second in goals-for with 61, the majority came in the first half.
“I thought we were snake-bit a bit last year,” said Coulter, whose squad placed third with a 14-10 record last season, after winning the title the previous year.
“This year with Jade and Emily returning we have two of the top forwards in the league, along with Julia. We’re looking to get a bit more out Kaely and Keinyn. Several of the new girls were top scorers on their teams, but time will tell. The main thing is for the girls show up with a strong work ethic and keep improving each day.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org