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RODE: RDP Queens hockey eager for next season


Losing first-team All-Conference forward Avery Lajeunesse leaves a big hole for RDP Queens hockey head coach Kelly Coulter to fill.

Add to that the loss of three rearguards, Brooke Skrypichayko, Alesha Santos, Jess Bouchard — Coulter had some work to do.

But looking at his prospect camp last weekend, he appears to have done a good job of filling those holes.

“They’re hard players to replace as we look to find players who have the same skill set as the players leaving who have brought success to the program,” said Coulter. “So far, we like what we see in terms of character and work ethic.”

Coulter has signed four defencemen and three forwards and indicated he’s looking at least one more.

“Either a third goaltender or another forward,” he said. “We’re solid on the back end now and Anna (Trieber), who we plan on using as a forward, came in as a defenceman and Julie Wagner also played defence, so we have the versatility if we need.”

The Queens had two of the premier netminders in the league with Izzy Palumbo and Tora Ward, who had a sparkling 0.91 goals-against-average and a .957 save percentage with four shutouts, including three in a row.

Palumbo was second in GAA at 1.40 and third in save percentage at .946.

“Izzy has a lot of experience and Tora led the league in most statistical categories and we have big expectations for her to carry on her journey upward. We’re very happy with the two, who split time evenly and gave us a solid foundation.

“We have a history of starting with a solid back end and building from there.”

The fact is the Queens have a solid core returning.

“We’re definitely happy with the core we have,” said Coulter. “We have some very good character players who work extremely hard so that’s something we’re happy to have to continue on from the players who left.”

Losing three defencemen, the Queens still have first-team All-Conference Kyla Hansel, Kaedence Mollin, Kassy Gaudette and Sarah Raymond.

Coulter added four newcomers from solid programs in Avery Winchell from the AAA Vancouver Island Seals, Addison Longmore from the Weyburn Goldwings, Emily Hourie from the AAA Lloydminster Steelers and Penelope Johnson of the Northern Capitals in Prince George.

“The biggest challenge was making sure we found the right fits,” said Coulter. “We pride ourselves in having a good defensive team and like what we’ve seen so far. They can all skate and shoot the puck so we’re excited to see what they can bring once we start playing college competition.”

Up front, the newcomers include Karli Kutchinski, who tied for first place in scoring on the St. Albert Slash U18AAA team with 18 points on six goals and 12 assists, Grace Millar of the Saskatoon Stars and Mia McGregor from the Yellowhead Chiefs.

The five-foot-nine Millar played three years with the Stars and finished the past season with seven goals and eight assists in 30 games. McGregor was third on the team in scoring with 12 goals and 10 helpers in 28 games. She had 17 goals and 14 assists in 45 games overall.

“Grace and Mia bring size,” said Coulter. “Mia can really shoot and Grace is a power forward while Karli is a gritty player who plays around the net and is aggressive hunting the puck.”

The Queens have had success recruiting from the programs the new players come from.

“We have a good relationship with them,” added Coulter. “We’re fortunate to add players from those programs as we know they come in well prepared.”

Coulter also expanded his recruiting area this year to the Northwest Territories with two players from Yellowknife — forwards Jaci Dusome and Zoey Remo — and defenceman Helene McKay-Ivanko from Hay River in camp.

“We had an opportunity to watch some of the players when we were evaluating players at the Arctic Winter Games. It’s an untapped resource and it was great to work with their program … it starts to open some doors for them and more prospects we can watch the better. I hope they enjoy the experience here and hopefully it creates relationships with us,” Coulter said.

“I hope RDP is somewhere they want to come. Our best ambassadors are former and current players and I hope they go home and tell everyone they enjoyed the experience and the facility. I know a lot of their parents have never been here and they’ve been impressed with the facility we play in and the actual school. The size of the school I think fits them. It’s a bit smaller community it you will.”

A fourth player — 2010 born defenceman Kelsey Impett of Yellowknife, who played for the Edmonton Pandas U15 team, was also in camp.

“We also saw Kelsey at the Games camp and she was a standout. She’s a few years away yet, but we wanted to start the long-term relationship and hopefully it leads somewhere. She definitely has the skill but about four years away yet.”

Coulter also had two players born in 2008 and seven born in 2007 in camp. Those born in 2006 are usually the players graduating from school.

“We wanted to start relationships with them … create connections so hopefully they see a program they want to be part of and a school where they want to study.

“The camp is invite only so we only invite a select few who fit the mould of our team character and from what we’ve seen over the two days we’re looking forward to starting that relationship with them and see what their future plans are.”

What the Queens didn’t have was any local players at the camp, although Coulter invited several.

“It’s a bad weekend in that there are several camps going on and a lot of kids are looking at a couple places to play and what they want in school. I know several players have already committed.

“We’ve had good fortunate with local players in the past and hope that continues.

“Girls hockey is growing and as you can see a lot of AA players are now being recruited to the States so that says a lot about the program.”

Five players from the two-time provincial champion U18AA Chiefs have already committed.

Payton Kletke and Malia Tetreault are off to the University of Dubuque Spartans in Iowa, Ava Griener to Baker University in Kansas to play softball and Sarah Hoppins and Devon McConnell to SAIT.

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