Aikenhead brothers help RRCC to U.S. national title

When the Rainy River Community College Voyageurs captured their first NJCAA national hockey tournament title Monday night at Bronco Arena with a 6-3 win over SUNY-Canton (New York), they did it with a pair of key contributors from this side of the border.
The brother combination of Scott and Shane Aikenhead of Rainy River became key figures in an RRCC lineup that dominated the regular season, finishing with a 22-3 mark and winning their conference title.
The Voyageurs then cruised to the national crown with three straight wins.
Scott Aikenhead, 21, had a direct impact in Monday’s win, rallying RRCC from a two-goal deficit with a pair of markers to tie the score at 2-2 in the second period, sending the capacity crowd on hand into a frenzy.
“Scott was just awesome scoring those first two goals,” said fifth-year RRCC head coach Dan Huntley. “Guys were nervous out there, they weren’t skating and handling the puck.
“His goals got the crowd into it,” he noted.
At the other end of the ice, Aikenhead, who was named to the all tournament team, helped solidify a Voyageur defence that allowed just 10 goals in three tournament games.
“He’s been the key to our defence,” said Huntley. “All year we had a great defence and he brings a level of maturity to it after playing in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
“The second half of the year, he was [impressive] in +/- and [Monday] night he was on for all six of our goals and was a +5,” he noted. “He has confidence and plays aggressively, bringing toughness to our team on the blueline and he has a big shot.”
Aikenhead said the “talent and potential was always there” with this year’s RRCC team but that it was just a matter of putting it all together down the stretch.
And that they did, especially Aikenhead, but he characteristically downplayed his individual accomplishments afterwards.
“It’s an honour to be named to the all-star team but it was a combination of 20 guys, and it doesn’t matter if you’re out there every second shift or you only get one or two shifts a game,” he stressed.
One of those players who saw spot duty at the NJCAA tournament was Aikenhead’s younger brother, Shane, 19, a first-year centre with the Voyageurs.
“[Shane’s] a fourth-line centre who took a shift in [Monday] night’s game on the first line who is pretty [good] defensively,” said Huntley. “He won’t get beat, and he’s a role player who’s always cheering the team.”
Shane Aikenhead said it was a thrill to win a national championship in his first year playing at the college level.
“It feels pretty good,” he remarked. “You’ve got to help the guys on the bench [because] we have a lot of good hockey players.”
But while Aikenhead said he expects to be back in a Voyageur lineup next season, his older brother admitted he may try to test the waters at a bigger school.
That may include trying to land a spot with the Bemidji State Beavers, who will be making the transition to a Division I school next year, or with a college in Wisconsin.
Scott Aikenhead said he has taken a liking to the U.S. college game, which places more of an emphasis on skating and puck handling, rather than the more physical style in the MJHL.
Although admitting it was a “step down” in terms of the level of play compared to Manitoba, Aikenhead said would like to keep playing south of the border.
“It’s definitely a skating game. The stick work is still there but I don’t mind it,” he said. “There’s no fighting here but it still gets physical.”