RRCC playing waiting game with rankings

Lucas Punkari

They’ve done all that they can do on the ice.
Now it’s left to see where the voters think they stand.
After a pair of ties this weekend against the visiting University of Minnesota-Duluth, including a 2-2 stalemate Saturday night and then a scoreless draw Sunday morning, the Rainy River Community College Voyageurs women’s hockey team now is waiting to see where they’ll be listed in the latest ACHA Division 2 West coaches’ poll, which is set to come out on Friday.
In the most recent rankings, which were released back on Dec. 16, the Voyageurs sat in second place with 53 votes, just five back of the Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils.
Since then, however, the Voyageurs only have picked up one win in their last four games—a 2-1 triumph on Jan. 13 to the Alaska Nanooks in International Falls.
The squad then suffered its first loss of the season the following day to that same Alaska team.
“With those results coming against teams that were ranked lower than us, you have to end up waiting for other people’s opinions when it comes to the rankings and you end up holding your breath,” said Voyageurs’ head coach Evan Amdahl.
For this year’s ACHA championship tournament, which will be held in Wooster, Ohio, the top three teams in the East and West regions will be invited.
“Next year, they will bump the number of teams that go to the tournament up to four teams from each region as the quality of play in each league gets stronger and stronger,” Amdahl explained.
“But if we want to play for the [national] title this year, we hope that we are in those three spots and not on the outside looking in,” he stressed.
The Voyageurs have had an issue with finding the back of the net of late, despite scoring six goals in their last two games before Christmas against the Iowa State Cyclones.
“It’s been an issue for us all season long, and we need to step up and play a little better in the offensive zone,” Amdahl noted.
“I think we can skate with anyone we play against, but it’s just a matter of getting the wins.
“We have to find a way to get more scoring chances and to get the puck in the net,” he reiterated.
While their offensive play may have froze up lately, the play on defence and between the pipes has been solid in RRCC’s quest to repeat as national champs.
“It has obviously been our strong point, especially when you are in those low-scoring games,” Amdahl said.
“We’ve actually had to move one of our defenders up to a forward role, so we’ve actually only been playing with three on the back end, along with our one goaltender, but it is what it is,” he reasoned.
Among the players Amdahl has been impressed with so far this season are two Fort Frances natives, with freshman forward Jessica Taggart and sophomore netminder Katelynn Stearns earning high praise.
“We’ve definitely been enhanced by getting Jessica on our team this semester, and the speed that she brings to the team is a huge asset,” he lauded.
“Stearns has been very strong in net for us and without her back there, it could get ugly, especially in the games where we get out-shot like tonight [Saturday] here,” he added.
The Voyageurs will be heading to Brookings, S.D. this weekend, where they’ll go up against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in what is sure to be a huge game in the race for making the national tournament.
“You don’t want to say that the whole season is coming down to this weekend, but it might come down to it,” Amdahl warned.
“When we play them on Saturday and Sunday, both of the teams will know about the rankings on Friday,” he noted.
“And I think whoever wins those games will probably get one of those three spots to go the tournament.”
The Voyageurs then will complete their regular-season schedule on home ice in February.
They will host the Minot State Beavers on Feb. 4-5 before playing a three-game series with the Thunder Bay Queens on Feb. 25-26.