Even though his team captured their third ACHA Division II women’s hockey national championship in four seasons earlier this year, Rainy River Community College Voyageurs’ head coach Evan Amdahl hasn’t been basking in the glow of that accomplishment.
“The week after nationals is when you start looking for new players for the upcoming season,” he explained.
“Recruiting never sleeps, so you are always out on the trail and you can’t sit around or rest on your laurels,” he stressed.
“You’ve got to keep looking forward as the next season will arrive quickly.”
This year’s team features seven players returning from last year’s title-winning squad, with nine freshmen coming in to fill the holes of those who have moved on.
“Brenley Anderson, who was the ACHA player-of-the-year last season, is now at the University of Manitoba and two of our top players at the ACHA tournament last year [Stevie-Lee Langford and Jessie Baker] are also moving on,” Amdahl noted.
“It’s impossible to replace those type of players, but we’re going to start building with our new girls and work on filling those holes that they have left,” he remarked.
Those new faces include two players from Fort Frances in forward Kristen Penner and blueliner Melanie Scott, with a number of the newcomers coming from some far-away locales.
“We got a really good defender in Thea-Marie Sauca from Laguna Beach, Calif., where unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to travel there to recruit her,” Amdahl smiled.
“Two of our new forwards are Courtney Laycock, who made a long journey to get here from North Battleford, Sask., and Janet Scherrer, who is from the Sarnia area and is someone who has aspirations of moving onto the NCAA ranks,” he added.
To help with that process, Amdahl will be looking for his returning players to help lead the way early on, including goalie and Fort Frances native Katelynn Stearns.
“She’s been very good for us in the past couple of years and she’s been a two-time honourable mention All-American,” noted Amdahl, who also has local players Carlee Bosma, Lindsey Roehrig, and Katrina Wreggitt on the roster.
“We’ll also have Jenna Brady back on defence as our captain this year, so she’ll be one of our big players along with Stearns,” he said.
“And we’ll also have Kaylynn McBurney-Fleet back for a semester before she moves on to college.”
With that mix of fresh faces and returning players, Amdahl has been using the past few weeks to determine how is team is going to look when the season gets underway, starting this weekend with an exhibition series in International Falls against the Western Predators from Manitoba.
“What I have in my head doesn’t always match what is on the ice sometimes,” Amdahl admitted.
“It’s a good thing to have the practices that we have had, along with the scrimmage we had against the Muskies last week, as it gives us an opportunity to work on the things that we need to have fixed up before the opener,” he reasoned.
The Voyageurs will take on the Predators this Saturday (Oct. 29) at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., and again on Sunday (Oct. 30) at 11 a.m.
The Saturday night game has been dubbed a “Pink in the Rink” event to help support breast cancer research.
The squad’s first ACHA action is slated for Nov. 12-13 versus the Minot State Beavers.