RRCC Voyageurs win national title

The Rainy River Community College women’s hockey team entered the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Women’s Division II national championship as the top seed from the West Region—and rode that ranking all the way to a national title.
The Voyageurs, who clinched the title Sunday, sport five players from Fort Frances and Emo.
Four teams took part in the Division II tournament, which was hosted by Robert Morris College in Chicago.
The University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs claimed the #2 seed in the West Region while the Bates College Bobcats (Lewiston, Maine) and the University of Delaware Blue Hens were seeded #1 and #2 in the East, respectively.
“Our girls played great,” said Voyageurs’ head coach Jeff Wickstrom. “They knew what they had to accomplish, and they were ready to pound on anyone who came through the gate.”
That point was made clear when RRCC opened the tournament with a 9-0 drubbing of the Bobcats on Friday night.
After building a 2-0 lead after the first period, the Voyageurs exploded for three goals in the second and four more in the third.
Jackie Cumber, and All-American on the squad, scored four times while Sarah O’Sullivan of Emo tallied two goals and an assist.
Fort Frances native Melissa Calder earned the shutout in goal—continuing her amazing play between the pipes this season.
With two more shutout victories in the tournament (an 8-0 win over the Blue Hens and a 5-0 victory versus the Bulldogs), Calder improved her impressive stats on the year.
“Melissa has had 10 shutouts out of 16 games this season,” noted Wickstrom. “She’s been wonderful.”
RRCC earned six points in the standings during the opening rounds while UMD came away with four points—setting up the championship final. Bates College (two points) and the University of Delaware (zero) squared off in the third-place final.
As great as Calder was in goal, the Voyageurs looked to other players to be just as amazing. O’Sullivan, for instance, was named the tournament MVP.
Originally from Brandon, Man., Stevie Langford, who now resides in Fort Frances, was named to the All-Tournament first team along with Calder and Dryden’s Megan Pinette.
Facing the Bulldogs for the national crown, Wickstrom was confident his players knew what to expect thanks to their tournament experience last season.
“We qualified for the national tournament last year, but I think the idea of playing for the national title made us a little gun shy,” he admitted. “We went out strong but finished in fourth place.
“This year, thanks to the experience of the girls, they knew what to expect.”
The final was closer than many would have imagined, but a handful of Voyageurs were sidelined with injury or illness. And the Bulldogs seized the opportunity.
The two teams traded goals in both the first and second periods, making the score 2-2 heading to the third.
They Voyageurs took a two-goal led when O’Sullivan and Langford both hit the twine, but a flurry of goals over the final five minutes left the national title up for grabs.
“They [UMD] got back into it,” noted Wickstrom, referring to the Bulldogs responding with a pair of goals of their own only 40 second apart to even the score at 4-4.
Cumber netted the go-ahead goal with just over two minutes to go to give the Voyageurs the lead down the stretch. An empty-netter with only 23 seconds left sealed the win.
O’Sullivan finished the tournament with eight goals and three assists on her way to MVP honours. Calder, meanwhile, posted a .922 save percentage to go along with her trio of shutouts.