After not having qualified for the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 National Tournament the past two seasons, the Rainy River Community College women’s hockey team is seeking to get back there next March with a different head coach and a roster with only three returning players from last season.
Jeff Wickstrom, who had headed up the Voyageurs in the first three seasons of the women’s hockey program – including the first season RRCC won a national title in 2007-08 – is back as head coach. He replaces Evan Amdahl after six seasons.
“I am excited to be back on the ice coaching after a few years break,” Wickstrom said. “I am looking forward to a successful season with the girls. They are working hard and look good, and I think they would agree that it is going to be a good season.”
The Voyageurs, who finished last season with a record of 5-8-1 in ACHA games, return two goalies from 2013-14 – Shay Perry of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and Tori Taylor of Hokah. Last season, with four goalies on the roster, Perry had appeared in about half of the games.
Though both of RRCC’s goalies this season have a year of experience on the team, only one of the 10 skaters – Taina Kaartinen of Eriksdale, Manitoba – is back from last season.
Half of the skaters the Voyageurs will have this season are from Fort Frances. They include Liz Henderson, Katie Sinclair, Hailey Clendenning, Shelby Tymkin and Shilo Beck.
“This year’s team has a core group of girls that came from Fort Frances,” Wickstrom said. “Last season those girls made it to their OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) playoffs, which is similar to our state tournament. Their skills and chemistry will be a key part of our success this season, along with two veteran returning goalies.”
However, with only 10 skaters and two goalies on this season’s team, Wickstrom said he is concerned the most about injuries/illness and the players remaining academically eligible.
“We as a team have set a goal to make it to the National Tournament in York, Pa., in March,” he said. “After two years of not making the tournament, that would be a good accomplishment.”
The Voyageurs open the season by playing at home the next two weekends. After RRCC hosts the eight-team CAN-AM Tournament this Friday through Sunday, the Voyageurs then host last season’s ACHA D2 national champion, Iowa State, in a two-game series Nov. 1-2.
“We will find out very quickly how our team should fare this year,” Wickstrom said.