The crown might weigh a bit heavier this year for the Red Deer College Queens hockey team.
They are the defending ACAC champions and head coach Kelly Coulter says his team is fortunate to have a good core group of returnees to start off the 2016/17 season.
“They know what it takes to win a championship,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work and dedication so we’re very fortunate that way and I’m hoping we don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching things.”
Coulter is into his second season behind the Queen’s bench so he is looking at those returning players being able to quickly get back into the hockey habits they learned last year which led to their success.
Coulter says it’s nice to have the veteran presence in the four and five year players in the room this year and he is excited about some new players being brought into the fold and what they can contribute.
“Kaci Jones and Breanna Martin both bring size and scoring ability and Landry(Derdall) and Kirsten(Baumgardt) on the back end just bring some real , if you will, workhorse defencemen style. I’m happy with my team overall.”
Last year’s goaltending tandem of Alex Frisk and Jen West both posted ridiculously low goals against averages of 1.60 and 1.20 respectively and they are joined by former Olds College netminder Tracie Kikuchi who had a GAA of 2.70 last season.
He says carrying three top end goalies is part of being in the ACAC as you don’t have an affiliate triple A team to bring up a goalie if one of yours is injured.
“Last year we went through that, we felt this year to be best prepared it would be wise to do that,” he said.
He was happy with the goal scoring last year with Emily Swier (12g), Ashely Graf (9g) and Jade Petrie (8g) leading the way. All three will be back but his concern was balancing out the scoring. He feels this year the Queens have more scoring depth with the new additions in Martin and Jones along with second year Queen Morgan Fraser.
The exhibition games against tougher CIS opponents was a benefit in the eyes of Coulter as his players got to see what things are like at the next level and it gave him a chance to see the work his players put in during the off season.
“One thing I said to them this year was I felt that they worked very hard on their shooting. Their shots have all improved, their velocity and their accuracy, so hopefully that all comes into play as well.
The chemistry of a team off the ice is one area which Coulter says his core group of vets take care of and now it’s the adjustment on the ice which comes to the forefront. Some of the rookies are arriving on the ACAC scene having played Midget AAA hockey and are slowly learning the difference.
“The speed levels that they jump from coming from Midget AAA, you’re playing bigger and faster girls that at times can be older. There are times you might be playing against a 25 or 26 year old,” he said.
Coulter says the Queens lineup may have changed from last year but the identity of his squad will remain the same.
“There’s one thing we’re going to demand and that is they had better be hard skating. Last year when I asked the girls to identify a Queen’s hockey player they said hard working, relentless work ethic.”