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Rustlers female hockey starts writing ACAC future

By September 14, 2022No Comments
Lakeland Rustler forward Taylor Wilkinson takes the puck to the net on home ice against the Edmonton Wolves at the Russ Robertson Arena last season. The Rustlers return to the Russ this weekend as they host the U of R for three games. Taylor Weaver Meridian Source

 

After their inaugural season playing out of and winning the Alberta Female Junior Hockey League (AFJHL) championship, the Lakeland College Rustlers female hockey program is pleased to be the newest member of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).

The Rustlers iced a female hockey team for the first time last season with the hope of competing against fellow colleges in the ACAC in the future, they just had to prove they deserved to be there.

After the Rustlers finished their season in the AFJHL with a 19-4-0-1 record and won the league final, the ACAC came knocking.

“We were officially accepted into the ACAC last spring,” said head coach Morgan Mann.

“We just came off our first week of exhibition games with two games against Red Deer and one against Olds College last weekend.”

The Rustlers lost two tough games in double-overtime to the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens and lost 3-1 to the Olds College Broncos, but Mann knows things are just getting started.

“We didn’t come away with a victory, but we’re really pleased with the weekend,” he said. 

“Olds just played once and Red Deer played us twice, but we played three games in 24 hours. We wanted to challenge ourselves and see what we’re made of as a team right off the bat, so we definitely jumped right into it and we were really competitive.”

The Rustlers started last season in unfamiliar waters but quickly found their stride. The team may currently be down three games, but the start of this season has also been peppered with adversity. 

“We played a doubleheader with Olds last year and we split with them, so we thought we were right there. We also just lost our three top forwards to university hockey teams this year, two to the U of S and one to Nipissing University,” said Mann.

“That’s part of what we’re about, though, getting players to the next level.” 

One player Mann wasn’t expecting to lose a week before opening camp was captain, Jayde Cadieux, who is now playing for the U of S.

“We’re really happy for Jayde, and that’s part of what we’re selling here, is an opportunity for players to come and use us as a stepping stone to still get to university hockey,” he said.

“That one hurts a bit, for sure, because she was our leader on and off the ice and a great example and role model to our new players. It’s a loss, but we’re so pleased for Jayde, too, and it’s encouraging for other players coming to our program to see that if you do well in the ACAC, those university hockey opportunities might still come.”

The Rustlers return to home ice at the Russ Robertson Arena this weekend as they host the University of Regina Cougars for three games. 

“We’re certainly challenging up, but again, we want our exhibition games to be challenging so we develop a mindset of ‘we can handle adversity,’ dig down deep and see what we’re made of.”

The Rustlers face off against the Cougars on Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Admission to pre-season games is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets for pre-season games are available at the door.

“We’re really fortunate to get the Cougars to come to Lloyd,” said Mann.

“Next weekend we’ve got Grant MacEwan University coming down for games on Friday and Saturday before we host the U22 Junior Sharks out of Barrie, Ont. 

“We’ve got six tough games coming up here, so hopefully by the time league comes around we’re ready to roll.”

The Rustlers’ regular season officially kicks off on Oct. 14 when the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens come to town.