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Rustlers hockey takes ‘ship in inaugural season

By March 23, 2022No Comments

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The Lakeland College King’s Energy Group Rustlers Hockey Club have made history by winning the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League (AJFHL) championship in their inaugural season.

After beating out the Edmonton Wolves in the second round of AJFHL action, the Rustlers faced off against the Lethbridge Eagles in the provincial finals.

The best-of-five series kicked off at the Russ Robertson the weekend of March 12 with each team picking up a win.

The Rustlers then travelled to Lethbridge for a 4 p.m. game on March 19 and beat the Eagles 5-3, taking the series lead. 

Game 4 took place at 11:30 a.m. the following morning and the Rustlers earned a 4-3 win in double overtime.

“That double overtime certainly adds to the dramatics of it all,” said head coach Morgan Mann.

“It made it all that much more exciting.”

Going into Game 3, Mann explained the Rustlers knew they had their work cut out for them in regards to the Eagles’ netminder, so the plan was to get as much traffic in front of the net as possible.

“She’s a big goalie, so we wanted second-chance opportunities,” he said. “We tried to focus on shooting low so we could look for opportunities for rebounds.”

Throughout the season, the team scored 139 goals, potted 171 assists, earned 310 points and wracked up 323 penalty minutes, earning the respect of fellow players and leaving a lasting impression on the coaching staff.

“It just turned out to be a really special year, and sometimes in sports that happens,” said Mann.

“For all of us involved, from our staff to the people that gave up their weekends for every home game, it just felt like a win for everybody that’s been involved in making this team come together. It could be tough to replicate a season like that.”

With this being the team’s inaugural season, the Rustlers are still waiting to hear if they’ll be playing out of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) next year, but for Mann, there isn’t much worry.

“Our athletic director, Alan Rogan, is in communications with them all the time, and although there hasn’t been an announcement, we feel as though we’ll be in the ACAC next year,” he said.

“Not that I think there were any questions before going into the playoffs, but I think it certainly has to help knowing when you come off winning the junior league, I think they would be excited to have another competitive team in the ACAC.

“There will definitely be a team next season, and I’m feeling confident we’ll be in the ACAC. Knock on wood.”

Looking back, regardless of which league they’re playing out of, for the team, it was nice to actually be able to play hockey after COVID shut everything down.

“It’s an exciting time for all teams and all players. This is the first time that all sports, specifically for us in hockey, that we’ve been able to complete a season in two years. It’s so nice to be back on the ice.”

With the success of the season, Mann explained the team has garnered not only a loyal fan base, but quite a bit of interest from potential players.

“We have so much interest in players looking to play for our team next year,” he said. 

“You can’t accommodate everybody, but we have our last identification camp here the weekend of April 8 and 9, and it looks like we’ll have about 50 players at that camp.”