Though they are only a few months removed from savouring the taste of victory, the River East Kodiaks know they’ll be in tough from doing it again this spring.
For starters, the Kodiaks are moving into the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League’s CTV A Division from its Winnipeg Free Press B Division, where they rolled to an 18-0-2 record and the championship in 2012-13.
Compound that with losing five of 13 members of last year’s team to graduation, including shut-down goalie Sydney Valiquette (nine shutouts in 20 games) and star defender Elise Edginton, who led the team in goals (26) and points (44).
Grade 11 centre Brittany Poirier, who was second in goal-scoring with 21 last year, said the bulk of River East’s success came from mastering the basics — breakouts, back-checking, and positivity. She feels that groundwork will give the team a base from which to build against stiffer competition.
"We’re going to try to come out as strong as we can," Poirier said. "Obviously, we have different teammates now, a new team, and we’re going to have to try to work together."
The Kodiaks got a taste of the competition early on in the league’s pre-season alignment tournament, hanging tough with the defending CTV A Division champion Dakota Lancers before faltering late in a 5-0 loss.
Grade 12 centre Cassandra Szczepanski, who had 37 points last season, said the Kodiaks will have to have a different mindset heading into games this season. Even though she won’t be around for the fruits of progress in seasons to come, she knows the season will be a worthwhile one.
"The previous years, we’re used to winning every single game, so we can’t come out cocky," Szczepanski said. "(The keys will be) pushing ourselves every game, and not getting down on ourselves if we lose, because we’re not quite used to losing.
"It’s going to give us a good opportunity to grow this season, especially the rookies."
Assistant coach Pat Carroll acknowledged this is a rebuilding year for the team, which will have just 11 skaters with widely-varying levels of experience. He hopes to use this year to grow the players’ knowledge of the game.
"We have a pretty small squad, and we have a full range of skills on ours, from pretty good to just putting on their skates for the first time," Carroll said. "As much as we’d like to do as well as we did last year, I think realistically, we’re going to set our objectives on skills development, stations development, helping the girls to focus on their play rather than where they’re going to line up in the league."