The River East Kodiaks didn’t take long to go from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the heap.
After struggling through an 0-20-0 2010-11 season in which they scored just 19 goals and allowed 124, the Kodiaks took a step toward Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League respectability the following year with a 12-3-5 record and second-place finish in the Winnipeg Free Press ‘B’ Division.
This year, River East is leaving no doubt about who the class of the league is, having outscored opponents 57-4 en route to an 12-0-0 start.
The Kodiaks are achieving success without a traditional player leadership structure.Head coach Jerry Akerstream has not named a captain nor any assistants the past two seasons. He cited multiple reasons for not handing out the C and As.
"We had a lot of great leaders on the team and we didn’t want to single anybody out," he said of how he initially made the decision. "One of our mottos is we’ll never question a referee — we’ve been nominated several times for sportsmanship.
"We leave officiating to the officials and we don’t really question them. If we need to interpret a call, we’ll call them over. The girls bought into that."
Akerstream said if there’s ever a situation in which a captain would normally be assigned a task, such as accepting a trophy or banner, the Kodiaks will do it as a team.
He said no player has questioned why River East doesn’t divvy up the roles, observing all players seem to take ownership of leadership.
"The team is maturing," said Akerstream. "The girls, with a lot of communication, rely on each other. It’s a team thing, so there’s no pressure on one individual.
"But we do have girls in the dressing room that are very positive and will promote the other girls."
Akerstream said the process of moving from also-ran to contender hasn’t been easy, but with help from its feeder school, Robert Andrews School in East St. Paul, the Kodiaks have been able to build.
"We have such great chemistry on our team," said Akerstream. "We really take a lot of pride in our player development and we really encourage confidence in our players and it’s paying off."
The Kodiaks have been boosted by a pair of particularly phenomenal individual performances, as goaltender Sydney Valiquette boasts a miniscule 0.48 goals against average and seven shutouts in 12 games while defender Elise Edginton leads the team with 16 goals and 25 points in 12 games.