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Kodiak leads on and off the ice

Hockey star Szczepanski receives major awards

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Cassandra Szczepanski helped lead the River East Kodiaks women’s hockey team on the ice for three years.

After helping River East to the Winnipeg Free Press B Division championship in 2012-13, the Grade 12 student also gave back plenty to the community as well, volunteering with local We Day, Run for the Cure, and Natural Helpers groups, among others.

For her wide range of accomplishments, the East St. Paul resident received the Alexander Josephson Memorial Scholarship ($2,000), the Sami Jo Small Scholarship Award ($1,000), and the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League Scholarship ($750) at season’s end.

In her three years with the Kodiaks, Szczepanski, 17, said she grew leaps and bounds as a player, with one of the major developments being her ability to stay out of the penalty box. She cut her total penalty minutes in half from her first season to her final season (52 to 26) despite the Kodiaks moving up to a higher CTV Division for the 2013-14 season.

"I finally got used to playing girls’ hockey, because Grade 10 was my first year without the boys, so it was a little challenging," she explained. "I watched my contact along the boards."

Kodiaks head coach Jerry Akerstream said on Szczepanski’s first day at River East in Grade 10, he made the prediction she’d be leaving the school with scholarships in hand.

"First thing, when I saw her, I knew she was very talented, and said that three years from now, she’d have at least three scholarships," he said. "We set high standards and expectations, and she has always met those standards."

In three seasons, Szczepanski scored 70 points in 59 regular-season games.

Szczepanski is striving to become a speech pathologist, a field in which she’s already had some experience through mentorship at Salisbury Morse Place School. She plans to attend the University of Manitoba and then the University of North Dakota to complete her master’s.

With Salisbury Morse Place, Szczepanski created a connection with the four students she worked with, and noted they made major strides in the time she worked with them.

"Helping them with such a big thing like talking, that’s a neat experience, when you help fix their lisp, or anything," she said. "I got really close with the kids, they almost cried on my last day."

Hockey-wise, Szczepanski is planning to try out for the Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League in the hopes of getting selected by one of the loop’s six clubs.

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