With a full season under his belt Bob Rutz is excited about another year behind the bench of the Red Deer College Queens and vows to do things different this year, starting with more exhibition games.
“We have such a long preseason, it’s almost seven weeks before league starts in late October and it gives our league a bit of exposure as well,” he said.
The plan is to hit the ice with the likes of the University of Saskatchewan, Mount Royal and teams from the Junior Women’s Hockey League.
Rutz felt last year’s exhibition schedule wasn’t as difficult a test as he’d hoped and so with tougher opposition he expects this will help prepare his team to compete for the year.
In a league where goals are a hot commodity, the Queens offence took a bit of a hit losing three veterans, Jade Petrie, Emily Lougheed and Laura Salomons, who combined for more than 20 goals last season for RDC which led the ACAC with 48 goals.
“We have a real solid core coming back,” he said. “Rachael Hoppins is a fifth year player and we’ve got some veterans that I’m hoping can step up this year and take on a bit of that scoring role.”
He mentioned Jayna Kitchen and second-year player Hailey Smyl who had a great finish to last year as players who could fill the scoring void.
He has a veteran presence on the back end and so Rutz feels the goals against will not be an issue as the Queens were tops in keeping the puck out of their net giving up only 27 goals in the 19 game regular season.
“We either beat teams six nothing or lost 1-0 so we struggled with inconsistency last year.”
Rutz said last year was the strangest season he’s experienced as a coach as the Queens were strong in so many categories but were bounced out of the playoffs in two straight games losing to NAIT by a single goal each game.
“Out of the six periods we played in the playoffs I think we had three real solid periods,” said Rutz. “But we are looking fresh this year and we all learned from it and I know the girls are excited to get going again and so am I.”
Rutz added he learned plenty in year one about coaching the women’s game and is happy to return for another season.
The Queens have had three coaches running the show over a four-year period so he thinks his return will lend itself to some good results for veterans and rookies alike.
“I think with me coming back for a second year they know what to expect, they know what systems we’re going to run, they know the expectations in practices and games and I think it will be a lot smoother transition because we have so many veterans coming back.”
Rutz was busy recruiting players in the off-season which he said is an interesting task as there are so many good players who were content with playing Midget AAA and then calling it a career.
“I’m excited about the girls coming in. They’re good character people plus they’re good players and that’s what we want in this program,” he said about the half dozen new faces expected to be in camp this fall.
The Queens start their exhibition season in September.