A trip to the ACAC final last season was good experience for the Red Deer College Queens hockey team, losing the title to NAIT but the girls are anxious to repeat that experience, ending it with a better result.
“Our goal is to be the best team we can be in late February and early March and take it from there,” said head Coach Bob Rutz who takes over the position from Trevor Keeper.
He inherits a team with some solid veterans returning including team captain Rachel Hoppins, fifth-year forward Laura Salomons and all-star goalie Camille Trautman who is entering her third year.
Rutz says all of them have helped him in making the transition from coaching male hockey to the female game.
“They’re really respected in the room and it’s helped make my job easier,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of help before I even step through the door.”
A mobile defense and strong goaltending are keys to the Queens’ success this year, he said.
Those strengths were recently put to the test in a two game exhibition series with the University of Saskatchewan and the coach liked what he saw from his players against a team which plays in a league above the ACAC level.
“Five on five we were right there. We can skate really well and I think we can compete.”
Rutz likes the fact he has three solid lines with a bit of scoring sprinkled throughout and a fourth line which is solid defensively.
“I think we’re pretty balanced. I haven’t seen the rest of the ACAC,” he said.
The biggest hurdle facing the Queens would be keeping everyone motivated through the dog days of January and February, he said.
“I don’t think there’s any issues with regard to work ethic and commitment. They love this program, they love coming to the rink.”
Scoring goals is another aspect of the game Rutz feels the Queens need to be better at than the other teams in order to be very successful.
Getting pucks and bodies to the net is something Rutz says he has preached from day one to his charges and 15 goals in three games against Midget teams is some proof the lessons are being learned.
“We also scored three goals against a CIS goalie in Saskatchewan,” he said. “But if we can put the puck in the net and be good on the power play I think we’ll be a real tough team to play against.”
The Queens open their season Oct. 24th when they host Grant MacEwan.