From third place to second place to no place at all.
The Rainy River Community College Voyageurs women’s hockey team, which reached the podium at the past two ACHA Division II national championships, will be shelved for at least this season, it was announced Monday.
Five of the 11 players who pushed RRCC to the ACHA final last season, and to the semi-finals the year before, hailed from Fort Frances in forward Bridget Jorgenson and former Muskies Hailey Clendenning, Katie Sinclair, Shilo Beck, and Shelby Tymkin.
Head coach Jeff Wickstrom said a difficult recruiting year, which left him with only a handful of committed players for the upcoming season, is the reason the Voyageurs won’t be vying to return to the nationals after taking third place in 2015 and then losing in double overtime to the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in last year’s final.
“The ACHA is now known to everybody as a good, viable league,” said Wickstrom.
“There is now approximately 50 teams in the league and the girls out there have too many options, and Rainy River is not one of them,” he noted.
“I don’t understand considering we went to the national semi-final two years and were the runner-up last year.”
Wickstrom said he’s had discussions with an endless stream of potential players—only to have them change their minds and opt to play elsewhere.
“The local group of recruits is so small, too, with just one girl from the Falls, three or four from the Fort, and just a couple each from Dryden and Kenora,” added Wickstrom.
“Some of the girls from last year had been talking about coming back for a third year and if they had, and with what we had already, we would have had 11 or 12 and had a great season.”
One of those local players leaning towards returning was Clendenning.
“It’s really disappointing,” she remarked.
“The program was great and it’s sad to see that there is a lack of recruits.
“We worked hard these past two years and it’s quite disappointing to see it come to an end,” she lamented.
Wickstrom himself was looking to step away due to some health issues that are dogging him.
But now with this turn of events, he’s taken a new look at the situation.
“Now the goal is to put it back together,” Wickstrom said. “I don’t want to walk away from the program.
“It’s going to be a long, hard recruiting year but the plan is to bring it back for the 2017-18 season,” he pledged.