Kelsey Ledoux, Jacquelyn Chief, Bree Purcell, and Sasha Malenfant had an extra jump in their step during Thursday night’s Prince Albert Northern Bears practice. The four players were named to Team Sask’s final roster for the upcoming 2022 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Membertou, Nova Scotia in May.
In 2020 the tournament was scheduled to be held in Regina, but was called off due to the pandemic. In 2019, Team Sask captured gold by defeating the Manitoba women’s team 5-1 in the final. It was the first ever National Aboriginal Hockey Championship that was held in the Territories, as Whitehorse served as tournament host. That was the last year that the women had the chance to compete for national gold, before COVID-19 halted all sporting activity.
This year, the four Northern Bears are excited to head out East, as they look to defend Team Sask’s title. They each took some time to chat about the opportunity to represent their province in less than two months.
“I was super excited,” Ledoux said when she found out she made the team. “I know it’s a fun experience, and there will be a lot of scouts out there watching. I was hoping to make the team because my sister was on it, and I put in a lot of hard work this season. It’s a competitive league, so that helped me push myself, and my confidence has grown just from playing in this league.”
In her rookie season in the SFU18AAAHL, Ledoux had a goal and seven assists in 30 games. The rookie defenceman scored her first career goal in her very first game with the team.
It was Chief’s second season with the Bears, but after playing just four games in a shortened 2021-22 campaign, it almost felt like a rookie season for her, too. She shared the same feeling of excitement about being named to the Team Sask roster.
“I’ve been looking forward to trying out and making this team ever since I started playing minor hockey,” Chief said. “I was really excited to be chosen to go play. In this league, you get a very good opportunity to get used to the caliber of players that you will be up against at nationals. I just have to keep a good, healthy mindset, and stay positive.”
Purcell, also a rookie on the team, was one of the most disciplined players on the Bears roster this season. She took just 12 penalty minutes during the regular season, the fifth lowest total on the team. Purcell registered her first point in the league in her sixth game, getting an assist as part of a 4-2 win over the Swift Current Wildcats. She finished the campaign with four helpers.
“I was really proud of myself to make Team Sask,” Purcell said. “I’m really excited to be able to go to Nova Scotia. It will be a really fun experience. I worked hard to get to the spot where I am now. I’m going to keep training hard every day, and nutrition and hydration will be keep to staying in shape for nationals.”
For Malenfant, she enjoyed an 11 point season in her rookie year with the Bears. The 16 year old finished second in team rookie scoring behind Julia Cey, and third overall on the team in goals with 10. Malenfant has a certain bite to her game that made her a formidable forward to be matched up with. She wasn’t scared to jump into puck battles, and her aggressiveness showed with 24 penalty minutes. She’ll be able to bring a scoring touch with a side of grit for the defending champs.
“I just went into this season with a confident attitude, and I worked my hardest to make the team,” Malenfant said. “I was super pumped to make Team Sask, and I’m excited to head out, because it’ll be a great experience out there. I tried to bump up my speed this season, and my shot too. You have to be confident heading into the tournament, and welcome the opportunity.”
Also selected to Team Sask from Prince Albert teams were Nikita Krayetski and Sharona Bird.
The championship is scheduled to run from May 7-14 in Membertou.