Peterson commits to Adrian College for 2021-22 season

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Rhea Peterson of the Prince Albert Northern Bears, left, and Morgan Coward of the Swift Current Wildcats battle for position during a race for the puck at the Art Hauser Centre last season.

While Rhea Peterson and the rest of her Prince Albert Northern Bears are hoping to play games again as soon as possible, the forward knows what the next step in her hockey career will be.

The Debden product will be headed across the border later this year as she has committed to the Adrian College Bulldogs in Michigan, who compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I ranks.

“I’m not sure it’s actually going to hit me that I’ll be playing college hockey until I get down there,” Peterson said.

“They (the Bulldogs) have been playing this season, so I know that I’ll be getting to play next fall, so I’m really excited about that.”

Peterson had wanted to play hockey at the post-secondary level since she made the Bears when she was in Grade 9, but the process to find the perfect fit started over the course of the last year.

“I already knew that I wanted to go into an athletic therapy program, so that limited my options a little bit as not every school offers that,” Peterson said. “One of my teammates from my rookie year (Colby Donald) is currently playing down there and she had great things to say about the coaches and the program, so that was reassuring.

“Colby told me that about 85 percent of the students in the school are Canadian, so everyone’s sort of in the same boat as me being away from home. Almost the entire team is from Canada, so it will be good to have a lot of teammates in a similar situation and it will be nice to bond with everyone as we travel around the country.”

The Bulldogs have been one of the top teams in the ACHA over the last few seasons, as they were ranked fourth last spring when the season ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also reached the national title game in 2018, where they lost to Liberty University.

“In talking with the coaches (Hannah Griffin and Jamie Muezner), a lot of the things that they do really reminds me of what we do here in Prince Albert,” Peterson said.

“They practice every day, but they put school first. They also have their own facility so they are able to take to the ice and also play against local teams, which they’ve done this year due to COVID-19.”

Since joining the Bears in 2017, Peterson has recorded 25 points in 87 regular season games and also scored a playoff goal during her rookie season.

“On the ice, I feel like my speed and shot have improved a lot, which comes from all of the individual work that (head coach) Jeff (Willoughby) does with us,” said Peterson, who is an assistant captain for the Bears this season.

“I had a lot of girls on the team that I could look up to when I started playing for the team and I think I was able to learn a lot about what I took to be a leader, which has helped me a lot.”

Although she’s not sure when she’ll be making her way to Michigan, Peterson already knows what she has to focus on before her first game next fall.

“The girls there are a lot bigger and stronger than what I’m used to, so I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the gym this summer to get ready,” she said.