The Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA league is set to begin this weekend, resuming for the first time since the pandemic halted play in March.
The Regina Rebels had a record-breaking season, finishing 26-2-1-1 with 81 points.
The team, however, found out the season was cancelled while celebrating their league win.
“I wasn’t angry, more it was just upset that we couldn’t finish off our season how we hoped,” said defenseman Larissa Bohlken.
The Rebels lost just three contests in 30 outings all season.
They were the hometown favourites to win the Esso Cup, the Midget AAA national championships, which was held in Prince Albert.
“That team was exceptional,” said Head Coach Mike Merk, who has been leading the squad for the last five seasons.
“We had been building and trying to build over the four previous years. Last year was the year we predicted was going to be our strong year.”
When the season hit the breaks, the Rebels were ranked number one in the nation, which added to the team’s heartbreak.
“Nationally last year, we were in that 1-2 spot all year with a team down in Ontario,” Merk added.
Sydney Pedersen is entering her fourth year with the team and still feels the sting of disappointment.
“I think it was just a feeling of getting robbed almost, just swept out from underneath us,” said Pedersen, who usually plays on a line with Bohlken.
The team veterans noted how rare it is to have a team with so much talent, but say their goal this year hasn’t changed, despite graduating seven players.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling, actually to know that we have as good a team as we do and that we can go out there and maybe get to the point that we were last year. Hopefully we’ll be at the top again,” said Pedersen.
The regular-season starts this weekend.
The Rebels finished the pre-season with two dominant wins (5-1, 9-1) against the Weyburn Gold Wings.
However, Regina will have to wait one more week for the official puck drop, as they begin the season with a bye week.
“As fun as practicing is, I think we’re pretty excited to play some games,” said Bohlken.
The team hasn’t forgotten the sting of their 2019-20 season, but are using that as fuel to motivate them this year.
“It was taken away,” said Merk. “But we have this year now and the ones that are here, we need to focus on what we need to do to try and go and win that this year.”