Following the demotion of the Melville Prairie Fire from the SFMAAAHL to a double ‘A’ league, changes were due for their players. All eligible players, having previous experience in the league, were given the option to join one of the seven remaining clubs in the league.
For Reauna Blight, Anica Gauthier and Ava Metzger, the Saskatoon Stars was their chosen destination.
“I like the city, and the program’s amazing, it’s unreal. They treat us so well, it was just, like, a no brainer for me,” Blight said.
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She admitted that it took a little bit of time to become a full-fledged Star after spending the past two seasons as a member of the Prairie Fire, who had some tough battles with Saskatoon over that span.
“It was pretty crazy, it was something that took a while to get used to, it was like, at first we hated you, now I’m one of you. But, the girls are great, so it made for a fairly easy transition,” Blight explained.
Both Gauthier and Metzger echoed her sentiments on how much easier the existing Stars made them feel welcome.
“All of the girls were really welcoming and excited for us to be here,” Gauthier said.
“It really didn’t take too long, the girls are good,” Metzger added. “I knew that my (former) team was gone, So this was my new family.”
Bringing in a pair of 17-year-olds has proved invaluable to the 2020 edition of the Stars who graduated a group of players to both college and academy programs in the off-season.
“Both Annie and Rosie, I think they’ve been huge leaders for us, and it’s not that they’re necessarily vocal. But, they’re just people that the players feel comfortable going to,” Ulrich said.
“They’re excellent teammates and that’s a really important piece that you need, especially with a lot of younger players.”
“Being one of the older girls, but being one of the rookies on the team, it’s kind of like, oh, what do I do. But, sooner or later we all kind of found our roles and what we were doing, and it’s gone really well,” Gauthier said.
For Gauthier, a native of Saskatoon, joining the Stars allowed her to come home for Grade 12, while also rejoining her family. But for Blight, who hails from Kelliher, it meant leaving her family, friends and school behind to finish out her Midget AAA eligibility.
“It was tough, me and my family are really close, so moving three hours away was a little tough,” she said.
The youngest of the Prairie Fire trio, Ava Metzger, is no stranger to the billet lifestyle. She left her home in Moosomin last season at the age of 14 to join Melville. This year she’s had the fortune of being billeted with family members, which has been an enjoyable experience.
However, the message of advice she has to the next generation of girls who follow in her footsteps is simple.
“You’ve really just got to stick to the process, it’s not all going to be easy, and what you work for is what you’re going to get, so, you’ve got to keep your head in it.
The magnitude of the changes the girls went through is not lost on their head coach.
“I think it’s definitely a tough decision to make,” Ulrich said. “Not just in terms of having to change what you know, but, then knowing that there’s seven other places that you have to try and decide which one’s the best fit for you.
“For Annie, I think, it was natural to come home because she’s from here, but, for Rosie and Ava I think it was a big change for them to try and decide what is going to be the best for me, and what’s going to give me the best chance to further my career,” she concluded.