The Saskatoon Stars have received reinforcements for their playoff push, with just six games remaining in the regular season.
Last weekend, the Stars welcomed defenceman Emily Holmes and goaltender Arden Kliewer back into the locker room, neither having played in 2020.
Holmes being reinstated to the lineup has been a welcome surprise for the Stars, after missing two months. Her return this season had been in question following a back injury.
“Coming back, it feels really good, and then to outdo what my rehab was supposed to be and just being healthy and back out there feels super good,” Holmes said.
Having their number one defenceman back greatly improves the team’s roster, but it hasn’t come without its challenges for head coach Robin Ulrich, including limiting Holmes ice-time and when to deploy her during the game.
“We talked about that earlier on. She’s rearing and ready to go, and we’re like well, OK, but, you’re two months out and we need to be careful,” Ulrich said.
“I do have a hard time with that,” Holmes admitted.
“I think that I’ve got such a big heart for the game and I love to be out there. That’s my biggest thing right now, is knowing that I can’t be that 25-minute player right now, and that’s OK. In talking to the coaches, they’ve kind of helped me through it.”
Although Kliewer only missed a fraction of the time off that Holmes did, she certainly felt the effects in her first game back, even though the starting netminder made a handful of highlight-reel saves.
“It didn’t feel the best, it’s hard coming back after being out for two weeks and I hadn’t played a game in a month,” Kliewer said.
“It’s just kind of about getting my reads back to where they were and just the pace of the game.”
While Kliewer was out of action, backup Kaitlyn Cadrain stepped up and filled the role admirably, picking up points in the five consecutive games in which she started.
“It really boost my confidence, this chance that I had,” Cadrain said.
“Now I know I can actually do this. Last year I didn’t get much of a chance to show that, but now that I have, I’ll be good.”
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Of the team’s final six games, two are against the Prince Albert Northern Bears, the team the Stars currently trail in the standings by just two points.
“It’s important for down the road to set us up, to put us in good spots,” Ulrich said. “You know, if we can keep climbing and push up, it gives us home ice advantage in the playoffs.
“It may be gives us a better semi-finals match-up than if we were in the bottom of the pack.”