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Girls' Hockey

Depth cornerstone of Cougars girls’ hockey team

Alli Stoltenburg, of the Aberdeen Cougars girls varsity, left, takes a shot on goal as Watertown’s Janel Lloyd (12) looks on during a game last season at the Odde Ice Center. Photo by John Davis taken 12/18/2022

When each girls’ hockey season rolls around, the Aberdeen Cougars never have to worry about rebuilding. No matter how many girls graduate the squad always features a full roster of experienced players.

That’s because Cougars coach Rob Weinmeister believes in using every girl who is on the squad. In short, if you’re on the team, you’re on the ice.

“That’s always been my philosophy. That’s why they go out,” Weinmeister said. “They go out to play and let’s get them all contribute to the team in some manner, so it’s just a matter of finding what their niche is and putting them in the right spots, so they feel like they’re contributing members.”

Not only does it keep everyone involved, that strategy pays major dividends, because the Cougars often wear teams down with their superior depth. They continue to come at opponents in waves.

And with a variety of options on multiple lines, it makes trying to come up with plan to slow the team down an unenviable task.

“That’s how we try to do things is balance it all across so that way you can’t just focus on one person or one line,” Weinmeister said. “We try to mix it together, so we have three strong lines. I don’t remember exactly who led us in goals, but I want to say all three lines were fairly equal when you look at production across the board.”

Naturally, there are many familiar names on this year’s roster, because so many of the girls saw major time last season. The Cougars, who have a dozen returning players, feature three seniors in Kailyn Poppen, Morgan Jones and Alli Stoltenburg.

Morgan Jones, of the Aberdeen Cougars girls varsity, center, moves with the puck ahead of Oahe’s Kiersten Miller, left, during a game last season at the Odde Ice Center. Photo by John Davis taken 2/10/2023

There are numerous others who bring valuable experience to each line.

Weinmeister said he doesn’t have one particular line that is stronger than the other. In fact, by design he does not label each of the three lines by number, instead choosing colors.

“Last year we would rotate who started every game,” Weinmeister said.

He said the girls took that concept a step further.

“The girls would even rotate by period, they had that much trust in the other lines,” Weinmeister said.

Weinmeister tries to equip each line with the right blend of players, looking at strengths and weaknesses of each individual player, and then does his best to help the bonding process, even putting the players next to each other in the locker room.

Having three equal potent lines not only keeps the players fresh, it wears down opposing teams who most times cannot match that depth.

“I’m a believer in, you go out there and you hustle your entire shift, but you’re only doing a 30-40-second shift to keep that speed up,” Weinmeister said. “If we all go out and do that, we’re going to wear that other team down. A lot of the other teams will have maybe two lines that they’re rotating or something like that.”

Plus, all players feel like they are an important part of the team, because they all play major roles.

“I preach that all the time, it takes the entire effort of a team to be successful,” Weinmeister said.

And there is no denying that the Cougars have experienced plenty of success through the years. They don’t always win a state championship, but they are always in the conversation.

Kailyn Poppen, of the Aberdeen Cougar girls varsity, left, takes a shot on goal past Jamestown’s Peighton Walker, right, during a game last season at the Odde Ice Center. Photo by John Davis taken 11/28/2022

Weinmeister said he doesn’t talk much about end of year goals, instead focusing on doing the little things right, which in tun will take care of those bigger things.

“I try to set a good standard,” Weinmeister said. “We’re going to go out there and do what we need to do, which will hopefully carry over to accomplishing those goals at the end of the year.”

The Cougars will once again play a tough schedule with numerous non-league foes scattered throughout their slate of games. Weinmeister is not afraid to face a stiff test to make the team more prepared for the postseason.

“We want to see competition that’s going to challenge us,” Weinmeister said, “because if we’re being challenged and we’re having to work harder, and step up our game, it’s going to make us better in the end.”

That demanding schedule starts this weekend when the Cougars host Sioux City on Saturday and Sunday at the Odde Ice Center before heading to Jamestown, N.D. on Monday.

“It will be a good challenge right away for the girls right off the bat to see where we’re at,” Weinmeister said.

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