19 Teams in 19 Days – Saskatoon Wild

Another season is underway and as teams hit the ice in their quest for the 2011-2012 NRL Championship title, we’re taking a closer look at each team in the league. The new series is called 19 Teams in 19 Days and we would like to encourage you to join in the discussion on Twitter by following www.twitter.com/nrllnr or by sending us an email at NRLchatter@nationalringetteleague.ca

Saskatoon Wild

Last season finish:
Regular season – 5th place Western Conference

Head coach: Dwayne Andreen
Two questions with coach Andreen:
What would it mean to you, as a coach, to win the NRL championship this season?
If the Wild were to win the NRL Championship it would be one of the greatest senses of accomplishment for me as a coach and general manager of this group of young women. We have been through so many ups and downs over the past six seasons, so for us to come to that would be fantastic.

What does your team have to do to win an NRL championship?
For the Wild to accomplish that this season we have to get a good start to the season in BC this weekend. Our young new players, as well as our vets, have worked hard on our systems. Our young players need to listen not only to the coaching staff but also listen to the veteran players on what has to be done as a team. Everyone needs to know what they have to do this season as individuals both on and off the ice.

The NRL nugget to know about this team:
Erin Cumpstone is the only national team member on this team and she is actually on two national teams. Cumpstone will be called upon to provide scoring and leadership for the Wild and she is also managing a pitching staff as the catcher for Team Canada Softball at the Pan American Games in Mexico.

The question to be answered:
Can this team put something together this season? Last year, if it could go wrong it pretty much did go wrong. Injuries, close losses, short benches – you name it. It all added up to a winless season for the Wild – and while that extreme is unlikely, there is a big hill to climb for this group to get back to being a real threat in the West.

What happened in the off-season:
The team got bigger. Some new players have come out of the woodwork in Saskatchewan and have given this team some depth – a luxury they have not had in a long time. Unlike last year, the team is not one injury away from disaster all the time and that breathing room may be just what they need.

The (hidden) gem:
Courtney Shell has returned to her hometown of Saskatoon after a stint in Cambridge with the Turbos. Her ability on defence, her leadership and her championship experience in Ontario should help this team get better throughout the roster.

Reason for optimism:
The addition of Schell and Samantha Gropp (who got 12 points in seven games for Team BC at the Canada Winter Games) give the group some more NRL-ready leadership and scoring to help supplement Cumpstone.

Reason for concern:
This team did not win a game last year and that results in a big hill to climb. They have do better in defending (their goalie last year, Juliegh Clarke led the league in shots faced/game) and have to find scoring from sources other than Cumpstone. It can be done (and the Wild have done it before), but there is a lot that needs to fall into place in order to make this a playoff team.