FORT FRANCES — Kathyrn Fischer’s main goal was to play hockey once she graduated from Fort Frances High School.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everything shut down and no one really seemed to be looking for players.
During the spring of 2022, Fischer got in touch with one of her old coaches who was now in Winnipeg in hopes of finding a place to play.
“I said in the e-mail, ‘This is a long shot here, but I want to throw this last hook out and see what happens,’” Fischer said. “If nothing happened, then I would have accepted it and moved on.”
Fischer soon found out that the Assiniboine Community College Cougars had open roster spots and she was headed to Brandon, Man., to attend an ID camp.
“I remember stepping on the ice and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, these girls are huge. I don’t know if I’m going to able to play with them,’” Fischer said.
“Then I made a couple of passes and I guess (Cougars head coach) Tony (Bertone) liked the looks of things and he offered me a spot on the team.”
Since then, Fischer has established herself as a key defender for the Cougars, who compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 ranks.
She had 15 points in 24 games last year and has a goal and three assists in 12 contests this season for a 12-0 Cougars side that is ranked first overall in the ACHA’s West region.
“I think I was definitely intimidated coming in last season as I was joining a bunch of girls who had all pretty much played with or against each other in Manitoba and they had a pretty good idea of what each other did out on the ice,” Fischer said.
“This year, the fact that I know everyone now has been great for me, as I’ve been able to change how I play and I definitely have improved as a player.”
When they aren’t playing in Manitoba’s second-biggest city, the Cougars spend most of their season competing in the United States.
Although that travel schedule can be a bit daunting, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for Fischer.
“I was kind of used to travelling three hours to games and then going back to Fort Frances and going to school the next weekend,” Fischer said. “Plus, with being on the border, I’m used to going down to Minneapolis, Fargo and Grand Forks.
“It’s funny, I’ve found myself at arenas going, ‘Oh I’ve played here before,’ and the girls were going ‘Really?’”
Although she’s the only non-Manitoban on the roster, Fischer is loving her time in Brandon.
“The girls feel like family and their parents kind of joke around saying ‘when’s Fish coming here,” as I’ve gone to a lot of their houses for things since I’m one of the players that lives furthest away,” said Fischer, who enrolled in ACC’s public safety program last year and is now studying business administration.
“I’ve loved the programs that I’ve been in and I’ve gotten to meet some pretty amazing people here.”
On the ice, there’s some unfinished business for the Cougars, who return to action in Brandon on Jan. 13 against the Lake Region State College Royals from Devils Lake, N.D.
Their quest for a third straight national title ended in heartbreaking fashion last March in Marlborough, Mass., as they dropped a 2-1 overtime decision in the semifinal round to the Northeastern Huskies.
For Fischer and her teammates, their goal is to make it to this year’s tournament in St. Louis and regain their title.
“The girls that were on last year’s team want it even more than we did before,” Fischer said. “We want the feeling that the girls before us have had.
“The younger girls on our team are seeing how much we want to win. After one of our first practices one of the rookies came up to me and the other older girls and asked, ‘What happened last year?’ We told her that we lost in the semifinals … and it’s not happening again.”