Madison Hutchison is the first of three Westman-area members of the defending national champion Pembina Valley Hawks to settle on a school for next season.
The 17-year-old defenceman from Manitou, who helped lead the Hawks to the 2012 Esso Cup national midget girls hockey title, has verbally agreed to accept a full NCAA scholarship to play for Bemidji State University in 2013-14.
"I’m very excited to have it done and to have picked the great school that I did, I am very happy," Hutchison said. "The pressure is all off now."
The 5-foot-8 Hutchison, who has five goals and 12 points in 15 games this season, will officially sign her letter of intent on Nov. 14 when the early NCAA signing period opens, with teammates Cassidy Carels of Bruxelles and Brittni Mowat of Glenboro also expected to pick their schools before then.
For Hutchison, who will play for Team Manitoba at the Canadian under-18 women’s hockey championship from Nov. 7-11 in Dawson Creek, B.C., Bemidji State’s success and proximity were the deciding factors in her decision to pick the Minnesota school over the other four full-ride NCAA scholarship offers she received.
"It was the closest to home and a high level of hockey that I will get to play while I am there," said Hutchison, who made two official campus visits to Bemidji State and Connecticut. "That’s a very good league that they’re in and they are always in the pack and always trying to improve, so I am hoping to help them."
Hutchison’s teammates Carels and Mowat are also being recruited by Bemidji State, but have yet to finalize their decisions from the multiple scholarship offers they have received from American and Canadian schools.
Mowat, who was named the top goaltender at the Esso Cup, has posted an impressive 1.00 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage in 10 games this season and is being recruited by the likes of Bemidji State and the University of Manitoba.
Meanwhile, Carels, who leads the Hawks with 18 goals and 28 points in 16 games this season, hopes to verbally commit to a school before the end of the week.
"Actually, I’m very close and I think I want to decide before we leave for nationals next week, so I am down to two schools (Bemidji State and Providence College, Rhode Island) right now," said Carels, who made Canada’s under-18 women’s hockey team for the first time this summer.
"It’s kind of stressful, but it’s exciting, too, the whole process. You weigh the pros and cons from each school and it’s a fun process trying to figure out your future."
Four Westman girls have already accepted full NCAA hockey scholarships for next season: Brandon’s Ashleigh Brykaliuk (Minnesota-Duluth), Ninette’s Jessica Vallotton (Maine) and Virden’s Karissa Kirkup (Maine) of the Westman Wildcats, as well as Neepawa’s Halli Krzyzaniak (North Dakota) of the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna, B.C.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 31, 2012