By Jim den Hollander
As a player, Kaylee Engel found herself in an unfortunately familiar situation in her freshman year with the Northland College Lumberjills in 2020-21.
After honing her craft under the Reedsburg Polars/RWD youth hockey banners, Engel, 19, played four seasons of varsity with the Badger Lightning hockey club. She appeared in 85 games, scoring 29 goals and collecting 55 points and wrapped up her run with the squad as the team’s captain in 2019-20.
A clear leader by example on the team, Engel did all she could to help a Lightning team that enjoyed limited success.
A worldwide pandemic played havoc for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) women’s hockey conference. Teams finally took the ice in late January, playing a compacted campaign. For a building Lumberjills squad, that season consisted of nine consecutive defeats.
With limited prep time, the gap between varsity hockey and NCAA Division 3 matches was a steep one for Engel who appeared in all nine games for the Lumberjills but was unable to collect a point on a team that scored just 9 goals and was shutout three times.
The team dropped home and away matches against the UW-Superior Yellowjackets, UW-River Falls Falcons, UW-Eau Claire Blugolds and UW Stevens Point Pointers in regular season play, then dropped a 6-2 decision to the Yellowjackets in playoff action.
Engel had five shots on goal and blocked shot, served one minor penalty and finished the season with a -12 ranking. She was called on to take a few draws in the playoff contest, winning one of three.
Engel realized hockey wasn’t the only reason she was at Northland though and collected a nice perk when she was named to the WIAC Honor Roll along with 34 other members of the Northland Men’s and Women’s hockey teams.
Engel will return to Ashland, Wis. For her sophomore season this fall and the team’s hockey schedule is still to be announced as of today. Watch for Engel to become a more offensive presence on the team with a partial season of experience under her belt.