by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
When Kendra Hanson was graduating from R.D. Parker Collegiate in her hometown of Thompson, Manitoba, she had a few life-changing decisions to make.
An outstanding hockey player, she had interest shown from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) to play post-secondary hockey along with a school south of the border.
A school which was named after a signer of the Declaration of Independence and financier of the American Revolution.
It was at Robert Morris University in Chicago, Illinois that her older sister Brianne had played for the women's hockey Colonials in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Kendra, who like Brianne, was a star player for the Norman Wild of the Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League, well-regarded her sister.
"I always looked up to her," recalls Kendra. "I always tried to do better than her but she was always the stronger one.
"We played on the same Midget team for a while (Norman Wild, based out of The Pas and Thompson) but we never played on the same line as we were both centres."
Also at the centre of attention for Kendra was the NAIT Ooks.
"Robert Morris had looked at me but I didn't know much about post-secondary hockey," admits Hanson, 20. "I was at a hockey showcase (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba) and NAIT was there and made an offer and I took it."
After a brief battle with infectious mononucleosis during her initial year 2015-2016 at the Edmonton campus, Hanson appeared in 16 of the teams 24 regular season contests, scoring an impressive 9 goals and 5 assists.
The 5-foot-8 centre would add two goals in post-season play, the Ooks skating home with a silver, losing to the Red Deer Queens 3-1 in the best-of-five championship series.
Last year Hanson, enrolled in Emergency Management, would be named 2016-2017 ACAC All-Conference with the Ooks taking a bronze medal.
Hanson would lead NAIT and the ACAC in scoring with 6 goals and 19 assists for 25 points.
This year 2017-2018, Hanson, who credits her father Keith with much of her hockey development while growing up, once again has displayed her scoring touch with a ACAC-high 25 points behind 12 goals and 13 assists with two regular season games remaining.
NAIT is at the top of the five-team conference with 18 wins 3 losses one overtime loss with 80 goals for and 30 goals against.
Hanson, who enjoys playing guitar and singing, said she will be taking next season off, returning to Thompson.
"I need to go home for a bit," said Hanson. "Right now I don't know my future. I definitely want to come back (to hockey) but not too sure where or with who."
For now the future is to help the NAIT Ooks to the gold medal.