Jamestown Bluejays assistant girls' hockey coach helps lead team to win over Pirates at Crookston Sports Center Friday.
Shannon Kaiser still loves coming home. While she may be busy earning her masters degree in public health from North Dakota State University and serving as a volunteer assistant coach for the Jamestown Bluejays girls' hockey team and, therefore, sometimes isn't able to make it to Bluejays' road games, the 2011 Crookston High School graduate and former Pirate girls' hockey standout made a point to request Friday off from work so she could be behind the visitors' bench in Crookston Sports Center's Event Arena as Jamestown took on Crookston.
Friday's homecoming for Kaiser was especially sweet, as the Bluejays defeated the Pirates 4-1 on the strength of a strong offensive performance by junior Ella Roaldson and a stellar game in the net by Jamestown freshman Jada Nelson.
Kaiser is in her fourth year as a volunteer assistant coach for the Bluejay girls, working with head coach Andy Fitzgerald. But during Friday's game at CSC, Kaiser's voice could perhaps be heard more than any other voice among the coaching staff behind the Bluejay bench.
"I'm trying to build some experience coaching," Kaiser tells the Times. "I am quite hooked on the team now, as a few girls have been on the team all four years, so I have a personal connection and care for some of them quite deeply."
She has a personal connection to her Crookston roots, too, and still cares for the Pirate girls' hockey program as well. Playing in her hometown rink against her hometown team brings back a lot of nostalgia, Kaiser says.
"I couldn’t help but bring up yesterday to my other coaching staff some old stories from back when I was a Pirate, like how we used to fill the CSC up to the brim and how big the student section was for our games," Kaiser notes. "I occasionally talk about that final section championship game in 2011 in Crookston against Warroad, which ended is a loss in overtime to go to state." Kaiser adds that she doesn't bring up that game very much, even after eight years, "because to this day is still stings a little bit."
(To note, the student section in the Event Arena Friday evening was sparsely populated, as all of the Pirate winter sports teams - boys' hockey, boys' and girls' basketball and wrestling - were competing on the road.)
Kaiser scored more than 100 goals for the Pirates in her high school career and committed as a senior to attend UND and play women's hockey there. After redshirting her first season, she slowly became a regular part of the Fighting Hawks rotation and a mainstay on the squad. Her career stats at UND include 8 goals and 10 assists. Along the way, she earned numerous academic honors and accolades.
Kaiser earned her bachelors degree in public health at UND and this spring will complete her masters degree in the same field from NDSU. She currently works at Central Valley Health District in Jamestown.
Kaiser acknowledges that it's significantly more special squaring off, now as a coach, against the hockey program in which she grew up and developed. "It's fun for both teams and for me as well with my history, especially now that the Crookston team is all girls that would have been 'Pirate Sisters' back when I was a senior in high school," she notes. "Many of them were huge supporters and fans of me and would attend my games regularly when I was playing at UND. It's cool to see them all grown up and wearing the Pirate logo now."