The Laurentian Voyageurs women's hockey team qualified for the OUA playoffs in two of their first four seasons in the league.
They have not seen post-season play since, missing out the past three years.
Yet more than ever before, there is a sense of optimism heading into the 2020-2021 campaign. An extremely solid core of returnees is spread right across the lineup, from goaltender Shana Dolighan through to a more experienced defence corps, and a forward contingent that is the very definition of scoring by committee provides an initial sense of positivity.
Yet it is as much the nature and skill-set of the incoming talent that gives a more particular cause for hope.
Verbally committed to the defending national champion Guelph Gryphons at this time last year, accomplished Sudbury Lady Wolves' sniper Katie Chomiak has opted to remain in her hometown, her change of heart ironically the bi-product of leaving home this past year to suit up with the Mississauga Hurricanes of the PWHL (Provincial Women's Hockey League).
"I was very excited to go to Guelph about a year ago," Chomiak confessed. "But this year, when I moved away, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am a homebody, I like being with my family and friends. I knew that being at home, I would also be more comfortable, with more support at home."
Laurentian coach Stacey Colarossi did not wait long to jump all over this opportunity, having aggressively recruited Chomiak prior to her selecting Guelph, at the outset. "I've watched Katie since she was a peewee, since I came up here," said Colarossi, who just completed her seventh year behind the bench with the Voyageurs.
"She skates the game very well. She's a power forward with a great shot. She would be someone I would reference as a thoroughbred - she wants to go. She will be a nice addition, right away."
"My game has grown a lot this year," added Chomiak. "This league is more advanced. The game is a lot more controlled, but still very structured and fast. I think I am more creative and have learned how to make the right play, without over-complicating anything."
It was these elements to her game that might ultimately create the greatest fit at Laurentian. "Scoring has always been a cornestone of something we have struggled with," said Colarossi. "We've had to do it by committee. We need to add a few pieces that, when they are on the ice, they can be a threat, every time they cross the blueline."
To that end, and likely far more significant than the signing of Chomiak, at least in the short-term, will be the addition of transferred seniors Evra and Edie Levesque.
The twin sisters, who hail from Wawa, already enjoy four years of OUA experience under their belts from their time with the Western Mustangs, a stretch which included an OUA championship campaign in 2017-2018.
"Their leadership is outstanding - they were with us all year," Colarossi noted, with the Levesque siblings completing their post-secondary studies at Laurentian, but forced to sit out the 2019-2020 campaign.
"They have won, they know what it takes to win," added Colarossi. "Bringing that into our room is the next evolution in teaching these first year athletes to do it the right way, and grow into the next step in our evolution."
Their on-ice contributions should not be downplayed. In four years with the Mustangs, Evra, a forward, amassed 22 goals and 35 assists, while Edie, a more defensive-minded blueliner with a knack of shutting down opponents, finished her time at Western with 15 assists.
Putting some context to those numbers is graduating L.U. forward Morgan McCann, who claimed top spot on the all-time Laurentian scoring parade, bumping her career total to 48 points as she completed her fifth season this winter.
"A lot of it has to do with the teammates and linemates I've had over the years," said McCann. "Most of it goes to them. But it is pretty cool to be able to say that."
On hand to make a ceremonial jersey hand-off to Chomiak, McCann offered these words of wisdom to the incoming group. "The biggest advice I would give is to have fun," she said. "I think that is the most important part of the game, is to have fun."
"It makes every little part of it more enjoyable. Your first year, you're a little nervous, a little on edge about everything, which is understandable. I was like that too. But it's exciting that everyone is on the same page, everyone has the same goals."
"Everyone is hungry to get that chance, in the playoffs," McCann continued. "It's probably the most fun time of the year."
And this team is due for a little more fun.
Along with those listed above, Colarossi has confirmed that the remainder of her 2020 recruiting class consists of:Lauren Beaulieu (Mississauga Jr Hurricanes) - centre - played with the Stoney Creek Sabres midgets which competed in Sudbury at 2019 Esso Cup - "makes players around her better - quietly good"
Chihiro Suzuki (Kingston Jr Ice Wolves) - forward - originally from Japan, played past two seasons in Kingston - "dynamic forward who brings speed and offensive flair"
Emily Eikelboom (Stanstead College) - forward - good-sized forward, gifted around the net
Alana Jentas (Peterborough Midget AA Ice Kats) - defence - smooth skating transition "D" that plays with a great stick
Abi Wood (Cambridge Jr Rivulettes) - goalie - very steady, but with the ability to steal you a game