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Vanessa McKinnon earns a shot with the Moncton Aigles Bleues

Vanessa McKinnon just wanted a chance to show her stuff.

Thanks to the Universite de Moncton Aigles Bleues, the local hockey product will get that opportunity.

A graduating member of the Sudbury Midget AA Lady Wolves and the College Notre-Dame Alouettes, McKinnon confirmed her intentions to commit to the AUS program last week, bringing to more than a dozen the number of Sudbury female hockey players that are expected to toil in the post-secondary ranks in 2020-2021.

For the 17 year old who only ever cracked the top Lady Wolves team in her age bracket on two occasions, the end result is a dream come true.

"I started off as a dancer and only started to play hockey when I was nine years old," said McKinnon, the younger of two sisters in the family. House league hockey would give way to the Atom BB squad, and so forth and so on, with perseverance every bit as key to reaching her goal as any of the hockey abilities that she possessed.

"I'm very hard headed," said McKinnon with a laugh. "When I want something, I go out and achieve it. I think I was getting a tired, a little bit, of being cut."

In her second year of bantam hockey, McKinnon would crack a AA roster for the very first time. And after suiting up with the Midget A Lady Wolves for two seasons prior to this most recent campaign, she was back in the spotlight, making a team that could attract the attention of scouts and schools.

"I've always been told that I was a late bloomer and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing," she said. "I took that in a positive way. In my two years of Midget A, I got of lot of ice time and that helped me improve my game."

"I was playing so much more than I probably would have been playing at Midget AA."

From there, it was a matter of accentuating the positives, all while rounding out her game. "A lot of the scouts that I have talked to told me that what caught their eye was my speed," McKinnon added. "I've always been told that I was fast. I knew that if I improved my stick-handling skills, I would get more attention."

If some young hockey prospects grow tired of the stress of potential recruitment, McKinnon insisted that she was far too new to the party to be bothered. "I think I was honestly just really excited, because I had never experienced being scouted before," she said.

"Having coaches interested in me made me want to continue improving. That kept me going."

In return, her candor made it easy for folks to try and lend a helping hand, including Laurentian Voyageurs' head coach Stacy Colarossi. "I was in contact with Laurentian, probably since the start of the year," explained McKinnon.

"Stacy was always very good with me. She gave me lots of opportunities, but for Laurentian, they didn't have a roster spot on their team for the coming year." While the door was open to staying locally, as a red-shirt freshman, Moncton was at at different stage with their roster, presenting a chance to play sooner.

"Moncton was offering a spot on the team, right away, and I would be able to have icetime, which is something I was looking for," McKinnon noted. "Also, Moncton is a smaller school, the class size is smaller. They also have a french program in nursing, so everything is working out really well."

While a visit to the campus was curtailed with Covid-19, McKinnon has leaned heavily upon the feedback of Lady Wolves' alumnus and midget assistant coach Makayla Blanchard, who had committed to the university a few years back before opting to stay closer to home, in the end.

"She has been so supportive," said McKinnon. "She told me that it's a great school, with the hockey arena right on campus, and residence and apartments right there as well."

Where some might be thrown off by the distance from home, this social butterfly is more than ready to spread her wings. "I think personally, I'm very outgoing and I can make friends pretty easily," said McKinnon. "I'm not that shy, for those who know me."

"If anything, I am more nervous about being so far from my parents. But with the technology today, they are just a phone call away. They are far, in distance, but not very far in my heart, and on the phone."

And this is, after all, a chance for Vanessa McKinnon to show her stuff.

Orendorff and Associates