Alyssa MacMillan, an Okanagan Hockey Academy grad and Penticton product, will join the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s program after the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks cut its women’s team. Conor Knuteson/UND Athletics

OHA, Fighting Hawks alum joining Gee-Gees program

Alyssa MacMillan reflects on UND experience, moving on to Ottawa Gee-Gees

It was shocking new for Alyssa MacMillan and her University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks teammates when the women’s program was cut.

The day before it actually happened in late March, MacMillan, a product of the Okanagan Hockey Academy, said a podcast had broadcasted that the cut was happening, but the players thought maybe it wasn’t true.

“The Wednesday we got cut, we all got tense and nobody wanted to skate,” said MacMillan, now months later. “We were all pretty worried about it. No one was really uncomfortable because the coaches hadn’t said anything to us.”

After practice ended they went into their locker room and picked up their phones which had erupted with text messages and social media posts that the program was getting cut. People messaged them to apologize about the news.

“We had not heard yet. Coaches had a meeting to speak with the athletic director,” she said.

The coaches told the players it didn’t look good as the same happened to baseball and golf, which was cut the year before.

“I don’t know if you can prepare yourself, but there was a lot of emotions going on,” said MacMillan.

MacMillan said last season was awesome for her as she played with a team that was unreal.

“I probably never played with a group of girls that was that close. Everyone genuinely got along with each other.”

That environment helped her become a better person and player. That lone season in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was an adjustment for the 5-9 forward. High school hockey is different from college, especially playing with women up to five years older. MacMillan lucked out as she put it getting a lot of playing time as a freshman. There were other rookies who struggled and didn’t receive as much ice time. MacMillan had her games where she didn’t play a lot either.

“It was weird going from a first-line player to trying to fill a different role,” she said. I definitely think I developed as player.”

Her speed is better as she had to adapt to a quicker game. Her hockey sense also got better because she learned she had to do things a second quicker.

Since then, things have moved forward in a positive direction for her.

In a few weeks MacMillan will leave Penticton for the nations capital, where she will play in U Sports for the Ottawa Gee-Gees for four years. She considered other NCAA programs, but returning to Canada she gets an extra year of hockey. MacMillan doesn’t believe she will continue playing hockey once her career with the GeeGees is over. MacMillan is excited for the next chapter in her hockey career and living in Ottawa.

“My past coaches said that they could see me fitting in that program,” said MacMillan, who studied pre-science at UND. “Some of the girls in Ottawa have reached out to me and welcomed me. Them reaching out to me, when I haven’t been there yet or met them, it’s really nice to feel welcomed already.”