By Thomas Becker
In recent years, the UPEI Panthers have had success finding big, physical forwards who made an impact right away.
Two years ago, they picked up Jolena Gillard, who emerged as an all-star in her sophomore season. And last season, they recruited Lexie Murphy, who's physical presence led to an AUS all-rookie team nod. The trend continued again this offseason when the Panthers decided to bring in Ruby Loughton.
Assistant coach Lance Jones discovered Loughton at the Stoney Creek tournament last September and really liked her style of play. At five-foot-seven, Loughton brings decent size and grit at the centre position which appealed to UPEI.
"We brought her in to do an official school visit and she instantly fit in with the players," said head coach Bruce Donaldson. "Our compete level is key to our success and I believe Ruby will add that from the start."
Loughton last played for the North York Storm of the Lower Lakes Female Hockey League (LLFHL), where her coach described her as a diamond both on and off the ice. While her team struggled to generate wins last season, the former alternate captain still led the Storm in points and was named the team's most improved player.
"I would describe myself as a smooth-skating, hard-working and creative goal scorer with playmaking abilities," Loughton said.
After visiting the campus last season, the 18-year-old said she felt at home in Charlottetown and was immediately sold on joining the title contender.
"UPEI has a great reputation not only for its academic programs but also for its community environment. I was greeted so warmly by everyone and especially by the Panthers, my new hockey family," she said. "It's an incredible honour to play for an organization with such class, heart and skill, and I can't wait to get on the ice."