After three seasons on the varsity staff, Northern Lakes Lightning girls coach Breanna Sheley recently tendered her resignation.
"I'm sad about it," she said. "I love the girls and I have been with these particular seniors since they were in seventh or eighth grade."
Sheley has served as the team's head coach for the past two seasons and was an assistant coach the season before that. Prior to that, she coached at the youth level.
She recently accepted a job with the American Heart Association, and her schedule - which will see her traveling more - no longer allows her to accommodate the sometimes chaotic schedule of varsity hockey.
In Sheley's two seasons as head coach, the Lightning finished 18-29-2 overall, but earned at least a share of the Mid-State Conference title in both of those seasons.
Sheley's first coaching job in the area was as a middle-level youth coach, leading the group of girls currently leading the varsity squad.
"I really enjoyed my time with them," Sheley said. "Going to practice every day was a joy for me. When it was brutally cold out and the last thing you wanted to do was spend time in the cold rink, as soon as I was with the girls, they would have something funny to share or some story to make me smile. The reason I have always loved hockey is the community surrounding it, and this group was especially fun ... They were a joy to coach."
Sheley will no longer be behind the bench for the Lightning, but said players, parents and fans should not necessarily expect her to be a stranger around the Breezy Point Ice Arena.
"I will definitely still be a part of it," she said. "I will be in the stands and be a fan as much as I can."
The team may be an easy one to support in its next season, as Sheley is expecting her former team - which returns a solid core of experienced skaters - to make some waves in 2020, assuming the right person is hired as the new head coach.
"There are a lot of girls that care about the sport and care about one another," Sheley said. "I think they are in a situation where if they work hard, they can accomplish what they want to accomplish. I see them accomplishing a lot if they can work together and keep that care for each other going into the future ... I think that there are big things in the future, especially this next year."
Though she is excited for this next chapter in her life, she described parting ways with the Lightning as a bittersweet situation.
"The way (the girls) have opened up to me has been really special, and I am just honored to be a part of it for so long," she said.