Bailey Kehl off to sterling start in DI women's hockey

Bailey Kehl in her Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers' uniform.

A local athlete is making her mark in the world of ice hockey, one assist at a time.

Bailey Kehl, 19, who lived in Quincy until ninth grade, is one of the young standouts in the roster of the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers’ women’s hockey team, having played in all of her team’s first 12 games this season, having earned Rookie of the Week honors already.

Kehl landed in Rochester, N.Y. after three years of high school ice hockey in the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, British Columbia.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said of her years up north. “We had academics in the morning from like 8-12 and then hockey in the afternoon.”

The only tough part was when the borders closed because of COVID-19 and she went 14 months without coming home until this summer, when she spent three weeks at home before moving to New York state.

The transition to the college game presented some challenges, as the game is a lot faster in college, she said, and players have to move the puck quicker.

Nevertheless, she is enjoying playing as a freshman in a youth-laden Tiger squad, and although the season has been a struggle for the team at the start, there’s reason to hope.

“We are really learning how to play with each other and we are improving day by day,” she said. “We are playing some of the top teams in the country and the scores were close.”

Two of the last five losses for the 0-14 Tigers have been by one goal, including an overtime loss to 4-5-2 Syracuse on the road, followed by two tough losses at Minnesota.

“We have been improving,” Kehl said. “We have a really young group, with 12 incoming freshmen.”

As a frosh at RIT Kehl started two of the team’s first 12 games but played in all of them.

“It’s hard coming in as a freshman, not knowing whether you’ll play, what you will do, if you’re going to play a lot,” Kehl said. “All of our freshmen are playing well which is nice to see, because moving forward you want to have a strong core.”

As a freshman at Quincy High School, she played softball, but hockey has always held a special place in her heart. She remembers herself wanting to skate as young as four, hoping to emulate her brother Cody, who went on to play baseball for Columbia Basin College as well as for summer collegiate teams in Canada.

For the WhiskeyJacks in Manitoba, Cody won the team’s first Player of the Week award.

This year, it was Sis’ turn, winning Rookie of the Week honors for the RIT Tigers, on her first week on the team, earning her first assist in college play on her first game. Up until the 12th game of the season, which is when this interview took place, Bailey was leading the team in assists and was among the top five players in blocked shots

All the more reason for Bailey to believe that better days are around the corner for her squad.

“To see that the team is really coming together is really nice to see,” added Kehl, who is majoring in international business at RIT.

The season lasts until March, with conference and non-conference games sprinkled throughout the schedule.

Folks in Quincy can follow Kehl’s team online by visiting the RIT athletics website, looking for the women’s hockey schedule and then follow the links to watch the games, although it’s not free.

If you don’t want to pay the $10 it costs to listen to one game or the $100-plus it costs to get a season pass, you can follow along with live stats.

The next game for the Tigers is against Mercyhurst, the first of a two-game series that runs from Nov. 19-20.

With her college career just starting out, Bailey mostly chooses to focus on it rather than plan and wonder what might lie ahead. Nevertheless, the idea is to keep playing hockey for as long as she can. After college, she might try her hand at the powerful European leagues or transfer to a Canadian college, given how the neighbors to the north offer five years of college studies instead of four.

“I can always do my four years here and play one in Canada,” she said.

Another option, although a bit of a longer shot is the national league here in the States. Founded as the National Women’s Hockey League in 2015, it rebranded itself as the Premier Hockey Federation this summer.

The PHF is the first pro hockey league in America to pay its players. However, it only has six teams, so the odds are steep.

“Right now, just being a freshman, I’m really focused on my college career, but as I come up to my senior year, I have a plan.”

In the meantime, she keeps doing her best in a sport that she loves.

“I enjoy the competitiveness of it, and also the people that you meet,” she said of her love of hockey. “I have been to so many places because of hockey, and met so many people because of it. The competitiveness, the grittiness, I just love it. I love it all.”

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