Beavers ink four players in early signing period
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Beavers ink four players in early signing period
BEMIDJI, Minn. - The Bemidji State Univeristy women’s hockey team announced the addition of four players to its 2012-13 signing  class. Megan Lushanko (Chisago City, Minn.), Lauren Merkley (Mississauga, Ontario), Hanna Moher (Milton, Ontario) and Kaitlyn Tougas (Thunder Bay, Ontario) will all play their college hockey for the Beavers after inking National Letters of Intent during the early signing period.

“All of these fine student-athletes sensed the excitement around the current No. 8 ranked program in the country and have a great desire to play a part in helping Bemidji State University continue to move up in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) standings,” said assistant coach Shane Veenker. “Our passionate fan base, Bemidji State University and the community of Bemidji are going to be very proud to watch the development of these young people over the next four years.”

All signees are contingent upon admission to BSU and compliance with NCAA rules, including certification by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Megan Lushanko • Forward • Shoots Left • 5-3
Chisago City, Minn. • Chisago Lakes High School

Lushanko currently competes for the Wildcats of Chisago Lakes High School where she led the North Suburban Conference as a junior with 60 points (36 goals, 24 assists). Lushanko was an MGHCA Class A All-State honorable mention selection as a junior. As a senior, she has tallied 12 goals and 20 assists through 10 games so far this season. She participated in the USA National Development camp with the U-15 squad and U-16 squad. As a sophomore at Chisago Lakes, she helped lead the team to a state tournament appearance. Lushanko was picked as one of the Star Tribune 20 Metro-Area Players to Watch heading into her senior season at Chisago Lakes High School.

“We are excited to add one of the top players in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area in Megan Lushanko,” Veenker said. “Megan is relentless and persistent and brings a never back down from a challenge attitude to the forward position. She also has elite speed which includes a great first step and she has no fear to go to the tough areas of the ice, especially in the corners. Megan is an impressive student-athlete as evidenced by her outstanding GPA and class rank.”

“When making my decision on where I wanted to play college hockey it was very important for me to stay close to home,” Lushanko said. “That is the biggest thing Bemidji State had to offer in addition to their education department. I want to be a teacher after I graduate and BSU has a very good education department. The coaching staff was also important in my decision process. They made me feel very comfortable when I came on my visit. They are really easy to talk to. They are amazing people and made my decision easy.”

Personal: Megan Theresa Lushanko...Born March 12, 1994...Daughter of Christopher and Jami Lushanko...Father wrestled at St. Cloud State University for four seasons...Her brother Cory currently competes as a junior hockey player for the Coulee Region Chill of the North American Hockey League...Her second cousin, Annie Driscoll, participated in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games as a speed skater for the U.S.

Lauren Merkley • Defenseman • Shoots Right • 5-7
Mississauga, Ontario • Mississauga Junior Chiefs

Merkley is in her first season with the Mississauga Junior Chiefs of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League after spending the past two seasons with the Etobicoke Dolphins. She has tallied two goals and three assists through nine games with the Junior Chiefs this season. With Etobicoke, Merkley notched three goals and 14 assists through two seasons with Etobicoke. She was selected to the PWHL All-Star team last season. Merkley has also participated as a member of the Team Ontario Blue U-18 squad where she served as assistant captain. She currently attends Iona Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga. Merkley is currently teammates with fellow signee Hanna Moher on the Jr. Chiefs.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Lauren join our program,” Veenker said. “We think she has the ability to be a dynamic defenseman who possesses great offensive capabilities. She should be able to fill in for our outstanding graduating defensemen. Lauren sees the ice very well and does a really good job at making the first pass. She has great skill in getting the puck from the offensive blue line to the net both quickly and accurately. She is tough to play against in the defensive zone and does a good job at staying out of the penalty box.”

“I chose Bemidji State for many reasons,” Merkley said. “The school itself is amazing; the hockey program, the facilities, the academics, the size, and the atmosphere both in and out of the rink. As soon as I visited Bemidji I knew it was the school for me. I am very excited to call Bemidji my home away from home. Also, one of my current teachers is a BSU alumnus and he had nothing but great things to say about BSU.

Personal: Lauren Marie Merkley...Born Sept. 13, 1994...Daughter of Kyle and Joanne Merkley...Father played hockey at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Hanna Moher • Forward • Shoots Left • 5-6
Milton, Ontario • Mississauga Junior Chiefs

Moher is in her first season with the Mississauga Junior Chiefs of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League after spending last season with the Oakville Hornets. She has tallied one goal and four assists through 15 games this season with the Junior Chiefs. Moher is currently teammates with fellow BSU signee Lauren Merkley on the Junior Chiefs. Last season, Moher notched eight goals and nine assists for 17 points with the Hornets. She was selected to the Ontario U-18 squad selection camp in 2011. Moher was awarded the John W. McCauley Award in 2011, given to a girl’s hockey player in Ontario who not only has excellence in athletics but also excels in academics and helps the community. Moher has also competed in soccer and field hockey. She currently attends Bishop Reding Catholic Secondary School.

“We are proud to be adding Hanna Moher, who along with Lauren comes from a great program like the Mississauga Junior Chiefs,” Veenker said. “Hanna comes from an outstanding winning tradition. She’s a special two-way forward playing in the PWHL. She see’s the ice really well and does a great job at protecting the puck. Hanna loves competition and we believe she possesses a tremendous upside.”

“The decision to go green for me was an easy one,” Moher said. “The coaching staff and players made me feel very welcome on my visit. Bemidji State had everything I wanted in a hockey program; strong academics, very competitive hockey and a great tradition. I am very excited to join the program.”

Personal: Hanna M. Moher...Born June 16, 1994...Daughter of Mike Moher and Eva Bergman-Moher...Father was on the downhill ski team at University of Toronto.

Kailtyn Tougas • Forward • Shoots Right • 5-4
Thunder Bay, Ontario • Thunder Bay Queens

Tougas is in her third season competing for the Thunder Bay Queens. She tallied a goal and an assist for the Queens in a September exhibition against Bemidji State. Tougas helped lead Thunder Bay to a silver medal in 2011 and a gold medal in 2010 at the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association provincials. She also helped the Queens to the 2010 Esso Cup Midget National Championship where she was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Tougas was invited to the 2010 Team Canada U-18 selection camp. Currently attends St. Patrick High School in Thunder Bay.

“We are thrilled to be adding Kaitlyn Tougas to our Bemidji State hockey family,” Veenker said. “We have followed Kaitlyn’s development for quite some time and she was a big target for us early in the process. We believe she is one of the top players in Canada for her age group. Kaitlyn will immediately add outstanding speed with a great first step, tremedous skill, a high hockey IQ, and a thrill for competition to our lineup. Kaitlyn is an outstanding addition to the Bemidji State University Women’s Hockey program.”

“My Thunder Bay Queens team had the chance to play an exhibition against BSU earlier this season,” Tougas said. “That gave me an opportunity firsthand to see their power play and their breakaway opportunities and how their coaches interact with their players and really brought home the point that this is where I want to be next year. It felt like home for me. I love the fact that Bemidji is a small community. In the big cities I visited I didn’t feel like I mattered. When the coaches were showing me around campus they didn’t act superior to me, they acted like my friend. They seem very trustworthy and I didn’t feel the need to act different around them. I’m excited to join the program.”

Personal: Kaitlyn Tougas..Daughter of Joey and Vikki Tougas...sister Courtney Tougas plays women’s hockey at University of Toronto.