A local forward is heading south of the border next year to continue her on-ice career.

Oceane Asham has committed to play her collegiate hockey at Minnesota State University in Division 1 of the NCAA. Asham says, after her performance at the Western Regional Women's U18 Championship in Portage last month, she was contacted by the school.

"I think it was a few days after that I had gotten an email from Minnesota State, and they expressed interest in me," Asham explains. "The coach and I started texting, and we had a few phone calls, and we ended up setting up a visit. When I went down there, I loved everything about it. I fell in love with the campus, the coaches, and the team was amazing. I ended up making a few friends already. It just felt right, and I went with my gut, and what my heart was telling me."

Asham says she had quite a few teams recruiting her but notes her final decision came down to Minnesota State and Bemidji State University. She says after she visited MSU's campus, she didn't want to overthink it and signed with them before going to see Bemidji's facility. Asham talks about what it's like getting recruited to a school.

"I definitely wasn't expecting to be recruited by a Division 1 school, it was very surreal, and the feeling is still here even though I've committed," says Asham. "It was a little overwhelming if I'm being honest when it comes to the whole experience of going down there. It was a really good feeling. Going into my first year, I think it'll really help me to be able to play my game, having that feeling of excitement."

While she has signed with the university, Asham still has this year to play out with the Balmoral Hall Blazers. The 17-year-old spent one season with the squad in 2019-20 and scored 11 goals in 19 games. She says she'll be working even harder this season, despite having her situation for next year finalized.

"Being committed means I need to push myself even harder and show them what I've got," Asham explains. "Even though I'm committed to a school next year, I can't give up on my team this year, and I have to keep pushing for them. My motivation and drive need to keep being what it is, or maybe become even more intense, going into this season and next."

At the Western Regional Women's U18 Championship, where she impressed the MSU coaches, the local forward led Team Manitoba in scoring, with two goals and an assist through five games. Asham describes her biggest takeaway from playing in an event of that calibre.

"I definitely realized when you play against the best of the best, you have to be quick, make smart decisions, and make the right decisions," Asham continues. "I think playing at Western's has helped me realize that's what the next level is. That's what it takes to play in Division 1 of the NCAA, and you really can't have a day off. You have got to keep pushing yourself as you have to keep up. I know the speed is a really big difference in Division 1, and I think that's what's going to get me. So, knowing that I played at Western's against the best, fastest, and strongest is really going to help me.

Asham says the best advice she was given throughout the process was to follow her heart, and she is very glad she listened to that. She gives some guidance for anyone who may go through the recruiting process in the future.

"Follow your gut, your heart knows exactly where you want to go. Make sure it's the right decision because you'll be going there for the next four years of your life," says Asham. "Really take it in because you don't get another experience like that. You get to go on a bunch of visits, but once you find the right one, you don't get to go on that visit again, and you don't get to re-experience that. So, I think taking everything in, and appreciating that experience, is important because a lot of people don't get that opportunity."