CIS Women’s hockey: Dinos get nod as team to beat again in 2012-13

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October 3, 2012, EDMONTON – Coming off both a Canada West and CIS championship season, the Calgary Dinos are the unanimous choice among Canada West coaches to finish atop the conference in Women’s hockey in 2012-13.

With the eight coaches not permitted to vote for their own team, Calgary received the maximum seven first-place votes in the preseason poll, with Alberta claiming the other top vote.

Here are the complete voting results, based on a 10-8-6-4-3-2-1 system (first-place votes in parentheses):

1. Calgary (7) 70

2. Alberta (1) 58

3. Manitoba 42

4. Saskatchewan 32

5. Lethbridge 28

6. Regina 19

7. UBC 11

8. Mount Royal 11

With forward Hayley Wickenheiser, defenceman Stephanie Ramsay and goaltender Amanda Tapp just a few of the big names returning for 2012-13, the Calgary Dinos appear ready to defend their first-ever Canada West title and maybe even their initial CIS national championship.

The most dominant team in CIS women’s hockey history, the Alberta Pandas, are coming off a “down” year that saw them go 14-3-7 and finish as runner-up in the conference. A host of new faces complement a solid group of veterans at all positions. Two years without a title marks the team’s longest-ever drought.

Third in the preseason coaches’ poll are the two-time Canada West champion Manitoba Bisons, the only team besides Calgary and Alberta to claim a conference title since 2001. Led by forward Nellie Minshull, defender Caitlin MacDonald and goalie Leiette Klassen the Bisons have every reason to be confident entering the new season.

The Saskatchewan Huskies will try to overcome the loss of fourth all-time Canada West scoring leader Breanne George, along with Julie Paetsch, team captain Kristin Bews and two proven goaltenders. Cara Wooster teams up with twin sister Cami, who joins the Huskies, while veteran will also include Danny Stone and Megan Frohaug.

The Lethbridge Pronghorns made big strides in 2011-12 and try to keep it moving forward with very few key players graduating. Inspiration comes from First Team all-star netminder Crystal Patterson, supported by reigning conference Rookie of the Year Sadie Lenstra and veteran Kirsten Reeves.

While the Regina Cougars see veteran goaltender Lisa Urban move on from the program, the leading forward line of Gina Campbell, Paige Wheeler and Rianne Wight remains intact as the teams tries to improve on a sixth-place finish that saw them miss the post-season for the second straight season last year.

Tied for seventh in voting point, the UBC Thunderbirds get the nod with one higher-place vote than conference newcomer, the 2012 ACAC champion Mount Royal Cougars. Leading T-Birds scorer from one year ago, Tatiana Rafter, leads a much more veteran group of players that includes fifth-years Kaitlin Imai, Emily Grainger and Kaylee Chanakos. The MRU Cougars were the best team in recent years at the college level in Alberta and now test their abilities in CIS. With 17 returning players, the return of captain, leading scorer and ACAC most valuable player Chrissy Hodgson, along with some talented transfers the ACAC champions look to make an impact right out of the gate in Canada West.

A complete Canada West women’s hockey preview will be released on Thursday.

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