Canada West Women’s Hockey preview: UBC has new role as defending champion

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October 3, 2013, EDMONTON – The Canada West women’s hockey seasons opens Friday and the defending champion UBC Thunderbirds won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this year.

Here is a look at the eight women’s hockey teams as the 28-game season is about to get underway:

ALBERTA PANDAS

  • 2012-13 conference record: 16-9-3 (4th)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 3-3
  • Last CW title: 2010
  • Last CIS title: 2010
  • CW ranking: #1 (tied)

Key additions: Jocelyn Zabrick (F), Ashley Morin (F), Deanna Morin (F), Natasha Steblin (D)

Key returnees: Jessica Kampjes (F), Lindsey Post (G), Michala Jefferies (G), Katie Stewart (F), Kirsten Toth (D), Jessica Sekulic (F), Jayden Skoye (F), Amy Helfrich (F), Hannah Mousek (D), Kayla Lavallee (D)

Key departures: Karla Bourke (F), Sarah Hilworth (F), Riana Magee (D), Monika Moskalski (F), Brandi Buss (D)

EDMONTON – Despite six new players in the line-up, and the departure of some key veterans, the University of Alberta Pandas hockey team should be in the mix for their 17th straight Canada West berth.

After finishing fourth in the Canada West standings last season, the Pandas will need to at least equal their 16 wins from 2012 to keep their post-season streak alive. And, they’ll have to do it with a new leadership group in place as a significant chunk of that group from the 2012 squad have moved on, including forwards Karla Bourke and Sarah Hilworth, who now coaches with the Pandas, and defenceman Riana Magee.

Head coach Howie Draper, now in his 17th season, brought in a very strong recruiting class in 2012, a group that will now need to act as the new leaders. Forward Jessica Kampjes, who previously attended Team Canada camps, is back after winning the Canada West Rookie of the Year award last season. Also back, to help carry the pace up front are Jessica Sekulic, and Jayden Skoye. Veterans Katie Stewart, Lindsey Cunningham and Janelle Froehler and Amy Helfrich will contribute as well; as should Jocelyn Zabrick who joined the program after three seasons at St. Cloud State. Two rookies who could help bolster the Pandas’ attack are Ashley and Deanna Morin, twin sisters from Edmonton who joined the program after playing with the St. Albert Slash.

On the blue line, sophomores Hannah Mousek, Kirsten Toth are back after strong rookie seasons, and they join veteran Kayla Lavallee to anchor the defence. Natasha Steblin, who transferred to the program after a pair of seasons with Red Deer College, adds to the mix as does first-year Morgan Kelly.

Fifth-year goalie Michala Jeffries is back in the crease, as are sophomores Lindsey Post and Emily Mitchell.

The Pandas open the regular season on October 4-5 with a weekend series against the Manitoba Bisons at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton.

http://www.pandas.ualberta.ca/ 

UBC THUNDERBIRDS

  • 2012-13 conference record: 17-7-4 (3rd)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 6-2 (CW champions)
  • 2013 CIS Tournament: 1-2 (5th)
  • Last CW title: 2012-13
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CW ranking: #1 (tied)

Key additions: Hannah Heisler, Kathleen Cahoon, Melissa Goodwin, Devon Morrison, Stephanie Payne, Krista Wilson

Key departures: Kaitlin Imai, Kaylee Chanakos, Emily Grainger, Dayle Poulin, Kelsey Halvorson

VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds will not sneak up on the competition in 2013-14. Coming off an improbable season which saw the ‘Birds go from one regular season win in 2011-12 to a 17-7-4 regular season record, a Canada West Championship and a fifth place finish at the CIS Championships in 2012-13, UBC will be the number one target in the conference.

Back between the pipes is Second Team All-Canadian Daniel Dube, while Second Team Canada West All-Star Christi Capozzi and Sarah Casorso will anchor the back end. Up front Second Team Canada West All-Star Tatiana Rafter, along with Rebecca Unrau, Stephanie Schaupmeyer, and Nicole Saxvik will expected to lead the charge offensively.

Keep your eye on towering newcomers Kathleen Cahoon (6’1) and Hannah Heisler (6’0) at forward, while fellow rookies Devon Morrison and Stephanie Payne could have an immediate impact on the blueline.

Reigning CIS and Canada West Coach of the Year Graham Thomas enters his second year behind the bench and is eager to prove last year was not a fluke when the Thunderbirds open the season October 4 in Lethbridge.

http://www.gothunderbirds.ca/ 

CALGARY DINOS

  • 2012-13 conference record: 23-4-1 (1st)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 3-3 (CW 2nd)
  • 2013 CIS Tournament: 2-1 (CIS 2nd)
  • Last CW title: 2012
  • Last CIS title: 2012
  • CW ranking: #6

Key additions: D Jayme Clark, G Hayley Dowling, F Jessyka Holt, D Alannah Jensen, F Kate Lumley

Key returnees: F Calaine Inglis, F Jenna Smith, G Amanda Tapp

Key departures: F Iya Gavrilova, F Tanya Morgan, D Stephanie Ramsay, F Hayley Wickenheiser

CALGARY – It will be a season of significant change for the University of Calgary Dinos, coming off their second straight appearance in the national championship game.

Calgary will have to start on a different foot this year, having lost nine players and their head coach due to graduation and the upcoming Olympics. Kelly Bechard takes over as interim head coach in place of Danielle Goyette, who will spend the year with Team Canada in preparation for Sochi. The former Olympic champion is no stranger to the program, having spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach following her playing career in the late 1990s.

Just two seasons ago the Dinos won their first-ever CIS championship and last year they came extremely close to making it back-to-back champions, losing in the final to Montreal.

Calgary had six of the top 20 scorers in Canada West last season – and just two of those six players will be returning to this year’s roster. No longer having key players such as forward Hayley Wickenheiser (16 G, 27 A, 43 pts), Russian phenom Iya Gaurilova (13 G, 15 A, 28 pts), forward Tanya Morgan (9 G, 17 A, 26 pts) and blueliner Stephanie Ramsay (25pts, 11 g, 14 assists) opens things up for a new group of players to step in. The Dinos will look to forwards Jenna Smith and Calaine Inglis, who were both in the top 20 scorers last year, to replace some of that lost scoring.

2012 CIS championship MVP Amanda Tapp returns to defend the net for her fifth year. She is joined by a large recruiting class for the Dinos, including two players with former CIS experience in Janelle Parent and Kitti Trencsenyi. Add forwards Jessyka Holt, Kate Lumley, Carling Wright; defensemen Jayme Clark, Alannah Jensen and goalies Hayley Dowling and Karly McLeod and the Dinos have added much depth and passion back into the program.

This weekend Calgary opens the regular season up against the University of Regina at Father David Bauer Arena on Friday and Saturday night.

http://www.godinos.com/ 

LETHBRIDGE PRONGHORNS

  • 2012-13 conference record: 9-16-3 (7th, missed playoffs)
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CW ranking: #7

Key additions: D Rebecca Blinkhorn, F Aislinn Koostra, G Jen West/ Goalie

Key returnees: G Crystal Patterson, F Kirsten Reeves, F Megan Bailey, F Sadie Lenstra, F Sarah Spence

Key departures: D Ashley Beattie, D Amy Van Buskirk

LETHBRIDGE, AB – Following the best season in school history in 2011-12, the Lethbridge Pronghorn women’s hockey team took a step back last season and missed the playoffs. But with a veteran laden roster set to return this season, the team looks to move back into the playoff picture.

With 19 players returning from last season, the ‘Horns have an experienced group but have lost a good portion of their leadership with the graduation of long time captain Ashley Beattie and Amy Van Buskirk. While both blueliners made great contributions to the program, the back-end is in good hands with senior Glenda Edie and fourth-year defenders Courtney Minor and Katie Mucha.

Returning tandem of Crystal Patterson and Shauntelle Williams give the Pronghorns a solid one-two punch in goal. Patterson, a 2011-12 Canada West first team all-star has carried the load the last two seasons and will look to replicate her stellar 2011-12 season. After leading the conference with six shutouts in 2011-12, she did not record one last season but had solid numbers with a 2.31 goals-against-average and 0.917 save percentage.

At forward, Megan Bailey had a breakout season last year and her team leading 16 points tripled her output from the previous season. Third-year forward Kirsten Reeves led the ‘Horns last season with 12 goals, putting her in a tie for third in the conference, and she will be leaned on heavily for production again this season.

2011-12 Canada West rookie of the year Sadie Lenstra will look to rebound from an injury plagued 2012-13 campaign. After leading all Canada West rookies in scoring, Lenstra missed more than half of the season last year and never really found her stride. Sarah Spence will be another forward to watch for the ‘Horns this season. Spence had a solid rookie season last year, registering 13 points, and will be counted on to take another step forward.

The season opens October 4th and 5th when the ‘Horns host the defending Canada West champion UBC Thunderbirds.

http://www.uleth.ca/horns/ 

MANITOBA BISONS

  • 2012-13 conference record: 10-12-6 (6th)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 0-2
  • Last CW title: 2011
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CW ranking: #3

Key additions: Rachel Dyck, Caitlin Fyten, Jessica Dyck, Charity Price, Alana Serhan

Key returnees: Amy Lee, Caitlin MacDonald, Maggie Litchfield-Medd, Kyleigh Palmer, Meagan Vestby

Key departures: Nellie Minshull, Leiette Klassen, Kristin Cockerill, Jessica Carswell

WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Bisons returned to the playoffs after a year hiatus in the 2012-13 season, but did not advance past the first round.

In a highly competitive and in the words of Bison head coach Jon Rempel ‘wide open Canada West where five to six teams have the potential to win in 2013-14’, Manitoba expects to be back in the competitive mix and goal is to again host a playoff series (which they have not done since the 2010-11 season).

Manitoba lost fifth year player Nellie Minshull and a couple other players but the core unit remains intact for this season and are led by team captain and fifth-year forward Amy Lee along with perennial conference all-star and fifth-year defenceman Caitlin MacDonald.

There are five fifth-year players that will be lean upon (Lee, MacDonald, team second leading scorer from last season Kyleigh Palmer, defensive specialist forward Rachèle Bosc and forward Brenley Anderson) plus four fourth year players (forwards Meagan Vestby, Maggie Litchfield-Medd and defencemen Michelle Pawluk and Danielle Vigier).

With the vets, three rookies look to make an immediate impact. Goaltender Rachel Dyck (18 year old out of Shaftesbury High School), defenceman Caitlin Fyten (played in Female Midget Junior Women’s Hockey League) and defenceman Jessica Dyck (played the last two years with the St. Albert Midget AAA Slash) will have significant playing minutes throughout. Other first year forwards Charity Price, Alana Serhan and Chantal Gamache all have roles in this year’s squad.

http://www.gobisons.ca/ 

MOUNT ROYAL COUGARS

  • 2012-13 conference record: 8-17-3 (8th, missed playoffs)
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CW ranking: #8

Key additions: Kathleen McDonald, Jessica Ross, Rachel Marshall

Key returnees: Tanika Dawson, Emily Harrison, TaraLynn Suzuki

Key departures: Chrissy Hodgson, Rayna Cruickshank, Michelle Ziegler

CALGARY – The Mount Royal Cougars looked to be well on their way to the playoffs last season until a losing streak derailed their hopes and left them in eighth place in the Canada West conference. This season the Cougars are determined to put that behind them and make a push for the playoffs.

There will be a number of key returning players including Tanika Dawson, Emily Harrison and Taralynn Suzuki. Dawson was tied for the team lead in points last season with 22 in 28 games. Harrison placed third with 18 and Suzuki racked up 10. With the departure of Chrissy Hodgson, Dawson and Harrison will have to shoulder much of the load for the Cougars offense this season.

Departing from the team last season was fifth year player Chrissy Hodgson. Hodgson had been the team’s MVP four of the five years she played on the team and was a consummate leader on and off the ice for the Cougars. Dawson, Harrison and Suzuki will now have to pick up the slack if the Cougars are looking to challenge for a playoff berth.

While the Cougars are a small team on paper, it is by design, as the Cougars will be all about speed this season. Head coach Scott Rivett has stressed a quality skating team that will be able to handle the large ice surfaces around the league. In the less physical women’s game, good skating and fundamentals are paramount to success.

The Cougars finished eighth last season but sat in a playoff spot for much of the season until a losing streak derailed them. This season the team has seen the grind that is Canada West hockey and will not be surprised again. Mount Royal will undoubtedly compete for their first playoff berth this season.

http://www.mrucougars.com/index.aspx 

REGINA COUGARS

  • 2012-13 conference record: 18-7-3 (2nd)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 1-2
  • Last CW title: 2000-01
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CW ranking: #4

Key additions: F Bailey Braden, D Michela Esposito, F Tori Head, D Jolene Kirkpatrick, D Nikki Watters-Matthes

Key returnees: F Kendra Finch, D Alexis Larson, D Carleen Meszaros, G Toni Ross, F Stephanie Sawchuk, G Jennifer Schmidt

Key departures: D Hillary Lerat, F Paige Wheeler, F Rianne Wight

REGINA – After a fine 2012-13 season which saw the Regina Cougars roll through the conference schedule with an 18-7-3 record to set a program record with 39 points and earn a home semifinal series, the Cougars will look to continue that momentum this season as the Canada West slate starts this weekend in Calgary.

The Cougars will have the task of replacing their top two scorers as Rianne Wight and Paige Wheeler both graduated after five years at the U of R, but head coach Sarah Hodges expects Stephanie Sawchuk, Kendra Finch, Kylie Gavelin, and Brooklyn Moskowy to be among the returning forwards that will continue to develop offensively. Also in the fold after redshirting last season is Tori Head, who played for the University of Guelph in 2011-12 and should provide some offensive punch. Hodges also anticipates significant contributions from rookie forward Bailey Braden, who was over a point per game for the Melville Prairie Fire last season.

On the blue line, the Cougars return defenceman Carleen Meszaros, who ranked among the conference’s leading rearguards with 15 points last season. Alexis Larson had a fine rookie campaign with eight points in 2012-13, while rookies Michela Esposito, Jolene Kirkpatrick, and Nikki Watters-Matthes are all expected to take on big roles in their first seasons at the U of R.

In net, the Cougars have the luxury of returning both components of last year’s talented tandem of Toni Ross and Jennifer Schmidt. Both had sparkling numbers, as Ross ranked fifth in Canada West with a 2.19 goals-against average and Schmidt put up a 2.37 GAA while winning 10 of her 16 starts.

http://www.reginacougars.com/ 

SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES

  • 2012-13 conference record: 11-12-5 (5th)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 1-2
  • Last CW title: N/A
  • Last CIS title: N/A
  • CW ranking: #5

Key additions: Kaitlin Willoughby, Karen Lefsrud, Alicia Van Alstyne, Kira Bannatyne

Key returnees: Cami Wooster, Julia Flinton, Cassidy Hendricks

Key departures: Cara Wooster, Danny Stone, Shelby Davey, Megan Frohaug

SASKATOON – One year older and one more year experienced, the University of Saskatchewan Huskie women’s hockey team will look to be a contender in the tough Canada West conference.

With 21 members of the roster in third, second or first-year, the Huskies will look to experience from new captain Cami Wooster and fourth-year forwards Chelsey Sundby and Kandace Cook for leadership.

Saskatchewan finished fifth in the standings in 2012-13 with an 11-12-5 record. The Huskies lost in the quarter-finals in three games to the Alberta Pandas.

Wooster finished second on the team in scoring with eight goals and 19 assists. Cook added another three goals and eight assists, while Sundby had two goals and one assist. The Huskies will also look to third-year Sara Greschner, who finished with nine goals and six assists last year, and second-year Rachel Johnson, five goals and six assists in 2012-13, as offensive sparks.

Defensively, third-year pairing Julia Flinton and Brooke Mutch return, as well as Hanna McGillivray and Alyssa Dobler. Flinton also adds offence from the blue line tallying 12 assists one year ago.

In net, the Huskies will rely on Cassidy Hendricks, who turned heads in her rookie campaign in 2012-13. Named Huskie Athletics Female Rookie of the Year, Hendricks posted a .920 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average with three shutouts. Behind her is 6-2 rookie Karen Lefsrud from Calgary.

Saskatchewan opens the Canada West season at home against the Mount Royal Cougars this weekend. Puck drop is 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

http://huskies.usask.ca/ 

Canada West Annual Publication: www.azbycx1928.com/cw78hjfdbje/ 

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