Season Preview: Pandas top coaches preseason poll on eve of opening night

Season Preview: Pandas top coaches preseason poll on eve of opening night

Canada West Communications

If the Canada West coaches preseason poll is any indication, the 2015-16 women’s hockey season will feature plenty of parity.

A total of four schools earned first place votes from the conference’s coaches in the annual preseason poll, as Alberta, Manitoba, Regina and UBC all secured at least one top vote. 

Alberta, who downed the Manitoba Bisons in the conference final last spring, enters the 2015-16 campaign the coaches’ favourite to repeat, securing three first place votes and four second place nods to top the poll with 69 points.

Coming in second in the poll are the Bisons with 57 points. Manitoba secured three first place votes.

Rounding out the poll is UBC (49 points - 1 first place vote), Regina (45 points - 1 first place vote), Saskatchewan (33 points), Calgary (29 points), Mount Royal (14 points) and Lethbridge (10 points).

  Pts. (First place votes)
1. Alberta 69 (3)
2. Manitoba 57 (3)
3. UBC 49 (1)
4. Regina 45 (1)
5. Saskatchewan 33 
6. Calgary 29
7. Mount Royal 14
8. Lethbridge 10

 

You can catch every Canada West women’s hockey game all season long on canadawest.tv, and to get you set for the drop of the puck Friday night, here’s a look at each of the conference’s eight teams.

ALBERTA

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 19-7-1

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: 4-0

2014-15 Overall Record: 28-14 

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: 2015/12

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: 2010/7

 

Number of new players: 9

Key Recruits:

Cayle Dillon – Defence – Edmonton - Edmonton Thunder (Austin O'Brien HS)

Autumn MacDougall – Forward - Dartmouth, NS - Team Nova Scotia (Canadian International Hockey Academy)

Abby Benning – Defence – St. Albert - Team Alberta (Edge School)

Number of departing players: 7

Key Losses (number of years with team):

Kayla Lavallee – 5

Jessica Kampjes – 3

Key performer: Lindsey Post, Goalie

Post was one of the best goalies in Canada West in 2014, so expectations are high for the fourth-year goalie. With a young crop of goalies behind Post, she will be counted upon to provide stability between the pipes.

Coach Quote: “As with every year, we expect to be the hardest working team in Canada West.  We want to be tough to play against on the road and at home, and expect to the most prepared team come playoff time.  I believe that we have the necessary elements to get back to Nationals and win a gold medal.” – Alberta Pandas head coach Howie Draper.

Key storyline: With seven veterans from last year’s Canada West championship squad no longer on the team, the 2015 Pandas hockey team is set to be one of the youngest in recent memory.

The most notable losses will be Captain Kayla Lavallee, who finished her CIS eligibility last season after five years with the program, and leading scorer Jessica Kampjes, who recorded 25 points in 21 games last season. Head coach Howie Draper will now have count upon nine rookies to fill the void. However, sophomore forward Hannah Olenyk will back for the Pandas after a strong rookie season which saw her accumulate 25 points in 28 games, and earn Canada West all-rookie honours.

Canada West all-star Lindsey Post will be back between the pipes for Alberta, after a conference leading 20 wins last season. Post will try and lead the young Pandas to their second consecutive CW title and first CIS title since 2010.

 

UBC

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 17-1-6-4

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: 1-2

2014-15 Overall Record: 22-7-5

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: 2013/1

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: /

 

Number of new players: 7

Key Recruits : Mathea Fischer (F/Oslo, Norway/Norweigan national team); Laura Trachsel (F/Switzerland/Swiss National Team); Mikayla Ogrodniczuk(D/Vancouver, B.C./Team B.C.); Shiayli Toni (F/Saskatoon, Sask./Notre Dame Hounds) 

Number of departing players: 8

Key Losses (number of years with team): Sarah Casorso (D/5); Tatiana Rafter (F/5); Nikola Brown-John (F/5) 

Key performer: Rebecca Unrau and Nicole Saxvik — top two returning scorers, both top 15 in the Canada West last season; Danielle Dube and Sam Langford – top 2 goaltenders; defenceman Kelly Murray 

Coach Quote: We are excited for another season in the very competitive Canada West. We are looking forward to continuing to build and develop our program. Our league continues to get better every year, which always ensures an exciting season and growth in talent in the CIS,” UBC head coach Graham Thomas explained.

“We have graduated some big point producers this past year, but are very confident in our returning group and new incoming players to step up and fill those roles.”

“We have continued to add to our depth and experience to ensure a competitive internal environment and to push our team to get better.”

Key storyline: The UBC Thunderbirds are looking to return to the national stage out of an ultra-competitive Canada West league. Last season, UBC hosted a Canada West semifinal series for the first time in program history, but a 2-1 series loss to Manitoba eliminated the team from national championship contention.

Several players from the squad have graduated, including All-Canadian Sarah Casorso and former Canada West MVP Tatiana Rafter. However, the team remains strong, starting in goal with Danielle Dube, a former All-Canadian, and Samantha Langford, who went 11-4-2 in 18 appearances last year.

The defence will be anchored by Kelly Murray, while top-15 Canada West scorers Rebecca Unrau, Steph Shaupmeyer and Nicole Saxvik will lead the forward group. Head coach Graham Thomas brought in another outstanding recruiting class, which includes two players, Laura Trachsel and Mathea Fischer, with international experience with their respective senior national teams.

 

CALGARY

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 17-16-4

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: 2-4-0

2014-15 Overall Record: 19-20-4

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: 2012 / 1

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: 2012 / 1

 

Number of new players: 9

Key Recruits (Name (POS/Hometown/Last Team)): 

Delaney Frey (F) Weyburn,SK / Regina Rebels

Chealsea Court (F) Winnipeg, MB / Balmoral Hall Blazers

Paige Michalenko (D) Saskatoon, SK / Saskatoon Stars

Morgan Loroff (D) Slave Lake, AB / Finlandia University NCAA

Sarah Murray (G) Calgary, AB / Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs

Number of departing players: 10

Key Losses: Hayley Wickenheiser, Janelle Parent, Erika Mitschke, Jenna Smith, Aimee DiBella, Jayme Clarke, Sarah Astle 

Key performer: Goalie, Hayley Dowling

Starting netminder Hayley Dowling, who is bouncing back from injury last season, will be key for Calgary, as they’ll rely heavily on their goalie behind a team that lost 10 players from last year’s roster.

Coach Quote: “Having a new assistant coach with our program as well as nine new players will be a great opportunity to rebuild and work on a new identity.” – Calgary DInos head coach Danielle Goyette.

Key storyline: The Dinos will be a young team with potential for growth, and will have their season defined by how hard and how consistently they work to improve. Calgary knows they will be at nationals come March as hosts, so building to the tournament will be the focus throughout the season.

 

LETHBRIDGE

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 6-21-0-1

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: /

2014-15 Overall Record: 6-21-0-1

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: /

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: /

 

Number of new players: 7

Key Recruits

Alicia Anderson (G/Calgary, AB/ Calgary Fire)

Brett Campbell (F/Edmonton, AB/ Plattsburgh State)

Mattie Apperson (D/ New Hamburg, ON/ Notre Dame Hounds)

Keely Chalk (Forward/ Swift Current, SK/ Swift Current AAA)

Number of departing players: 7

Key Losses

Crystal Patterson – (Goalie / 5 years/played all but 20 minutes last season)

Sadie Lenstra – (Forward / 4 years)

Key performers:

Kristen Reeves, Centre

Kristen brings size and strength to her position. She plays with grittiness and determination which feeds the rest of the team with energy.

Amber Yuha, Defence

Amber brings offense and patience to her position. She leads the team on and off the ice, always gaining respect from her teammates. 

Alicia Anderson, Goalie

Alicia is a first year player and brings a calmness to her position and is an anchor for the back end. Her strengths are her puck skills and ability to start the play from behind the goal line.

Coach Quote: “Our team has worked very hard through our preseason camp and exhibition season to develop a culture of excellence. Strong leadership and dedication to our goals will help our team find success this season. I'm very excited to see what this group will accomplish this season.” – First-year Pronghorns head coach Michelle Janus.

Key storyline: After missing the post season for three consecutive seasons, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s hockey program has a change at the top and first-year head coach Michelle Janus has been tasked with leading the ‘Horns forward.

The chore will not be an easy one with the departure of six core players from last season, which includes former Canada West all-star goaltender Crystal Patterson. Patterson was in the crease for all but 20 minutes last year. Also departed are last year’s leading scorer Sadie Lenstra, Courtney Minor, Chelsea Minor, Angela Burke and Katie Mucha.

Freshman Alicia Anderson has stepped into the ‘Horns crease and for a first-year goaltender had brought a surprising calmness to the ‘Horns defense.

With a relatively young team, the only fifth-year senior, Kirsten Reeves, and fourth-year forwards Sarah Spence and Jenae Culp will be relied on heavily to lead the ‘Horns up the Canada West standings

 

MANITOBA

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 14-7-5-2

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: 4-3-1

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: 2010-11/2

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: /

 

Key Recruits: Venla Hovi, Karissa Kirkup, Celine Caron

Key Losses Maggie Litchfield-Medd, Michelle Pawluk, Jessica Rosenbaum

2015-16 Preview: Last season, the Bisons were in a new cycle with ten rookies and seven sophomores in the lineup and surprised many as they exceeded the conference pre-season coaches’ poll of being ranked sixth by advancing all the way to the Canada West Final.

The Bison women’s hockey program will continue to be very young as there are only two fifth year players and three fourth year players on the 24 person roster.

Head coach Jon Rempel, in his 12th season, commented on the teams’ fortune in 2014-15 and ‘that we are still pretty young and not to get too crazy with expectations heading into 2015-16 season.’ He was impressed with the results from last year but ‘we don’t reset the button from last year’ and that this year’s squad is a different team with a new year. There is still part of a process for growth and maturity that will give an opportunity to remain competitive against a strong conference.

The Bisons had a breakout performance from forward Alanna Sharman, as she was named 2014-15 CIS and Canada West Rookie of the Year. She won the national scoring race with 40 points (17-23-40) in 28 conference league games and became only the third rookie in the 18 year history of the conference to top Canada West in scoring and is poised to continue her success this year. In addition, third year goaltender Rachel Dyck returns as she was 2014-15 Canada West Second Team All-Star plus forward Lauryn Keen plus defenceman Erica Rieder (alternate captain) were named to 2014-15 Canada West All-Rookie Team. Other Manitoba veterans back are third year defenceman Caitin Fyten (alternate captain), third year forward and second leading scorer last year Alana Serhan, second year forward Courtlyn Oswald along with alternate captains and fifth year players Lindsay Blight and Kayleigh Wiens.

There are several key additions to complement the returning veterans at Manitoba. Forward Venla Hovi has extensive international experience with the Finnish National team, competing in World Championships in 2007, ’08 and ’09 and also at the Olympics in 2010 and ’14 plus been a part of two Finnish National league championship teams in 2010-11 and was a Finnish national league All-Star in 2011-12 and 2013-14. Forwards Karissa Kirkup and Celine Caron will also make an immediate impact. Kirkup played for University of Maine in 2013-14 and for the Westman Wildcats (Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League) from 2009-13 and Caron played for the Eastman Selects (Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League) for the last three seasons (2012-15). 

The first goal of the young Bison team will be again to host a conference playoff round. Rempel believes the strengths of the team are the flexibility at the forward position where there are numerous options for lineups and ability to create scoring chances along with solid goaltending with the tandem of Dyck and third year Amanda Schubert. He stated, “The danger is using last year way too much this year…we are a good team and we need to think about process in January and February.”

 

MOUNT ROYAL

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 4-17-2-5

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: /

2014-15 Overall Record: 4-17-2-5

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: /

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: /

 

Number of new players: 7

Key Recruits:

Chantelle Beadman-Rolph (D/Williams Lake, BC/Prince George Cougars)
Elisha Cunningham (F/Gift Lake, AB/Notre Dame Hounds)

Kate Hufnagel (F/Cochrane, AB/Edge School Mountaineers)
Kennedy Bozek (F/Stoney Plain, AB/Spruce Grove Saints)
Talia Terry (F/Regina, SK/Notre Dame Hounds)
Hali Reardon (F/Calgary, AB/Edge School Mountaineers)

Channia Alexander (F/Calgary,AB/Edge School Mountaineers)

Number of departing players: 4

Key Losses (number of years with team): Tanika Dawson (F/5), Taralynn Suzuki (F/5), Janessa Jenkins (D/4), Jade Osadchuk (F/4)

Key performers: In goal, the Cougars have two of the top goaltenders in the conference sharing the goaltending duties. Veteran Jess Ross and second-year Emma Pincott split most of the playing time last season and will look to do the same in 2015-16. With a young core of rookies, the Cougars will have a more energetic look this year, but may be subject to growing pains in the process. If the goaltending tandem can provide a solid backbone for the squad, they are ready and poised to make their first Canada West playoff appearance.

Coach Quote:  “We have been excited about this group. The veterans coming back, with the summers they have had and the seven rookies and how they have rounded out our team overall. Their commitment on and off the ice here early on in preseason has been impressive and we are excited about the direction we are moving into. For us as a program we are at that point where we need to make that next step and get ourselves into the playoffs, there is no question that is the goal for the team this year.” –  Mount Royal head coach Scott Rivett

Key storyline: The playoffs will be determine the success of the Cougars this season. Mount Royal is entering their fourth season in the conference and have yet to make the playoffs. The Cougars have proven in years past that they can play with any team in the league on any given night, they just lack consistency throughout all 28 games. The influx of young talent this season will need to contribute if the Cougars want to grab one of the top six spots in the conference.

 

REGINA

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 15-11-2

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: 1-2

2014-15 Overall Record: 19-14-2

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: /

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: /

 

Number of new players: 3

Key Recruits (Name (POS/Hometown/Last Team)): Chelsea Perepeluk (F/Regina, SK/Michael A. Riffel HS), Jaycee Magwood (F/Kilalrny, Man./Westman Wildcats), Tamara McVannel (D/MacGregor, Man./Central Plains Capitals)

Number of departing players: 7

Key Losses (Name (POS/number of years with team)):  Triston Riemer (D/5), Jennifer Schmidt (G/4), Tori Head (F/3)

Key performer: Kylie Gavelin – led the team and tied for sixth in Canada West with 13 goals last season. 

Coach Quote: “I think the league is going to be very competitive this year but we’re more than capable to find ourselves right in the mix as long as we compete consistently.” – Regina Cougars head coach Sarah Hodges

Key storyline: How well the young players can step in and make an impact will go a long way in determining how far the Cougars go this season. The squad has plenty of proven, returning players, but will need some youngsters to bolster their depth and provide production on the third and fourth lines.

 

SASKATCHEWAN

2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 10-10-4-4

2014-15 CW Playoff Record: 0-2

2014-15 Overall Record: 14-16

Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: 2013-14/1

Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: /

 

Number of new players: 9

Key Recruits (Name (POS/Hometown/Last Team)): 

Leah Bohlken (D/Moose Jaw, SK/Notre Dame Hounds), Brooklyn Haubrich (F/Swift Current, SK/Swift Current Wildcats), Jenna Nash (D/Saskatoon, SK/Saskatoon Stars), Emma Nutter (D/Cochrane, AB/Warner Warriors)

Number of departing players: 2

Key Losses (number of years with team):

 Kandace Cook (F / 5 years), Chelsea Sundy (F / 5 years)

Key performer: Julia Flinton – 5th Year – Defence

Fifth-year Huskie Julia Flinton returns for her final season of eligibility to provide a strong veteran presence along the Saskatchewan blue line. Flinton was a Canada West first-team all-star in 2014-15 and was selected to play for Team Canada at the World Universiade in February. Flinton was sixth among Canada West defencemen in scoring.

Coach Quote: “We will be successful if we are consistent doing what we want to do versus doing what we can get away with. We have a mixture of really young talent and a good group of veteran leaders.” – Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Steve Kook.

Key storyline: The University of Saskatchewan Huskies will start the 2015-16 season with a large contingent of new faces. Nine Huskies will don the green and white for the first time this fall as the Huskies take to the ice. The freshmen join a host of veterans, only two seasons removed from the program’s first Canada West title and a bronze medal at the CIS Championship in 2013-14. A four game stretch at home to open the season will help the young additions and the returning veterans time to mesh before hitting the road for seven of their next eight games.