Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
A pair of well-rested Canada West teams are ready to give it their all this week in Calgary, as the CIS women's hockey nationals descend on the Stampede City.
For the second consecutive season the Calgary Dinos welcome the best women’s hockey teams in the nation to Winsport, where the hosts are looking to get the most out of their dynamic duo.
Led by Russian Olympians Iya Gavrilova and Sasha Vafina, who were one-two in Canada West scoring this season, the Dinos enter the tourney looking to recapture the momentum of a second half which saw them pickup nine wins in their final 12 games to sneak into the conference playoffs.
Despite bowing out in the opening round of the playoffs to the Regina Cougars, head coach Danielle Goyette expects her team to bring a quality performance to the table, regardless of an extended break from game action.
“As a student when you don’t have games at the end of the week, it’s harder for them to know how hard they have to work day after day to keep focused on the goal of nationals,” Goyette pointed out.
It’s been a crazy season for Calgary, who needed a tremendous second half push just to make the Canada West playoffs. That push came thanks in large part to the play of goaltender Hayley Dowling.
“At the beginning of the season we knew we had a lot of new players coming in, but our biggest surprise was our goalies didn’t play the way we thought they were capable of playing,” Goyette explained. “It cost us some games at the beginning and they were frustrated too.”
“That’s where we saw the biggest difference in the second half of the season – our goalies played the way they should and the way we expect them to play.”
Joining the Dinos in Calgary are the conference champion UBC Thunderbirds, who head to the Stampede City as the No. 4 seed after winning the conference title more than a week ago.
UBC enters the tournament after playing a trio of must-win games during the conference playoffs, including last weekend’s Game 3 win over Manitoba in the Canada West Final.
“It’s nice, because going into nationals that’s going to help prepare us,” UBC head coach Graham Thomas said of his team’s playoff experience. “We’re the only team this year that had to win a championship to go to nationals, so we feel that was a great experience for us.”
The trip to Calgary is UBC’s second national tournament visit, after a surprising run to the event in 2013.
“The Thunderbirds had never won more than eight games in a season, let alone a playoff game, or series,” Thomas pointed out with respect to his team's previous trip to the CIS tournament where UBC
“We were kind of happy to be there type thing – eyes wide open and taking it all in. We still competed hard, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the same level of rest and preparation and a belief that now we’re going there with a lot of returning girls having been there before.”
“They’re going to be a little more determined and have more belief as a team that we’re going in there to win it and we can.”
1. Guelph Gryphons (OUA champions: 21-2-1 regular season / 5-1 playoffs)
2. Montreal Carabins (RSEQ champions: 15-3-2 regular season / 4-0 playoffs)
3. Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS champions: 17-6-1 regular season / 4-2 playoffs)
4. UBC Thunderbirds (CWUAA champions: 16-9-3 regular season / 4-2 playoffs)
5. McGill Martlets (RSEQ finalists: 13-5-2 regular season / 2-2 playoffs)
6. Western Mustangs (OUA finalists: 15-8-1 regular season / 4-2 playoffs)
7. Calgary Dinos (Hosts: 12-12-4 regular season / 0-2 playoffs)
8. St. Thomas Tommies (AUS finalists: 16-7-1 regular season / 5-2 playoffs)
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times MOUNTAIN TIME)
Wednesday, March 16
7:00-17:45 60-minute practices OPEN TO MEDIA (Markin MacPhail Centre - A Arena)
18:00 Sun Life Financial All-Canadian Banquet (Markin MacPhail Centre – Winsport Ballroom)
Thursday, March 17
11:00 Quarter-final 1: No. 8 St. Thomas vs. No. 1 Guelph (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
15:00 Quarter-final 2: No. 5 McGill vs. No. 4 UBC (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Friday, March 18
11:00 Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
15:00 Quarter-final 3: No. 6 Western vs. No. 3 Saint Mary’s (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
19:00 Quarter-final 4: No. 7 Calgary vs. No. 2 Montreal (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Saturday, March 19
10:00 Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
14:00 Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet ONE / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
17:30 Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet ONE / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
Sunday, March 20
8:45 Bronze (www.CIS-SIC.tv) (at Joan Snyder Arena)
9:00 5th-place game (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
12:30 Final (Sportsnet 360 & TVA Sports 2 / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
* Webcast of the semifinals & final are on pay-per-view basis.