Season preview: UBC heads into 2016-17 with high expectations

Season preview: UBC heads into 2016-17 with high expectations

Canada West Communications

NEW WESTMINSTER – For just the second time in program history, the UBC Thunderbirds women’s hockey squad enters the new season with an extra bullseye on their collective backs, as they aim to defend as Canada West champions.

UBC’s win over the Manitoba Bisons in last year’s conference final propelled the T-Birds to the national tournament, where UBC came up just a win short of the program’s first CIS title. 

With eight fifth-year players on their roster, including defensive stalwart Kelly Murray, the Thunderbirds are expected to fly high again this year under the guidance of bench boss Graham Thomas. 

UBC earned five of a possible seven first-place votes in the annual coaches pre-season poll (47 pts.) and opens the 2016-17 Canada West women’s hockey season this weekend at home against the Saskatchewan Huskies. 

COMPLETE 2016-17 SCHEDULE

The Huskies slotted in fifth in the coaches poll with 24 points, but if last season proved anything in the conference, it’s a virtual toss-up who will come out on top any given night. 

Just six points separated the fourth-place Huskies (44 pts.) from the first-place Alberta Pandas (50 pts.) in the regular season standings, with the race at the bottom of the standings just as tight, as Lethbridge and Mount Royal ended up just outside the six-team playoff picture.

While a competitive season given the current competitive landscape in the conference is a certainty, there is at least one big question on the eve of the season opening – who takes over as the conference goal scoring leader? 

With Calgary’s Iya Gavrilova having moved on from the program, a new face will take over for the two-time conference goal scoring leader as Canada West women’s hockey’s most-feared sniper.

Current Dino Sasha Vafina is a clear contender for the title after her 14-goal season in 2015-16, while Regina’s Emma Waldenberger is also in the pre-season mix after she netted 13 goals last season to finish third in the goal scoring race. 

While Waldenberger’s Cougars are expected to be in the midst of the race for first according to the coaches poll (35 pts.), Vafina and the Dinos (13 pts.) will be in a race for a playoff spot if the coaches poll is any indication. 

Calgary, fresh off hosting the national tournament the last season, is in the midst of a rebuilding phase with nine rookies on the roster this season.

For a complete look at each of the conference’s eight women’s hockey programs, take a look at the team previews below.

Once again this season, viewers will be able to watch every women’s hockey regular season and playoff game on Canadawest.tv with a conference hockey pass for only $30 CAD.

 

2016-17 CW women’s hockey pre-season coaches poll

Team / Points (first-place votes)

1. UBC / 47 (5)

2. Alberta / 39 (2)

3. Manitoba / 39 (1)

4. Regina / 35

5. Saskatchewan / 24

6. Mount Royal / 16

7. Calgary / 13

8. Lethbridge / 11

NOTES: Alberta earned 2nd with more 1st-place votes than Manitoba. 1st-place vote worth 7 pts., 2nd worth 6 pts. etc.

 

TEAM PREVIEWS

UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA PANDAS

2015-16 CW regular season record: 16-9-3, 1st

2015-16 post-season record: 1-2, lost to MAN in SF

 

Last CW championship / total CW championships:  2014-15/ 12

Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: 2009-10 / 7

 

2015-16 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 62 goals, 4th

Defence: 39 goals against, 1st

Power play: 14.3%, 3rd

Penalty kill: 92.5%, 1st

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 11 – Alex Poznikoff, F

Assists: 11 – Morgan Kelly, D

Points: 16 – Alex Poznikoff, F

Wins: 14 – Lindsey Post, G

Shutouts: 8 – Lindsey Post, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Kelsey Tangjerd / F / 1st  / Calgary, AB/ Calgary Fire

Kennedy Ganser / F / 1st / Provost, AB/ Warner Warriors

Taylor Kezama/ D / 1st / Camrose, AB/ St. FX Hockey Academy

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Janelle Froehler / F / Red Deer, AB / 5

Lindsey Cunningham / F / Calgary, AB / 5

Natasha Steblin / D / Richmond, BC / 5

 

Key performer:

Alex Poznikoff

Forward

Second

Edmonton, AB

With the departure of six of Alberta’s prominent players, including five forwards, the spotlight will now shine fully on sophomore sniper Alex Poznikoff. The Edmonton native led the Pandas with 11 goals and 16 points a year ago, while also tying for the Canada West rookie lead in goals. Poznikoff - along with third-year Hannah Olenyk and fourth-year’s Deanna and Ashley Morin - will now take over as Alberta’s major offensive threat. Poznikoff also participated in Hockey Canada’s development camp in August, and has already scored nine goals in seven pre-season games.

 

UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA THUNDERBIRDS

2015-16 CW regular season record: 13-3-9-3, 2nd

2015-16 post-season record: 6-3, 2nd at CIS women’s championship

 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2016 / 2

Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: - / -

 

2015-16 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 69 goals, 2nd

Defence: 53 goals against, T-2nd

Power play: 12.1%, 6th

Penalty kill: 86.3%, 4th

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 12 – Rebecca Unrau, F, and Kathleen Cahoon, F

Assists: 15 – Kelly Murray, D

Points: 24 – Rebecca Unrau, F

Wins: 9 – Danielle Dube, G

Shutouts: 3 – Danielle Dube, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Cassandra Vilgrain / F / 4 / Calgary, Alta. / University of New Hampshire

Amelia Boughn / G / 1 / Toronto, Ont. / Cornell University

Alexa Ranahan / D / 4 / Salmon Arm, B.C. / Ohio State University

Mairead Bast / D / 1 / Red Deer, Alta. / Team Alberta

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Danielle Dube / G / New Westminster, B.C. / 4

Rebecca Unrau / F / Humboldt, Sask. / 5

Samantha Langford / G / Pense, Sask. / 5

Cailey Hay / D / Oakbank, Man. / 5

 

Key performer:

Kathleen Cahoon

Forward

4th

Calgary, Alta. 

Tied for 2015-16 team lead in goals with 12 in 28 Canada West games played. Cahoon was second on the UBC roster in total points with 21. She then tallied four in three games at the CIS Women’s Hockey Championship, where the Thunderbirds finished second.

 

UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY DINOS

Regular Season Record: 9-3-12-4, 6th

Playoff Record: 0-2-0-0, lost to REG in QF

 

CIS Championship: 2-0-1-0 - - - 5th Place finish/Win over St. Thomas in consolation final

Last Canada West Championship: 2011-2012

Last CIS Championship: 2011-2012

 

Regular Season Ranks – Canada West

Offence: 64 goals, 3rd

Defence: 80 goals against, 7th

Powerplay: 12%, 7th

Penalty Kill: 83.6%, 7th

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: Iya Gavrilova, 20, F

Assists: Iya Gavrilova, 23, F

Points: Iya Gavrilova, 43, F

Wins: Hayley Dowling, 10, G

Shutouts: Hayley Dowling, 2, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Madison Turk / D / 5 / Calgary, AB / Western University

Rachel Paul / F / 1 / Fairview, AB / Grande Prairie Storm

Tori Stebnitsky / F / 1 / Kenora, ON / Balmoral Hall Blazers

Sage Desjardins / F / 1 / Prince George, BC / Northern Capitals

Audrey Buston / F / 1 / Calgary, AB / Midget Fire

Sara Craven / F / 1 / Calgary, AB / Edge School

Kelsey Roberts / G / 1 / Kitimat, BC / Northern Capitals

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Iya Gavrilova / F / Krasnoyarsk, RU / 5

Stephanie Zvonkovic / D / Calgary, AB / 5

 

Key Performer:

Sasha Vafina

Forward

Fourth-year

Chelyabinsk, RUS 

Forward Sasha Vafina enters another season with the Dinos, coming off of a CIS All-Canadian year in 2015-16. A member of the Russian national team, Vafina will be a key factor in the Dinos offensive success. Last season, she finished second in the conference in points with 35 (14 goals, 21 assists), just eight behind the leader and former Dinos teammate Iya Gavrilova.

 

UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE PRONGHORNS

2015-16 CW regular season record: 13-14-1, 7th

2015-16 post-season record: N/A

 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: N/A

Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: N/A

 

2015-16 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 52 goals, 7th

Defence: 70 goals against, 7th

Power play: 14.3%, T-3rd

Penalty kill: 84.2%, 6th

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 8 – Kirsten Reeves, C

Assists: 12 – Jocelyn Sabourin, D

Points: 16 – Jocelyn Sabourin, D

Wins: 13 – Alicia Anderson, G

Shutouts: 2 – Alicia Anderson, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Mikaela Reay / F / 1st / Bashaw, AB / St. Francis X-Treme

Olivia Alexander / F / 1st / Victoria, BC / Pacific Steelers

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Kirsten Reeves / C / Edmonton / 5

Lauren Fredrich / RW /Cochrane / 4

Jocelyn Sabourin / D / Oxbow, SK /4

 

Key performer:

Alicia Anderson

Goalie

2nd

Calgary, AB

Success for the Pronghorns this season will start from the goal line out and Alicia Anderson will be a key factor if the ‘Horns are able to make that next step and qualify for the post-season. As a freshman, Anderson won her seven of her first nine start and finished the season with a 2.28 goals-against-average and a 0.927 save percentage in 25 appearances.

 

UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA BISONS

2015-16 CW regular season record: 13-13-0-2, 5th

2015-16 post-season record: 5-4, lost to UBC in CWF

 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2010-11 / 2

Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: 0

 

2015-16 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 57 goals, 6th

Defence: 52 goals against, 2nd

Power play: 14.3%, 4th

Penalty kill: 90.7%, 2nd

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 10 – Alanna Sharman, F

Assists: 12 – Alanna Sharman, F

Points: 22 – Alanna Sharman, F

Wins: 8 – Rachel Dyck, G

Shutouts: 3 – Amanda Schubert, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Jordyn Zacharias / F / 2 / Winnipeg, MB / Univ. of Connecticut

Sheridan Oswald / F / 1 / MacGregor, MB / Central Plains Capitals

Jenai Buchanan / D / 1 / Crystal City, MB / Pembina Valley Hawks

Megan Neduzak / D / 1 / Morden, MB / Pembina Valley Hawks

Mekaela Fisher / F / 1 / Warren, MB / Central Plains Capitals

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Lindsay Blight / D / Portage la Prairie, MB / 5

Kayleigh Wiens / F/ Winkler, MB / 5

 

Key performer:

Alanna Sharman

Forward

3

Winnipeg, MB

People talk about sophomore slumps, but Bison forward Alanna Sharman did not succumb to that as she powered through more defensive set-ups against her during the 2015-16 conference season and still led the team and finished eighth in Canada West scoring with 22 points (ten goals, 12 assists) while playing in all 28 conference regular season games.

As Bison women’s hockey head coach Jon Rempel stated, “she drives this team and as she goes, so goes the Bisons.” High praise for the 2014-15 CIS and Canada West women’s hockey rookie of the year.

Sharman has continued to be a force with the Bisons and now has received her first captaincy with Manitoba in her third season as an alternate captain and it speaks volumes of the presence she has one and off the ice with this squad.

The Winnipeg forward will build on her first two seasons and looks to be once again as one of the top forwards in Canada West in 2016-17 season.

 

MOUNT ROYAL UNIVERSITY COUGARS

2015-16 CW regular season record: 8-14-3-3, 8th 

2015-16 post-season record: N/A

 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: N/A

Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: N/A

 

2015-16 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 50 GF, 8th 

Defence: 64 GA, 4th

Power play: 10.0%, 8th

Penalty kill: 85.3%, 5th

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 11 – Sarah Weninger, F

Assists: 9 – Jocelyn Froehlich, D

Points: 16 – Sarah Weninger, F

Wins: 6 – Emma Pincott, G

Shutouts: 3 – Jess Ross, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Zoe DeBeauville / G / 1 / Calgary, Alta. / Calgary Fire

Tiana Ko / F / 1 / Calgary, Alta. / Calgary Fire

Erin McLean / D / 4 / Trail, BC / SAIT Trojans

Anna Purschke / F / 1 / Sherwood Park, Alta. / Sherwood Park Fury

Nicolette Seper / D / 1 / Cochrane, Alta. / Rocky Mountain Raiders

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Jocelyn Froehlich / D / Moose Jaw, Sask. / 5

Janessa Jenkins / F / Salmon Arm, BC / 5

Jess Ross / G / Calgary, Alta. / 5

 

Key performer:

Emma Pincott

Goaltender

3rd-year

Cochrane, Alta.

With the departure of perennial starter Jess Ross, the crease now belongs to Emma Pincott. After a sensational rookie season that saw Pincott named to the All-Rookie team, she continued to show poise in the Cougars’ goal in her sophomore campaign. Pincott will be the key to their success if the Cougars look to make the playoffs for the first time in program history.

 

UNIVERSITY OF REGINA COUGARS

2015-16 CW regular season record: 12-10-5-1, 3rd

2015-16 post-season record: 3-2, lost to UBC in SF

 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: N/A

Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: N/A

 

2015-16 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 71 goals, 1st

Defence: 66 goals against, 6th

Power play: 15.4%, 2nd

Penalty kill: 86.8%, 3rd

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 13 – Emma Waldenberger, F

Assists: 16 – Kylie Gavelin, F

Points: 27 – Kylie Gavelin, F

Wins: 17 – Toni Ross, G

Shutouts: 3 – Toni Ross, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Lilla Carpenter-Boesch / F / 1 / Gray, Sask. / Regina Rebels

Sam Geekie / F / 1 / Strathclair, Man. / Yellowhead Cheifs

Merissa Zerr / F / 1 / Mankota, Sask. / Swift Current Wildcats

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Stephanie Sawchuk / F / Melville, Sask. / 5

Toni Ross / G / Verwood, Sask. / 4

Brooklyn Moskowy / F / Regina, Sask. / 5

Carleen Meszaros / D / St. Benedict, Sask. / 5

 

Key performer:

Jaycee Magwood

Forward

2nd

Killarney, Man.

Magwood is coming off a Canada West rookie of the year campaign in which she tallied 11 goals and 15 assists – good enough for fourth overall in the conference scoring race. Played in all 28 Canada West games for the Cougars, second on the team in scoring behind Kylie Gavelin (11G, 16 A).

 

UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES

2015-16 CW regular season record: 14-9-5, 4th

2015-16 post-season record: 1-2, lost to MAN in QF

 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2013-14 / 1

Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: N/A

 

2015-16 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 61 goals, 5th

Defence: 62 goals against, 4th

Power play: 16.8%, 1st

Penalty kill: 81.8%, 8th

 

2015-16 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 10 – Kaitlin Willoughby, F

Assists: 22 – Julia Flinton, D

Points: 26 – Julia Flinton, D

Wins: 12 – Cassidy Hendricks, G

Shutouts: 1 – Jerrica Waltz, G

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Kayla Kirwan / D / Gull Lake, SK / 1

Emily Upgang / F / Poplar Point, MB / 1

Jasey Rae Book / G / Loreburn, SK / 1

 
 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program): 

Julia Flinton / D / Williams Lake, B.C. / 5

Hanna McGillvray / D / Saskatoon, SK / 5

Marley Ervine / F / Kindersley, SK / 5

Brooke Mutch / D / Nokomis, SK / 5

Paige Anakaer / F / Moose Jaw, SK / 5

 

Key performer:

Kaitlin Willoughby

Forward

4th

Prince Albert, SK 

Arguably one of the best players to wear a University of Saskatchewan women’s hockey uniform, Kaitlin Willoughby will be looked at to lead the Huskies’ offence in 2016-17. The fourth-year forward was selected as a participant in the Hockey Canada Women’s Development Camp in August. In three seasons with the Huskies, Willoughby has tallied 31 goals and 40 assists. In 2013-14, she was named the Canada West, CIS and Huskie Athletics Rookie of the Year.