Canada West: UBC's Tatiana Rafter named women's hockey Player of the Year, Huskies claim two awards

Canada West: UBC's Tatiana Rafter named women's hockey Player of the Year, Huskies claim two awards
EDMONTON – Canada West scoring leader Tatiana Rafter becomes the first UBC Thunderbird to win the Player of the Year, while two members of the Saskatchewan Huskies have also won year-end awards.

The fourth-year forward from Winnipeg was the major offensive force behind a UBC team that won 20 regular season games for the first time in program history.

With 20 goals and 18 assists in 28 games, Rafter finished the season seven points ahead of her closest competitor in the Canada West scoring race. She led the league in goals, points and power play goals (9) and tied for first in shorthanded goals (2) and game-winning goals (6).

Tatiana Rafter was a Second Team Canada West All-Star last season and in December, she scored 15 points in seven games to help Canada win the gold medal in women's hockey at the 2013 Winter Universiade in Trentino, Italy.

“We are extremely proud of Tatiana and her accomplishments this season,” said UBC head coach Graham Thomas. “Since the end of the season last year, she has been on a mission, trained so hard over the summer and continued that work ethic into the season. She plays the game with a lot of speed, skill, size and most importantly, heart and passion. Tatiana cares so much about the team and our program, this is a first for our program and she is very deserving of this award.”

Making a big impression in her first season in the CIS, University of Saskatchewan Huskie Kaitlin Willoughby was named Rookie of the Year.

Willoughby, a 5-6 forward, turned heads this season sitting fourth in scoring in the Canada West with 10 goals and 15 assists. The 25 points, 13 more than the next best freshman, led all rookies in the Canada West and put her 19th in overall scoring in the CIS. The Prince Albert, Sask., native with a +19 rating was a threat on the power play five goals with the man advantage and took just six penalty minutes himself.

“Kaitlin was an important part of our success this season,” said Huskie head coach Steve Kook. “It is difficult to come into this league and make an impact as a rookie. For Kaitlin to not only make an impact but consistently be an impact player week in and week out is a testament to her competitive nature. She's worked hard in preparation for her rookie season and has worked hard at being a successful student-athlete during her first year at the University of Saskatchewan. She was an everyday top six forward and we look forward to seeing what her future holds.”

Saskatchewan (18-4-6) finished in second place in the Canada West standings earning hosting duties for the first time in history

The Marion Hilliard Student-Athlete Award nominee is Amy Lee of the Manitoba Bisons, who completed her fifth and final season with the Bisons and was instrumental in a leadership role as team captain.

The Brandon, Man. native enjoyed a career scoring year in 2013-14 with 22 points (eight goals and 14 assists) and helped propel the team to a fourth place in Canada West with a 17-7-4 regular season record. While not missing a single conference game (128) during her university career, she has also not missed an opportunity to create a lasting impression to her school and in the community.

Lee has been exceptional in the classroom as a three-time CIS Academic All-Canadian (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13) and based on her marks so far this year, she will once again earn this recognition in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

The 22 year-old has been very active helping out in her community by volunteering in Brandon and Winnipeg as a mentor to young female hockey players through on and off ice workouts. Over the past two years, she created a program with Bison teammates and her visit numerous minor hockey practices across the city of Winnipeg. They run a practice, teach skills, and encourage the players plus there is a question and answer program involved where the volunteering Bisons answer any queries the young players have in regards to university hockey.

In addition, Lee has been involed as the Christmas Cheer coordinator, part of Bisons Against Bullying, a group/team leader with Bison Book Buddies, spends time working with the Manitoba Triathlon Association, volunteering at track and field and assisting at Parks Canada as a musician, mandolin and voice coach.

Coach Jon Rempel commented, “Amy embodies the true spirit of this award and is a deserving recipient of the Canada West nomination. She has been a true ambassador for this program over the last five years, on the ice, in the classroom and in the community. She has built an extremely strong connection with minor female hockey teams in the City of Winnipeg and has also worked tirelessly to promote our program through various community events and outreach activities. Her contributions are valued and have made an impact.”

For the third time in his career, University of Saskatchewan women's hockey head coach Steve Kook has been named Canada West Coach of the Year.

Kook, in his ninth-year at the helm of the Huskies, led the team to a historic season. The Huskies set program benchmarks with an 18-4-6 record, finished second for the first time and finished in a hosting spot for the conference postseason for the first time.

“Steve is well-deserving of this outstanding honour,” said UofS athletic director Basil Hughton. “He has worked extremely hard this year, adding new dimensions to growing as a coach to work with a young team. This is award and historic season his team has accomplished is evidence that his commitment has paid dividends.”

In his nine seasons with the Huskies, Kook has a 110-95-13 record. He was named Canada West Coach of the Year in 2007-08 and 2009-10. He went on to win the award at the CIS level in the 2009-10 season. Kook has had 16 players named Canada West All-Stars during his tenure and two Canada West MVPs.

AWARDS

Player of the Year: Tatiana Rafter, UBC

Rookie of the Year: Kaitlin Willoughby, Saskatchewan

Marion Hilliard CIS Student-Athlete Award nominee: Amy Lee, Manitoba

Coach of the Year: Steve Kook, Saskatchewan

ALL-STARS

First Team                                          Second Team
G: Lindsey Post, Alberta                  Cassidy Hendricks, Saskatchewan
D: Sarah Casorso, UBC                  Christi Capozzi, UBC
D: Caitlin MacDonald, Manitoba     Julia Flinton, Saskatchewan
F:  Kyleigh Palmer, Manitoba           Janelle Parent, Calgary
F: Tatiana Rafter, UBC                       Jaden Skoye, Alberta
F: Cami Wooster, Saskatchewan    Meagan Vestby, Manitoba

ALL-ROOKIES (alphabetical by position)
Goal           Karen Lefsrud, Saskatchewan

Defence     Caitlin Fyten, Manitoba
                     Nikki Watters-Matthes, Regina

Forwards    Hannah Heisler, UBC
                     Deanna Morin, Alberta
                     Kaitlin Willoughby, Saskatchewan

Previous selection by this year's Award Winners & All-Stars

Christi Capozzi, UBC
2013 CW 2nd

Caitlin Macdonald, Man
2013 CW 1st, 2011 CW 2nd, 2010 CW 1st & CW / CIS Rookie of the Year

Tatiana Rafter, UBC
2013 CW 2nd

Award winners are now finalists for national awards, to be handed out by CIS at the 2014 championship, hosted by St. Thomas University in Fredericton, NB, March 13-16.

This weekend's best-of-three Canada West final between the Regina Cougars and Saskatchewan Huskies opens on Friday in Saskatoon, with the series winner advancing to CIS Nationals. Games can be viewed live on http://canadawest.tv.

About Canada West Universities Athletic Association
Canada West is consistently the most decorated of the four conferences in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, winning 100 CIS national titles over the last 10 seasons. Comprised of 17 schools from the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, Canada West produces numerous major award winners and Academic All-Canadian student-athletes each year, with many going on to athletic success around the globe in pro leagues or events such as the Olympics, Paralympics or Universiade Games. canadawest.org / canadawest.tv / @cwuaa on Twitter

A proud member of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).