PRESEASON PREVIEW (Women’s Hockey): Dinos & Pandas head list of contenders for Huskies’ crown

PRESEASON PREVIEW (Women’s Hockey): Dinos & Pandas head list of contenders for Huskies’ crown

NEW WESTMINSTER, BC – The 2014-15 Canada West women's hockey season is set to begin this Friday, October 3 and it promises to be compelling with the defending conference champion Saskatchewan Huskies attempting to fend off an improved field of contenders. 


The Calgary Dinos are favoured according to the preseason coaches' poll, while the Alberta Pandas reinforced their roster after their early postseason exit following a conference-best regular season.  In Vancouver, the UBC Thunderbirds are welcoming most of their 2013-14 squad that set school records for wins and points in the regular season.


Rounding out the conference are the Regina Cougars, Manitoba Bisons, Lethbridge Pronghorns and Mount Royal Cougars – all intent on building on last season's performance and making noise this year.


Here's a closer look at each team, ahead of what is expected to be an unpredictable season in women's hockey.



University of Alberta Pandas

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 2nd

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Lost in semifinals

2013-14 CW Record: 20-5-3

Last CIS Title: 2010

Last CW Title: 2010

Key returnees: Jessica Kampjes, Lindsey Post, Kirsten Toth, Jessica Sekulic, Amy Helfrich, Hannah Mousek, Kayla Lavallee, Ashley Morin, Deanna Morin, Janelle Froehler, Ali Campbell, Tess Houston


Key additions: Hannah Olenyk, Sasha Lutz, Nicole Reimer, Jessie Olfert, Sam Belanger, Hannah Baker, Alexandra Knol 


Key departures: Katie Stewart, Jocelyn Zabrick, Michala Jefferies, Jayden Skoye, Montanna Noyes


EDMONTON – One season after finishing first in the Canada West women's hockey standings, the University of Alberta Pandas hockey team looks poised to fight for first place again, as they get set to open the 2014-15 regular season.


Last season the Pandas won 11 of their last 12 regular season games, and in the process leapt up the standings to finish first overall with a 20-5-3 record. The program did struggle in the post-season however, losing in three games, at home, to the Regina Cougars to end their season on a surprising note.


Now, with a healthy mix of veterans and a nice crop of rookies, Howie Draper's team has the make-up of a Canada West contender. While the team will miss the presence of Jayden Skoye, who finished third in team scoring, as well as captain Katie Stewart and Jocelyn Zabrick, who led Alberta's blue-line in scoring, Alberta does seem prepared to fill those holes.


Third-year forward Jessica Kampjes should lead the team in offence, once again, after finishing last season as the team's leading scorer, and seventh in Canada West, with 11 goals and 22 points in 28 games. Ali Campbell, who finished second in team scoring last season with 20 points, is also back, while fourth-year forward Janelle Froehler will serve as the new team captain. Tess Houston, Ashley and Deanna Morin and Amy Helfrich are all impact players that return up front as well.


Goaltender Lindsey Post, now in her third year since moving from Chelsea, Quebec, will be the team's starting goalie. Post finished last season with 15 games played, and a 9-6 win-loss record, but was named a Canada West first team all-star, and a CIS second team all-Canadian, thanks to a conference record seven shutouts.


Alberta's blue-line looks strong as well with Kirsten Toth, Hannah Mousek and Kayla Lavallee all back in the fold. Lavallee, in fact, is Alberta's lone fifth-year player on the roster this season.


Rookie forward Hannah Olenyk, who hails from Cochrane, Alberta, looks to be an impact player in her first season, while fellow forward freshmen Sasha Lutz, who is a transfer from MacEwan University where she led the team in scoring, and defenceman Jessie Olfert will be key players from the beginning of the season as well.


The Pandas open the regular season over the October 3-4 weekend with a series on the road against the Lethbridge Pronghorns.


UBC Thunderbirds

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 4th

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Lost in quarterfinals

2013-14 CW Record: 20-6-2

Last CIS Title: N/A

Last CW Title: 2013

Key returnees: Tatiana Rafter, Sarah Casorso, Nicole Saxvik, Stephanie Schaupmeyer, Cailey Hay, Danielle Dube, and Danielle Lemon


Key additions: Logan Boyd, Madison Patrick, Kaylin Snodgrass, and Celine Tardif


Key departures: Christi Capozzi


VANCOUVER – Coming off a record-setting season in which the program set new highs for wins in a regular season (20) and points in a regular season (42), expect the UBC Thunderbirds to once again challenge for the Canada West crown in 2014-15.


UBC returns the bulk of its lineup from last year including Canada West Player of the Year and CIS First Team All-Canadian Tatiana Rafter, as well as CIS First Team All-Canadian defenceman Sarah Casorso. However, as with every program across the country, head coach Graham Thomas was focused this off-season on the next crops of Thunderbirds to join the program.


"We have brought in impact players that will compete right away for playing time and solidify our lineup," said Thomas, now in his third season at the helm of the Thunderbirds program. "The goal this off-season was to strengthen our back end and we did that by adding a NCAA Division 1 transfer player and three capable rookies."


Up front the Thunderbirds return the top line of Rafter (20g, 18a), Nicole Saxvik (10g, 14a), and Stephanie Schaupmeyer (9g, 11a). Rafter led the conference in just about every offensive category becoming the first UBC player ever to be named Canada West Player of the Year. However, look for Thomas to break up the trio in order to provide a more balanced attack, as secondary scoring became a concern late in the season last year, especially the playoffs.


Nikola Brown-John is set for her fifth and final season with the Thunderbirds. She has found a spark alongside Rafter and rookie Logan Boyd in exhibition play. Boyd, a Waterdown, ON product, was one of the most heavily-recruited players in the country. Katie Zinn, who is set for her first full season with UBC after redshirting the first half of 2013-14, has joined forces with Saxvik and Schaupmeyer. Second-year players Kathleen Cahoon and Melissa Goodwin have joined up with Haneet Parhar, while Jenna Caprenter-Boesch, Emily O'Neill, and Krista Wilson have joined forces and are expected to use their speed and energy to cause problems for the opposition. Rebecca Unrau and Hannah Heisler come into the season recovering from injuries this summer and will slowly work their way back into the lineup.


Defensively, the Thunderbirds will be led by Casorso. She led all Canada West defencemen in scoring in 2013-14. Fourth-year Cailey Hay and second-year Devon Morrison are the only other returnees on the back end. With the loss of captain Christi Capozzi to graduation and Stephanie Payne having to redshirt this season due to injury, much will be expected of the rookies to step up and take on a big role. Leading the group is Kelly Murray who transferred from Cornell University after two seasons. Talented 18-year-old rookies Madison Patrick, Kaylin Snodgrass, and Celine Tardif will join her.


When it comes to goaltending, no team in the entire country boasts the riches of the UBC Thunderbirds. Back are former CIS Second Team All-Canadian Danielle Dube (13-3-1, 2.17 GAA, .925 SV%), Danielle Lemon (5-1-0, 1.33 GAA, .948 SV%) and Samantha Langford (2-3-0, 1.74 GAA, .938%). Added to the mix this season is fifth-year Katie Greenway, who played four years at St. Francis Xavier and led the X-Women to two AUS Championships.


University of Calgary Dinos

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 1st

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Lost in quarterfinals

2013-14 CW Record: 12-14-2

Last CIS Title: 2012

Last CW Title: 2012

Key returnees: Jenna Smith, Janelle Parent


Key additions: Hayley Wickenheiser, Iya Gavriolova


Key departures: Calaine Inglis, Amanda Tapp, Sinead Tracey


CALGARY – After a season of trials and tribulations, which ended with a narrow defeat in the Canada West quarterfinals, the University of Calgary Dinos are revamped and are set to be serious contenders for a national title in 2014-15.


Head coach Danielle Goyette returns behind the bench this season after helping lead the Canadian Women's National Team to a gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. This will be Goyette's seventh season with the Dinos. Calgary made two National Championship Final appearances with Goyette at the helm – claiming the national title up in Edmonton in 2012.


"I'm looking forward to working with the team again, I missed the group last year. Working with the National team is fun but I'm excited to be back," said Goyette. "To see the difference the girls have grown in a year, you notice it more when you've been away.


"That's what I'm looking forward to, is the improvement in the team."


Along with their head coach, the Dinos' season opener will also feature the return of two snipers from the team's past.


Six-time Olympian and four-time Gold Medalist Hayley Wickenheiser will make her return to Father David Bauer Arena. It will be Wickeheiser's fourth year with the Dinos since coming to the program in 2010.


Also returning from Sochi is Iya Gavrilova. The Russian forward was part of the Dinos' first National Championship in school history during her first CIS season in 2011. Gavrilova, who was fourth in the conference in scoring during 2012-13, has made an immediate impact since returning to Calgary. She will wear the 'C' for the team this upcoming season.


"It will be a different team this year, Iya and Hayley are back and that really pushes our team to another level. These players are used to high expectations and that is what they are going to bring to the team. They want to perform and do well and that's going to bring other players to the next level," said Goyette.


This season, the Dinos will host the CIS Women's Hockey Championship and will automatically have a spot in the tournament along with a chance to claim their second title in four seasons. Even with that spot secured, Calgary isn't letting it have a large influence on their mindset heading into the 2014-2015 season.


"We want to bring our performance to the next level, we don't want to go through the back-door, we want to go through the front door and do well this season," said Goyette on hosting the nationals.


The Dinos will host the 2014-2015 National Championship from March 12-15 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Winsport's Canada Olympic Park.


The Dinos have a total of 14 returning players from last year's 2013-2014 season which should make for a good mix with the return of Gavrilova and Wickenheiser. The Dinos recruiting class has five first-years, as well as Aimme DiBella who previously played for Colgate University and goaltender Amanda Wieben, who played for the Dinos two years ago.


"During tryouts you knew the recruits were going to fit in well and up to this point we've just been growing every day," says Janelle Parent. "It's fun to be a part of, we have a bond both on and off the ice."


The biggest area of change for the Dinos will be in goal. With veteran goalie Amanda Tapp graduating, Calgary will look to their second year netminder Hayley Dowling to hold her own between the pipes. Dowling held a goals-against average of 1.14 through 10 games and had a save percentage of 0.938 in her rookie year.


Offensively this season, Parent will have some help with the return of Gavrilova and Wickenheiser. Both forwards were large point contributors in the 2012-2013 season when Wickenheiser led the team and Canada West with 43 points. Gavrilova was right behind her with 28 points on the season.


Calgary's backend won't see many changes with five returning defenseman. DiBella will join the defence as well as first-year Georgina Williams.


"This upcoming weekend is an opportunity for us to set the tone now for how we want to get to nationals and bring our game to the next level," said Parent.


Calgary will begin their season with a home-and-home against their cross-city rivals, the Mount Royal University Cougars. The weekend kicks off on Friday, October 3 with a 7 p.m. puck drop at the Father David Bauer Arena before heading down Crowchild to face off at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Flames Community Arenas.


University of Lethbridge Pronghorns

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 7th

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Record: 7-16-5

Last CIS Title: N/A

Last CW Title: N/A

Key returnees: Crystal Patterson, Kirsten Reeves, Sadie Lenstra, Sarah Spence


Key additions: Chelsea Kasprick, Jodi Gentile, Delaney Duchek, Brook Paisley


Key departures: Jenna-Marie Durnin, Megan Bailey, Glenda Edie, Erica Williams


LETHBRIDGE – Coming off a second consecutive seventh place finish in Canada West and missing the postseason for the second year in a row, the Lethbridge Pronghorn women's hockey team enters the 2014-15 season with a good mix of returning veterans and newcomers.


The 'Horns return 14 players from last year's squad as well as adding one American College transfer and eight true freshmen.


For this coming season, the success for the Pronghorns starts in the crease. 2011-12 Canada West First Team All-Star Crystal Patterson returns for her final season in the 'Horns net and looks to cap her career with a stellar season.


Two incoming freshmen will battle it out for the backup role and try to get a leg-up in taking over the starting role in a season's time. Both southern Alberta products, Brook Paisley joins the 'Horns after playing AA midget boys hockey while Jessica Lohues played for the Southeast Tigers in Vauxhall.


Offensively, the 'Horns return their top three scorers from last season and will lean heavily on Kirsten Reeves, Sadie Lenstra and Sarah Spence to lead the way. Reeves and Lenstra tied for the team lead in both goals and points last season.


Of the newcomers, Chelsea Kasprick joins the 'Horns after two years' experience in the ACHA with Robert Morris University Illinois and the hope is she will make a seamless transition to CIS hockey. Other newcomers Delaney Duchek, Cora Place, and Brittney Sawyer look to contribute in their first season.


On the back end, the 'Horns have five returning defenders but will have a big hole to fill with the graduation of Glenda Edie. The top pair of Jocelyn Sabourin and first-year defender Jodi Gentile will look to fill that void but the 'Horns do have depth at the defender position with seasoned veterans Courtney Minor, Katie Mucha, Rebecca Blinkhorn and Amber Yuha.


Gentile has been impressive during the non-conference schedule and her future with the program looks bright.


The 'Horns open the Canada West schedule hosting the Alberta Pandas, October 3rd and 4th at Nicholas Sheran Arena.


University of Manitoba Bisons

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 6th

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Lost in quarterfinal

2013-14 CW Record: 17-7-4

Last CIS Title: N/A

Last CW Title: 2011

Key returnees: Maggie Litchfield-Medd, Michelle Pawluk, Caitlyn Fyten, Alana Serhan, Lindsay Blight, Kayleigh Wiens, Cassandra Taylor, Rachel Dyck, Amanda Schubert


Key additions: Lauryn Keen, Alana Sharman, Courtlyn Oswald, Erica Rieder, Megan Tully


Key departures: Amy Lee, Caitlin MacDonald, Kyleigh Palmer, Rachèle Bosc


WINNIPEG – The Bison women's hockey program is in a new cycle as there will be ten rookies on the 25 person roster to start the 2014-15 Canada West season. In addition, there are also seven sophomore players in the lineup, making this one of the youngest women's hockey squads in the conference, if not in the country.


Head coach Jon Rempel, in his 11th season, knows the new players have the ability to compete but the test will be 'how fast we can understand and compete at this level in a constant manner'. The team had a solid training camp and preseason. He likes the mix of veterans with the newcomers and feels numerous players have a chance to shine this upcoming campaign.


New team captains in forward Maggie Litchfield-Medd and defenceman Michelle Pawluk lead Manitoba. Both return in their fifth year as Medd was tied for tenth in Canada West scoring last year while Pawluk had her best offensive output while playing against top lines throughout the season. Other Bison vets include defenceman Caitlyn Fyten who was named to both CIS and Canada West All-Rookie Team in 2013-14 plus both sophomore goalies in Rachel Dyck and Amanda Schubert. New alternate captains are fourth-year defenceman Lindsay Blight and Kayleigh Wiens while second-year Alana Sharman looks to build off a rookie season where she was fifth in team scoring and forwards Cassandra Taylor and Charity Price have another year of experience.


The rookie group will be leaned upon as they will be thrust into big minutes and play at crucial points during the season. The recruiting class is led by Lauryn Keen, 18, is a 5'9" forward who was team captain for the defending MFMHL (Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League) champion and 2012 Esso Cup National Champion Pembina Valley Hawks. Alanna Sharman, 18, is a 5'8" forward that played for the Winnipeg Avros and led the team in scoring in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Courtlyn Oswald, 18, is a 5'5" forward that played for the MFMHL's Central Plains Capitals and was team captain for the last two seasons. Oswald is known as one of the top defensive forwards in the MFMHL and has also contributed better than a point per game. Erica Rieder, 17, is a 5'9" defenceman with the Regina Rebels of the Saskatchewan Female Midget Hockey League (SFMHL) that were semi-finalist in 2013-14 and won the SFMHL championship and then advanced to the Esso Cup in 2012-13. Megan Tully, 18, is a 5'10" defenceman finished playing for the MFMHL's Central Plains Capitals and was the team alternate captain in the 2012-13 season and finished at Shaftesbury HS in 2013-14. All these players have some provincial or national team experience and have been on winning teams in the past.


The goal of the young Bison team will be to host a playoff round in the highly competitive Canada West conference. Rempel believes the strengths of the team are on the blueline and in the nets as they will have a balanced attack. He commented, "I can't expect the new players to know everything as there is a learning curve. The newcomers bring already experience and have achieved a lot and they are not scared to compete. The vibe is positive among this year's edition and the outlook looks strong now and in the future."


Mount Royal University Cougars

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 8th

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Record: 7-18-3

Last CIS Title: N/A

Last CW Title: N/A

Key returnees: Taralynn Suzuki, Tanika Dawson, Jess Ross, Janessa Jenkins, Jocelyn Froehlich


Key additions: Shawni Rodeback, Mairi Sorensen, Delany Edwards, Megan Carver


Key departures: Emily Harrison, Shyla Stadnicki, Kat McDonald


CALGARY – Mount Royal had an up and down season in 2013-14 that saw them fall way out of the playoff race early in the year only to claw their way back into contention during the final month of the season. They earned nine of a possible 10 points in the final few weeks of January, vaulting them right back into contention. The Cougars did ultimately miss the playoffs but the heart and desire was clearly there, something the returning players have taken note of for this season. 


The Cougars will carry five rookies this season on a team that seems to be forging a youth movement. With a number of their prominent fixtures graduated or playing in the final season, the Cougars have brought in an abundance of young talent. Mairi Sorensen and Megan Carver come to Mount Royal from the highly acclaimed Notre Dame Hounds program in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. The squad will also boast a couple of transfers from the United States. Emma Pincott (Union Dutchwomen) and Kenzie Menzak (Bemidji State) both decided to head back to Canada after a year in the NCAA.     

Returning for their fifth and final seasons are forwards Tanika Dawson and Taralynn Suzuki. Both players have been leaders on the team for a number of seasons and have their eyes set on a playoff berth to cap their careers at MRU. Fourth-year forward Janessa Jenkins, who had a breakout season last year notching 11 points in 2013-14, is also back up front for MRU. Perhaps the most important returnee of all is Cougars netminder Jess Ross. Last year Ross stood on her head, time and time again, keeping the Cougars alive in tight games.

Coach Scott Rivett will have to find a new way to drum up some offence as he will be without two of his three top scorers from last year. Emily Harrison (10G, 4A, 14Pts) and Shyla Stadnicki (4G, 4A, 8Pts) will have since graduated. They will also be without the services of impactful forwards Kacy Smith and Kat McDonald.

The Cougars will open the season on the road against Calgary on October 3rd. They will then have a quick turnaround when they host the Dinos the next night for their home opener at Flames Community Arenas.


University of Regina Cougars

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 5th

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: N/A

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: 2nd

2013-14 CW Record: 11-13-4

Last CIS Title: N/A

Last CW Title: 2001

Key returnees: Bailey Braden, Tori Head, Alexis Larson, Triston Riemer, Jennifer Schmidt, Meghan Sherven


Key additions: Caitlin Dempsey, Emma Waldenberger


Key departures: Kendra Finch, Katelyn Kennedy, Kaitlin Sherven


REGINA – The University of Regina women's hockey team is set to open their 2014 Canada West play this weekend with a pair of home games against the Manitoba Bisons.

Friday's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Co-operators Centre, and Saturday's contest is slated for 3 p.m., also at the Co-operators Centre.


Regina was ranked fifth in the pre-season Canada West coaches' poll.


The Cougars enter the weekend with a 3-2 non-conference record, including a first-place finish in the Mandi Schwartz Challenge that took place in Regina from September 18-21.


At the helm for Regina is head coach Sarah Hodges, who enters her 17th season with the team. Joining Hodges on the coaching staff are Brandy West-McMaster, Julie Foster, Terry O'Malley and Colleen Sostorics.


The Cougars, who finished the 2013-14 season with an 11-13-4 conference record, will lose fifth-year forwards Kendra Finch, Katelyn Kennedy and Kaitlin Sherven.


Leading the group of returning players is fifth-year defender and team captain Triston Riemer. Assistant captains for Regina will be Carleen Meszaros, Krista Metz and Nicole Mitchell.


Hodges expects Tori Head, Meghan Sherven and Kylie Gavelin to lead the charge on the offensive end, but the Cougars have seen scoring from all four lines during the pre-season.


Rookies Emma Waldenberger and Caitlin Dempsey are also expected to make a large impact offensively.


Anchoring the blue line along with Riemer, Meszaros and Metz will be Alexis Larson, Jolene Kirkpatrick and Nikki Watters-Matthes.


The Cougars goaltending features returning veterans Jennifer Schmidt and Toni Ross, as well as promising rookie Jane Kish.


"We have a nice balanced attack and expect our goaltending to be solid as well," Hodges said. "We know the Bisons are a strong, young team but we are confident we can compete with them."


Following this weekend, the Cougars will hit the road for two games in Edmonton against the Alberta Pandas.


University of Saskatchewan Huskies

CW Preseason Coaches' Poll Ranking: 3rd

2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: 3rd

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: 1st

2013-14 CW Record: 18-4-6

Last CIS Title: N/A

Last CW Title: 2014

Key returnees: Kaitlin Willoughby, Julia Flinton, Cassidy Hendricks


Key additions: Lauren Zary, Chelsea Wilson


Key departures: Cami Wooster, Sara Greschner, Karen Lefsrud


SASKATOON – Expectations are high for the University of Saskatchewan Huskie women's hockey team.


In 2013-14, Saskatchewan made program history capturing its first-ever Canada West Championship title and finishing third at the CIS Championship. Returning all but four roster members from one season ago, the Huskies look to take aim at returning to conference and national glory.


Still a young team – just two Huskies will play in their fifth-year of eligibility – Saskatchewan will look to experiences gained in the 2013-14 run from reigning-CIS Rookie of the Year Kaitlin Willoughby, Canada West all-star at defence Julia Flinton and Canada West all-star in goal Cassidy Hendricks to help guide the team.


Willoughby was named the conference and nation's top rookie after scoring 10 goals and 14 assists in the regular season. She added the Canada West championship-clinching goal in overtime to her resume. Flinton not only plays solid defence and big minutes for the Huskies, but is also an offensive threat. The fourth-year tallied three goals and 13 assists in 2013-14, as well as a hat trick in the CIS bronze medal game. Hendricks played in 18 games for the Huskies with three shutouts and a 1.77 goals-against average.


The Huskies will also look to fifth-year Kandace Cook, who finished with six goals and 12 assists last year, and Marley Ervine, four goals and nine assists in 2013-14, as offensive sparks.

Joining the offence is repatriation-transfer Lauren Zary and rookie Chelsea Wilson. Zary, who played the last two seasons with Brown University (NCAA Division I), is fourth all-time in Saskatchewan midget points with 136. Wilson scored 13 goals and 14 assists in 31 games in midget AAA.


Saskatchewan returns its entire experienced defensive core. Joining Flinton is fellow fourth-year and pairing Brooke Mutch, third-year Alyssa Dobler and fourth-year Hanna McGillivray.


Saskatchewan opens the Canada West season on the road against the UBC Thunderbirds October 3-4.