Record in last 6 games: 4-1-1
Team leader in scoring: Meagan Vestby – 15 pts (2 G, 13 A) in 16 games
The Bison women play a fast, physical style of hockey, forcing turnovers and creating scoring opportunities. They are also the third-most-penalized team in the Canada West conference and have struggled on the power play at times. They have not cracked the CIS top 10 this year, but could very well be among the nation’s best by the end of the season.
Heading into the winter break, the Bisons are in a good position to move up the standings. They’re currently fourth in the conference and five points back from the conference-leading UBC Thunderbirds. With games remaining against the three conference-basement-dwellers, the Bisons should be able to make a strong push for a home ice advantage in the first round of playoffs.
Record in last 6 games: 5-1-0
Team leader in scoring: Aaron Lewadniuk – 17 pts (6 G, 11 A), tied for sixth in Canada West
Analysis: The team is coming off a huge win against top-ranked Alberta heading into the break and has averaged 4.67 goals per game in their last six. They have gotten big production from their rookies. Luke Paulsen has added energy to the team, playing in all 16 games, and Jordan DePape is tied for fifth in rookie scoring with 12 points. The Bisons are tied for seventh in total goals in Canada West, with just 46, and have the fewest power play goals (four) in the conference.
Playoff projection: Right in the thick of the playoff race. Just two points behind third-placed Saskatchewan. Six of the final 12 games are against teams in the top four including 15-0-1 Calgary. That series could decide the Bisons’ placing at the end of the season.
Record in last 6 games: 3-3
Team leader in kills per set: Devren Dear – 3.52 K/set (183 kills in 52 sets played)
Analysis: 2013-14 has proved to be a challenging season of change for the Bisons. They’ve got a new head coach—Cam Johnson filling in for the legendary Garth Pischke—and a roster that is almost entirely players in their first or second year of CIS eligibility. With that in mind, the promise that Manitoba has shown in this first half of the season outweighs their shortcomings. Their most recent match against the top-ranked Trinity Western proves that the Bisons can be competitive against any team in the conference.
Playoff projection: Currently one spot out from the final Canada West playoff spot, and sitting just below .500, the Bisons could very well make the playoffs this year if they can do better at capitalizing on their opportunities. A pair of matches against winless Regina in late January should be an easy four-point standings boost.
Record in last 6 games: 2-4
Team leader in kills: Rachel Cockrell (171)
Analysis: Rachel Cockrell and Taylor Pischke continue to lead the nationally-ranked Bison attack. Manitoba is a very strong team, but cannot afford to let any more matches slip away; despite winning four matches in three-set sweeps, they have also lost three of four matches that have gone to a fifth set.
Playoff projection: There is incredible parity in Canada West this season, as all but two teams in the conference are in the playoff hunt. The Bisons have the talent to not only secure a playoff spot but also be in contention for a national championship, as long as they continue to execute on the court.
Record in last 6 games: 0-6
Team leader in points per game: Andre Arruda (11.9)
Analysis:The loss of co-captain Stephan Walton to a knee injury before the season has hurt the team. They are starting two rookies: Andre Arruda and Justus Alleyn (7.5 PPG). Both have had immediate impacts, but don’t bring the same leadership as Walton. His hopeful return in the second half of the season will add a big lift in production.
Playoff projection: Manitoba has not had a winning record in the second half of a season in over 10 years. Add to that the fact that they have lost eight straight games: playoff chances are bleak.
Record in last 6 games: 0-6
Team leader in 3-point FGS made: Robyn Eyer (23/56)
Analysis: After starting the season 3-1, the women have lost their last six in a row. They are first in three-point percentage in the Canada West prairie division at 35.6, but last in the division in points per game, averaging just 60.4.
Playoff projection: The team has played tough against both Saskatchewan and Calgary, who are first and second, respectively. Considering the fact that they only won two games all of last year, this season has been encouraging. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to crack the playoffs this year with such a young team.