There will be a number of fresh faces taking the ice this year for the Bison women’s hockey team, as the program begins a new rotation of players for 2014-15. The 25-player roster will feature 10 rookies, along with seven sophomore players, making Manitoba one of the youngest teams in the country.
Despite the massive shift from one year ago, head coach Jon Rempel is pleased with the energy level from both the returning and new players to the squad.
“We had some great kids in last year, and this year is probably equal to that or better,” said Rempel. “It’s definitely a youth movement for our team, and I’m very excited by it.”
The departures of veterans Kyleigh Palmer (third in Canada West in 2013-14 with 29 points), captain Amy Lee (eighth in Canada West with 22 points), and Rachèle Bosc will be tough to handle for Manitoba, but they do return a number of key elements up front.
Maggie Litchfield-Medd will lead the troops as captain for the 2014-15 season, and brings a wealth of experience at the forward position. In four seasons (101 games) with the Bisons, she has accumulated 61 points (28 goals, 33 assists).
Alana Serhan enters her sophomore season, looking to improve off of a stellar rookie campaign, where she was fifth in team scoring, with 11 points. Her energy and scoring ability will be crucial to the team’s success this year.
First-time alternate captain Kayleigh Wiens in her fourth year, Jessica Rosenbaum, in her second season with the Bisons and fourth year overall (transferred from UPEI for 2013 season), and Nicole McGlenen, in her third year, will also see enhanced responsibility at forward.
Losing Caitlin MacDonald, an alternate captain for two consecutive seasons, will be tough, but the defence also has a number of key returnees, led by alternate captain Michelle Pawluk, one of just two fifth-year players in 2014 (Litchfield-Medd is the other). Pawluk’s 99 games of regular season CIS experience over four seasons will be crucial on a young squad.
Fourth-year player Lindsay Blight will also don the “A” for the first time, and will increase the stability on the back end. She has just 28 penalty minutes in three seasons, as her poise will be vital in the 2014-15 season.
Caitlin Fyten, who was named to both the Canada West and CIS All-Rookie Teams in 2013-14, will also play a key role this season. Fyten was third among Bison defencemen last year with eight points.
Sophomores Amanda Schubert and Rachel Dyck both return for Manitoba in net. Schubert will lead the way, having started in 13 games as a rookie. She led all Bison goalies last year, with a 1.78 goals against average, and also had two shutouts. Dyck played in just two games last season, but will see an enhanced role in 2014, due to the loss of Dee-Ana Marion.
The 10 rookies among the Bisons include forwards Lauryn Keen, Alanna Sharman, and Courtlyn Oswald, as well as defenceman Erica Rieder and Megan Tully. According to gobisons.ca, all of the aforementioned players have “some provincial or national team experience and have been on winning teams in the past.”
The track record of success that each player brings will be vital, as they will likely see a fair amount of action as rookies.
Going the distance
The women’s hockey team opened their season on the road with a double header against the Regina Cougars. Both games required overtime to find a winner as the Bisons split the weekend with a 1-0 win on Friday, and a 3-2 loss on Saturday.
Friday night was a close battle, with a combined 54 shots on net. Both teams had roughly the same amount of time on the power play as well.
During the first overtime, Bailey Braden and Nicole McGlenen came close to bringing the Bisons their first win of the season, but it was rookie forward Keen who scored the eventual winner in double overtime. Dyck had a 26-save shutout through five periods of play to help the Bisons pick up their first win of the season.
Keen carried the momentum from her goal into Saturday night’s game, putting up seven shots on net for the Bisons. Manitoba peppered the Cougars with 40 shots overall, but Regina goalie Toni Ross stood tall, only allowing two goals.
Despite the ability to get pucks to the net, the Bisons spent the game looking for a come-from-behind win. Jessica Rosenbaum tied the game up at one in the second period, and Alana Serhan pushed the Cougars into overtime after scoring with six minutes left in regulation.
Manitoba had several chances to complete the comeback and sweep the Cougars during an overtime power play, but couldn’t put it past Ross. Only a minute after narrowly escaping the Bisons’ power play, the Cougars rewarded Ross’ strong play with the overtime winner. Kylie Gavelin produced the deciding goal, unassisted at 3:42 of the extra frame.
The Bisons will return to Wayne Fleming Arena this weekend for their home opener against the Saskatchewan Huskies. Friday’s game is at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday’s is at 3 p.m.