The 2015-16 season for the University of Manitoba Bisons men’s hockey team was an interesting one to follow. The Bisons were the youngest team in the Canada West and managed a fourth place finish with a 13-13-2 record before getting upset in the first round of the playoffs. The women fared much better than their male counterparts in the postseason, riding two upsets to make it to the conference final. Below are a few of the highlights from the 2015-16 campaign for each team.
Double threat in net
The Bisons had quite the goaltending tandem this season. Both Justin Paulic and Byron Spriggs played exceptionally well. Paulic’s highlights included a marvelous 46-save performance against a very good Alberta team, as well as playing all three games against the Calgary Dinos in their quarterfinal series. Spriggs was solid for the herd as well, posting 3.50 GAA and a .895 save percentage. With Paulic being a rookie and Spriggs entering his third year next year, Manitoba looks to be set in between the pipes in the coming years.
Jordan DePape’s sensational season
The 23 year old co-captain of the Bisons showcased his brilliant offensive talents this year. He racked up 41 points in 28 games (19G, 22A), earning himself the Canada West scoring title. DePape also went on a ridiculous 15 game point streak – the longest in the Canada West. DePape only failed to register a point in four games. A gifted winger, DePape came up big at many points throughout the year scoring key goals and leading by example on the ice.
DePape was also named a Canada West First Team All-Star to cap off his great year.
Besting the Bears
Manitoba seemed to have the Alberta Golden Bears’ number this year, as they took seven out of a possible eight points against the traditional powerhouses of not only the Canada West, but the CIS. It was the first time since the 1929-30 season that the Bisons won a season series against Alberta. When the Bears came to town on the weekend of Jan. 8-9, the Bisons were able to put on two incredible performances to beat the Bears: a 7-4 offensive shootout one night, then a 3-2 defensive lockdown where Paulic stole the show with 46 saves. It was the first time since 1964-65 that Alberta were unable to win in Manitoba.
Red hot rookies
Bisons head coach Mike Sirant did some great recruiting this past off season, bringing in a number of young players. The Bisons had 11 rookies on their roster this year, and two rookies in particular were able to make an impact.
Brett Stovin finished fourth in rookie scoring with 26 points in 28 games (12G, 14A) with 15 of those points coming on an 11-game point streak, while Adam Henry slotted right into the Bisons’ top defensive pairing and looked like a seasoned veteran. Henry finished 14th among defensemen with 14 points. The pair earned themselves a spot on the Canada West All-Rookie team as well.
This doesn’t seem like a very positive thing to talk about, as the Bisons were upset in a three game series against the fifth-placed Calgary Dinos. Manitoba learned a lot in that series, though, and as a young team, there is nothing but positives to draw from this experience. Sirant said it best after the Bisons lost 6-1 in game three to eliminate them from playoff contention: “We’re feeling a lot of pain right now, but the pain we suffer now will only make us stronger for next season.”
Sharman leads again
Even though she’s just in her second year, Alanna Sharman is emerging as a true leader. After leading the CIS in regular season points as a rookie, Sharman has managed to be a point-leader again as a sophomore. Despite an 18-point drop in her performance this season, she topped the Bisons in goals with 10 and assists with 12.
Karissa Kirkup is back home in Manitoba after a brief career at the University of Maine and Minnesota-Duluth. A member of the U22 Canadian team, Kirkup opened her Bisons account as a successor of former captain Maggie Litchfield-Medd.
Wearing the number 15 jersey formerly occupied by Litchfield-Medd, Kirkup did not disappoint. She co-led the team with 15 points in 28 games.
Comeback home opener
The Bisons got their season off to the right start after a 2-1 comeback win in the home opener. The game was tied at zero until Natasha Steblin scored to give the Pandas a 1-0 lead in the third.
Alanna Sharman tied the game and Lauryn Keen scored with three minutes remaining to cap off a victorious comeback win.
Hovi scores four
It’s not every day that a player scores four goals in a CIS game. The Bisons got to experience it, however, when Venla Hovi scored two doubles against Calgary in a 5-0 win. The four goals were scored three different ways, including even strength, shorthanded, and on the powerplay.
Playoff OT thrillers
In back-to-back playoff series, Manitoba was able to steal victory away from their opponent, in both cases in impressive fashion.
In the quarterfinals, the herd emerged victorious in the longest game in Canada West history. The Saskatchewan Huskies and Manitoba Bisons stood at a 1-1 deadlock before Venla Hovi played the role of overtime hero. The Finn’s goal at 9:02 of fifth overtime rewrote the history books as the Bisons progressed into the conference semi-finals of the Canada West playoffs.
After eliminating the Saskatchewan Huskies in three games during the first round of the CanWest playoffs, the Bisons took their next opponents Alberta to the same stage of the series. In an action-packed game three, the Bisons led 3-2 before Sasha Lutz scored an equalizer for the Pandas with 14 seconds left in regulation.
The game was settled in the first overtime period by the Bisons’ Alexandra Anderson at the 4:31 mark.