Plenty of ink has been spilled in the sports section of the Manitoban detailing the seasons of Bison sports teams, but it is time to funnel all the best moments into a single list.
Unfortunately, the list has been restricted to highlights in Bison uniforms, so the incredible accomplishment of Bison women’s hockey player Venla Hovi winning bronze with Finland at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang did not make the cut.
10. Hardwood highlights
It may have been the first season for Bison men’s basketball player Rashawn Browne, but he certainly made his presence felt. In early January against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, Browne scooped up a rebound, went behind his back to fake out the defender, then proceeded up court and pulled a Rajon Rondo-esque fake and went for the easy layup. He wasn’t done there. In a game against the University of Victoria Vikes after a failed Justus Alleyn three, Browne leapt to incredible heights for an insane putback. Browne finished the year as the Canada West assist leader, averaging 6.8 a game.
9. Dousing the Heat
The Bison women’s volleyball team made it back to the playoffs this season after a couple years on the outside looking in. It came down to the final weekend of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth. All they needed was a set victory against the then top-ranked University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat. They surpassed that by winning 3-1 on Feb. 17. It was a hard-fought victory, the Bisons got some superb play from setter Brittany Habing on her senior night finishing with 43 assists, 13 digs, five kills, and four blocks.
8. Spoiling Saskatchewan
Whenever the Bisons and Huskies take to the gridiron, there’s a certain bit of pride on the line in this spirited prairie affair. With the Bisons out of the playoffs the week prior, they had a chance to play for something in their last game: keeping the Huskies out of the playoffs. They did it in spectacular fashion, scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to claim a 36-32 victory on Oct. 28 to send their prairie rivals home early.
7. Besting the Bears
The second half of the season started off with a bang for the Bison men’s hockey team. On Jan. 5-6, they swept the number one and eventual national champions, the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Remi Laurencelle was the hero in game one, scoring the winner in a 5-4 overtime thriller, and the Bisons followed it up with a solid 3-1 win the next night. The Golden Bears may have won the national championship, but Manitoba had their number that weekend.
6. The best things come in fours
Hailey Lavarias made Bison soccer history by scoring four goals en route to a 4-0 win over crosstown rivals the University of Winnipeg Wesmen on Oct. 7. The speedy forward bagged the hat trick in the first half and added the icing to the cake with her fourth after a brilliant individual effort. “It feels great obviously,” she said after her star performance. Lavarias went on to be named the Manitoba Soccer Association Female Soccer Player of the Year in March.
5. Clipping the Gryphons
After bowing out 4-0 to the Trinity Western University Spartans in the quarter finals of the U SPORTS National Championships, the host Bison women’s soccer team thumped Ontario champions, the University of Guelph Gryphons, 5-1 in the consolation semi finals. Captain Amanda Wong thundered home the first ever Bison goal at a national championship from outside the box. Manitoba went on to lose to Victoria in the consolation final to finish sixth, which raised a few eyebrows.
4. Lighting up Lethbridge
On a cold and snowy night in January, Nicole Konieczny of the Bison women’s basketball team set the hardwood at Investors Group Athletic Centre on fire. In an 82-59 win over the Lethbridge Pronghorns, Konieczny scored 41 points, and if you’re not good at math, that’s half her team’s points. She was 6-for-6 beyond the arc and also had seven rebounds. Her 41 points that night were the sixth most in any Canada West women’s basketball game.
3. Wog keeps winning
The Bison women’s hockey team wasn’t the only national champions this year, as second-year swimmer Kelsey Wog dominated the breaststroke race at U SPORTS Nationals in Toronto. She claimed the gold in the 50m, 100m, and 200m, as well as collecting a silver in the 200m individual medley. She won the 50m breaststroke race a whole two seconds faster than the next best swimmer.
2. Zacharias from Hovi! Zacharias from Hovi!
The Canada West semifinals were airtight between the Bisons and then-reigning national champs the University of Alberta Pandas. After each team collected wins in games one and two, it all came down to a decisive game three. In the second longest game in Canada West history, Venla Hovi sent a pass backdoor to Jordyn Zacharias who made no mistakes. The Bisons had clinched a berth at U SPORTS Nationals.
1. Best of the Best
The Bisons women’s hockey club had a historic season, being ranked first in the country, winning the Canada West, and capping it all off with a national championship. After winning a heart-pounding semifinal against Concordia University in a shootout, the Bisons were pitted against the hosts, the Western University Mustangs, in the gold medal game. Lauryn Keen’s filthy top shelf shot in the second period gave Manitoba the lead, and Hovi added insurance early in the third to make it 2-0. The Mustangs’ attempt at a comeback was thwarted by a stout defence and a brick wall goaltender in Lauren Taraschuk. At the final whistle, the Bisons were national champions for the first time in program history. They were also the first U of M hockey team – men or women – to win a national championship in 53 years.