With a national championship ring already in hand, U of M Bisons women’s hockey forward Lauryn Keen is ready for her next test.
Keen is graduating with an agribusiness degree this spring and said she already knows what comes next.
“I’ve accepted a full-time job on a grain and cattle farm,” said Keen.
“I’m going to be a crop manager, so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s kind of like my dream job.”
The 22-year-old is from Manitou, Man., where hockey was the most popular sport to play.
“I lived right across from the rink, so that was pretty much the only option,” she said.
“My older brother played hockey and it was what I wanted to do, so I asked my parents if I could start a year early, so they put me into squirts when I was three years old with my brother and kind of went from there.”
Growing up in a small town, Keen played hockey with boys from age three until she was in Grade 10.
Playing the more rough-and-tumble style of hockey helped her grow into the player Bisons fans see today.
“It helped me be a little more tough out there, a little more gritty,” said Keen.
“It was kind of the only option for me growing up in a small town. I just kind of made the most of it. I think it really helped develop me as a player and just learn to be tough out there.”
That toughness followed her all the way through to joining the herd in 2014. Keen weighed offers from other schools, but chose to stay close to home and all the comforts it brings, committing to the University of Manitoba.
“U of M just seemed like the best fit,” said Keen.
“Just because of the program I wanted to go into with agriculture. I obviously moved away from home, but it was still close enough to go home if I needed to be, so yeah, it seemed like the best fit for me at the time.”
Keen is currently leading the Bisons in points, and is ranked third in Canada West scoring with four goals and nine assists. She took home the Canada West scoring title in 2016-17 with 34 points — nine goals and 25 assists — so Keen knows how to deal with success.
“I’m just going out there, working hard every shift and my line has been clicking well throughout the year, so that helps a lot,” said Keen.
“Just trying to do the little things right on the ice and I guess I’ve been rewarded for it.”
Keen was a part of last season’s national championship team and said the championship season is something she will remember forever.
“All season we’d been preparing for nationals,” Keen said.
“And I think once we got past [University of Alberta] there in the semis, we had so much confidence as a team and we had the confidence that we could do it and we played great through the [University of Saskatchewan] series.”
“Heading into nationals everyone was playing their best and everyone was clicking well,” she said.
“For me personally I have been through the nationals process before, so I think that helped just with nerves and confidence that way and we just found a way to get it done.”
The 2016 series against Saskatchewan also stuck out in Keen’s mind. In game two of the series, the two teams played five gruelling overtime periods to find a winner.
This year’s squad still has a large number of players that were a part of the national championship run last season. Keen said there is a different atmosphere in the locker room, but believes this year’s Bison team is just as special as the last.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty well, and we’ve come back from being down and won a couple games there late in the third period,” said Keen.
“I think we have the drive and determination in the dressing room and there’s going to be obstacles and adversity throughout the year, but I think I have a good feeling about it so far.”