University of Manitoba Bisons forward Katie Chatyrbok is becoming a central piece for herd

The U of M Bisons women’s hockey team has had a season full of ups and downs.

With 10 first-year players on the roster, the team has an exciting future to look forward to past the struggles of the current season. Second-year forward Kaitlyn Chatyrbok will be a major component of that future and has already had an impressive career with the herd.

Last year, Chatyrbok and the Bisons made a successful run to the national championship, winning the consolation championship against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. The chance to go to nationals as a rookie was a great experience for Chatyrbok, who is looking to take the lessons learned forward in her career.

“Going to nationals was an amazing experience,” Chatyrbok said.

“Being able to play against the top teams in the country was quite something.”

“Each game had so much intensity. I think [the experience] made me a better hockey player because playing against those teams forces you to take your game to the next level in order to succeed.”

Hockey is much more than a physical game. The mental side of the game separates the good from the great. As a rookie on a reigning national championship-winning team, then heading with the club back to the national tournament, Chatyrbok had to get a handle on the mental side quickly.

“It […] taught me to deal with nerves in high pressure games,” she said.

“Every game at nationals is so important, so dealing with nervousness was something I had to learn in order to keep my composure on the ice.”

Being on a young Bisons team has given Chatyrbok an opportunity to step up and become a leader on and off the ice.

The transition from high school to university is a big step for every player, and she has used her experience of making that jump successfully to help out some of the rookies. Although she doesn’t have a letter on her jersey, a leadership role is something that she believes is important to help the younger players.

“Because I am only a year older than our rookies, I knew a big chunk of the girls coming in, either from playing with them in past years or playing against them,” Chatyrbok said.

“The leadership role I tried to take on was just helping them transition onto the team and being a friend, someone they could talk to or ask questions.”

Two of these rookies, Sarah Dennehy and Kate Gregoire, create an amazing trio with Chatyrbok on their line — though there is a very good reason for the quick chemistry.

“I love playing with Sarah and Kate, we used to play together on a line at St. Mary’s so it felt like we picked up right where we left off,” Chatyrbok said.

“They are very easy to play with and, because we have known each other for so long, we are able to read off each other quite well on the ice which makes the game so much easier to play.”

The relative inexperience of the current roster has meant a year of learning for the herd.

Although the team is young and still working to gel as a unit, Chatyrbok believes a playoff push is still in reach for the rest of the 2019-20 season.

“For the rest of our games, we are definitely going for a big push to make it into a playoff spot,” she said.

“We know it is within reach and I think that has sparked an intensity within our team to really strive to make it.”