The coming of spring means one thing is for certain.
No, not the slush and muck, and no, not the start of patio season, but the end of most U Sports competitions and the academic year. So, with this final buzzer, some U of M Bisons deserve extra recognition.
In a year where the COVID-19 virus cut short four national tournaments, the Bisons still finished each team’s season, providing plenty of data to draw on. But while Bison Sports is busy naming its MVPs for this year, these are some of the most valuable underrated Bisons from 2019-20.
Men’s hockey: Riley Lamb
While captain Adam Henry was undoubtedly the best player for the Bisons in 2019-20 — he’s developed into a pro-ready two-way defender who you can throw out in any situation, led the team in points this season, and was a first team all-star — the goalies deserve love, too.
Coming in this season as a rookie, Rivers-born netminder Lamb was set to play in a tandem with fellow rookie Tyler Brown. Very quickly, Lamb proved himself to be more than capable of being the man in charge.
While a 3.42 goals-against-average along with a .908 save percentage doesn’t look so hot, these numbers hide Lamb’s stellar work between the pipes. Despite the former being 11th out of 13 Canada West netminders, the latter stat was third-best.
Lamb faced the fifth-most shots of any Canada West netminder in 2019-20 at 573 and helped get a Bisons club that was under siege for most of the year into the playoffs. He’s a solid netminder who can bear a heavy load in the blue paint, and without him the herd would be in real trouble.
Women’s hockey: Kate Gregoire
From one rookie on the Wayne Fleming Arena ice to another, on an extremely young Bisons squad Gregoire stood out amongst the pack. With only two goals before the holiday break, she came storming out into 2020, picking up six goals and an assist for seven points in the herd’s final seven games.
She tied for third in rookie scoring with nine points but was second in goals with eight — just three behind the University of Alberta’s Madison Willan who played on a far more offensively gifted team. Gregoire has quickly shown her ability to slip from coverage, find lanes and open space, and then fill the net.
As this Bisons squad continues to grow, the herd may just have a new all-time goal-scoring leader when Gregoire’s five years are up.
Men’s basketball: James Wagner
While almost all eyes were on now-Saskatchewan Rattlers guard Rashawn Browne, Bisons forward James Wagner made the space below the rim a nightmare for opposition.
The fourth-year finished fourth in total rebounds in Canada West with 182 — also fourth in offensive rebounds with 62 and sixth in defensive rebounds with 120 — and fifth in rebounds-per-game with 9.1.
Not to be outdone in the offensive department, he also finished 11th in the conference in points with 339, 12th in blocks with 14 and 13th in points-per-game with 16.9.
Wagner was also an iron man in 2019-20, playing the second-most minutes of any Canada West player this season with 688.
He also earned the second-best per-game mark at 34.4 minutes-per-game.
He appeared in all 20 games for the herd and helped his club play strong in the key while draining his fair share of shots.
Honourable mentions Emma Thompson — women’s basketball, Light Uchechukwu — women’s volleyball and Gabrielle Clark — women’s soccer.