Saturday, 26 September 2015

Checking Out The Ladies - Follow-up

We've gone over the eight teams in Canada West women's hockey in some detail, but there are many questions that have yet to be answered on the recruiting front for some teams while others have seen inexplicable departures from their rosters. There are also a couple of players to keep an eye on this winter as the season progresses, and we'll talk a little about these players in detail below. While this is not a "definitive guide" on who will rock the boat in Canada West this season, I expect a few of these players to really show a new side to their games after having fairly impressive off-seasons. Let's get it rolling with this follow-up!

It took a rather unorthodox search to find the information on Alberta's recruits, but I can successfully say that I have a breakdown of who Howie Draper has recruited. All it took was checking Draper's Twitter feed to find out that he's successfully recruited about half of Team Alberta. By my count, six women are joining the Pandas for the upcoming season, so let's get into who is headed to Edmonton for the upcoming season as there are all sorts of positions covered by Draper's recruiting class.

We'll start with Alexandra Poznikoff who played with the Edmonton Thunder in the AMMFHL. All she did was lead the league in scoring with 24 goals and 42 points. In that total included three power-play goals and five game-winners, so you know she's going to jump into a role pretty quickly with the Pandas. Oh, and if that doesn't impress you, check out this stat line....
Yes, that's a goalie stat line. She played one game in net, allowing three goals on 17 shots, after one Thunder goalie had been injured and another was tending to a personal matter. It appeared that the second netminder would make it in time for the game against Grande Prairie, but she arrived about 10 minutes after the game had started. Poznikoff played the entire game, and it appears that Alberta is getting one heckuvan athlete in Alex Poznikoff.

Joining Poznikoff up front is Erinn Baddock of the Lloydminster PWM Steelers who finished 26th overall in scoring with 11 goals and 19 points with four power-play goals. Baddock plays a power forward game that doesn't shy away from a little rough play as evidence by her 48 PIMs last season. She will make the Pandas a little grittier while being a dangerous goal scorer.

Draper also recruited Regan Wright from the Calgary Fire of the AMMFHL. Wright recorded 17 goals and 32 points to lead her team and end in fourth-place in AMMFHL scoring, so the talent level continues to rise for the Pandas. Draper is quoted as saying, "She is a very skilled player who brings a natural athleticism to the game that will surely bring her success as a player in the CIS. We're confident that this success will transfer to our program as well."

The Pandas will also welcome defenceman Cayle Dillon to the program. Dillon finished twelfth in AMMJHL scoring with the Edmonton Thunder with 14 goals and 25 points. As a defenceman. Yes, you read that correctly. She also recorded a mere four minutes in penalties, so you know this rearguard is always looking for the puck. Expect Dillon to jump into the Pandas lineup this season.

The Pandas will add a netminder as they welcome Dayna Owen to the program. The Calgary native played last season with the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, so the Pandas are getting another quality netminder to join their already-formidable tandem. The 5'8" netminder may not play much behind Lindsey Post this season, but red-shirting with the Pandas is never a bad thing with the talent they have assembled and are assembling.

The final recruit added by coach Draper is Abigail Benning. The St. Alberta, Alberta native played with the Edge School for Athletes Mountaineers last season, and the defenceman looks like she's be a steady addition to the program. While she isn't as offensively-gifted as some of the other recruits, she did score three goals and add 12 points in her 28 games with Edge last season. She's very responsible defensively, and she'll make the Pandas' blue line stronger with her presence.

The reigning champions in Canada West are certainly a strong bunch today with these additions. However, there's still the outstanding problem of Jessica Kampjes. Kampjes, last season's leading scorer for the Pandas, is not listed on the roster for the Pandas thus far and has yet to play any of the preseason games. This is a curious problem for the Pandas as she hasn't graduated, is still eligible to play in Canada West and the CIS, and hasn't announced a move to another program if she was leaving the University of Alberta. So what exactly is going on with Kampjes for this upcoming season?

There's a thought that she may be academically ineligible as all CIS athletes are expected to pass 18 credit hours per academic year regardless of their sport. Failure to do so makes them academically ineligible to take part in a CIS sport, so there's a thought that Kampjes may not have reached the 18 credit hours successfully passed as required.

If she is academically ineligible, she could still be kept as a red-shirt for the upcoming season, but would burn one year of eligibility. I can't see Draper letting one of his best players walk this year, so I assume he'll opt to red-shirt her and claim she is injured or something along those lines to protect his star player from any public embarrassment.

Logically, this theory makes sense, but I cannot stress enough that this is only speculation. We may never find out why Kampjes isn't playing this season as long as Howie Draper holds the cards. I will see if I can get some information out of him when Alberta visits Manitoba on October 3, but there's a good chance that Kampjes will hold his cards tightly to his chest regarding his star forward. We'll see as the season opens in one week's time.

I also found a little information on a recruit that has committed to the Lethbridge Pronghorns. As you may remember, the Pronghorns had begin the process of telling recruits to look elsewhere to play this upcoming season after an internal report surfaced that had the women's hockey program in jeopardy of disbanding. Well, the scramble to control this news resulted in the University of Lethbridge president to commit to keeping all eleven varsity sports team, and the team immediately began trying to save some of their recruits. One recruit who could go a long way in helping this program get out of the Canada West cellar has joined the team for this upcoming season.

The top goaltender in the AMMJHL last season committed and has joined the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Calgary Fire's Alicia Anderson played 18 games last season, going 12-5-0 with a 0.91 GAA, a .960 save percentage, and eight shutouts. Anderson's numbers are on the ridiculous side, so you have to wonder what happened in those five losses. Anderson joins the Pronghorns and will most likely step in as the starting netminder over both Jessica Lohues and Brooklyn Paisley. Anderson has more than enough talent to push the Pronghorns to new heights. All she'll need is a little help going forward.

Word out of the Manitoba Bisons camp is that second-line forward Charity Price has come into camp after having spent the summer committing herself to crossfit training like never before. The third-year forward is fitter than ever, and it's being seen on the ice already in camp as she's faster and stronger on her skates than in previous seasons. She's been playing with playmaker Lauryn Keen and Finnish import Venla Hovi, and word out of camp is that this line has all the makings of being a very productive line this season.

While we always hear of the work being done by NHL players in the off-season that transform their games into something more, there is a lot taken for granted by some of the collegiate-level players. Kudos to Charity Price for committing herself to a summer of hard work. I'm expecting big things from the Alberta native after these reports!

One player to keep an eye on this season is is forward Sasha Vafina. Vafina will most likely start on a line with fellow Russian Iya Gavrilova, and the Chelyabinsk native has been impressive in clicking with Gavrilova. Vafina actually came to the Dinos via the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, so you know she was already highly sought-after before arriving in Calgary. Vafina scored four goals and added six assists as a UMD forward in the 2012-13 season before returning to Chelyabinsk to continue her master's degree in education via online courses. She's played in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the 2013 World Championships where she helped Russia earn a bronze medal, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She's been reunited with her former Bulldogs teammate in Gavrilova, so there's some chemistry being reignited here.

The funny part about Gavrilova is that Gavrilova lost her NCAA eligibility and led to minor sanctions being handed down to UMD's Shannon Miller and the Bulldogs program when the NCAA determined she had signed a professional contract with a Russian club team in 2012. So you might ask how she is eligible to play in the CIS if she's already been a pro hockey player. Well, the CIS has no rule on it as long as the player hasn't burned any university eligibility. It's how players like Mike Danton and Hayley Wickenheiser can play CIS hockey without penalty despite their professional hockey time.

Yes, there's a little more to the rule than that, but Gavrilova essentially can play CIS hockey with no fallout on her former professional career due to the CIS being a little less fascist compared to the NCAA when it comes to professional contracts. Score one for the CIS on this front as we get to marvel at Gavrilova's talents while the NCAA does not.

Before we check out on this article, here's a pretty solid piece on the work done by head coach Danielle Goyette with the two Russian women by Sportsnet. Honestly, this is nice to see from a major media outlet, so here's the video.
For more great women's hockey news and insights, head over to Women's Hockey Nation for all your women's hockey information!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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