Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Rundown - Week 14

School's back in this week which means The Rundown will begin the weekly recaps again next weekend. We've taken a look at some international players over the first 13 weeks at various times of this running feature, and we'll highlight another pair of international players today. The CIS is literally helping various international programs out by having those players play hockey at a high level, and those players are getting a quality education at Canadian universities. This win-win situation has been good for all, so let's take a look at another pair of excellent international players playing in the CIS!

An Olympian And CWHL Draftee

There have been several players who have played in the Olympics before returning to a Canadian university, but there aren't many who have been drafted by a CWHL team before playing a CIS game! The Brampton Thunder drafted a member of the Japanese National Team in the sixth round of the 2015 CWHL Entry Draft, and Moeke Fujimoto came to Canada and enrolled at Mount Royal University to add to her education and improve her hockey skills!

Fujimoto has played professionally in Japan already as she was a member of the Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine before suiting up for Team Japan at the 2014 Sochi Olympics where she helped Japan to its best IIHF finish ever at eighth in the world. She didn't record any points as a 21 year-old, but she caught the attention of the Brampton Thunder who decided to give Fujimoto a shot.

Rather than jumping straight into the CWHL, Fujimoto made a detour to Finland for six games where she suited up for the Espoo Blues in 2014-15. Again, she had no points, but she got some valuable experience playing in the top women's league in Finland. So how did the Espoo Blues and Brampton Thunder find this diamond-in-the-rough despite scoring no points in Finland nor at the Olympics?

In 2008-09, Moeko Fujimoto made the Japan squad that played in the World Women's U18 Division-1 Championship where she scored a goal and two assists playing against the likes of Austria's Janine Weber. Japan went 4-0 in winning the division, and were promoted to the top division for 2009-10! It was there that Japan defeated Finland for the first time ever in the nation's history, and they would advance to the quarter-finals to face Sweden! Sweden defeated Japan 2-1, but the Japanese U18 women's squad went home having put in their best showing ever at the World Women's U18 Championship!

2011-12 saw Fujimoto pick up an assist with Team Japan at the World Women's Division-1A Championship, and followed that up with an assist at the Women's Challenge Cup of Asia. 2012-13 saw her help Team Japan qualify for the Sochi Olympics, and she scored a pair of goals at the World Women's Division-1A Championship.

She played in Sochi with Team Japan where they scored a single goal in the round-robin in a 2-1 loss to Russia. They would finish eighth, as stated above, but they set the course for future Japan teams by reaching the biggest tournament in women's hockey. Add in a goal at the 2014-15 World Women's Championship Qualification tournament and a pair of goals and an assist at the Winter Universiade, and Miss Fujimoto has a wealth of experience in her 22 years!

Fujimoto has yet to appear in a game for the Mount Royal Cougars as she red-shirts this season. She's studying English as her major, and will undoubtedly mesh into the Cougars' lineup next season for her first full CIS experience. The Cougars have themselves a very good player on their hands, and I'm excited to see what Fujimoto can do on the ice!

Norwegian Netminder

Two Norwegians in the CIS? It's true. We met Mathea Fischer a couple of weeks ago, and we'll meet a Norwegian teammate of hers today in goaltender Ingrid Sandven!

The Windsor Lancers boast the Norwegian netminder on their squad, but it took head coach Jim Hunter almost two years of correspondence to bring Sandven over to Canada! It started with Sandven sending Hunter an 11-minute practice video that showed off all aspects of her game.

"It came to me two years ago and I pursued it last year not realizing she had another year to go before she could come here," Hunter told Jeff Parker of the Windsor Star. "We kept talking throughout the year and before I knew it she was in school and paid."

Sandven played mostly with boys growing up, similar to Fischer's experience. She got a chance with Division-II Bergen in Norway where her stats were less than stellar, but the experience was invaluable. She played with Division-III Fana IHK the following season where her goals-against-average was cut in half and her save percentage saw an increase of over 100 points. It was at this point Sandven and Hunter began talking via email, and 2013-14 would see the Norwegian in Lancers' colours after a long-distance pen pal setup with her new coach!

Sandven played in seven games while starting six of them in her CIS rookie season. The Communications major put up a respectable 3.00 GAA and an . 858 save percentage in going 3-3-0. Her first win came against the York Lions in a 4-3 victory on January 18, 2014! Not bad for a 19 year-old in her first year in a new city and country!

She came into the 2014-15 season as the backup in Windsor, but her 2-0-0 record in three games showed her development as a goaltender. Sandven also played in the 2014 IIHF Women's Division-I World Championship with Norway. She lost 5-2 to Austria and 4-2 to the Czech Republic as Norway went 1-3-1-0 to finish in fifth-place, but it was another large helping of experience!

This season, Sandven has split time with two other netminders, but in her six games thus far she's the only goaltender with a win. She's 3-3-0 on the season while the other two goalies are a combined 0-6-0, and her 2.91 GAA and .899 save percentage are the best statistics of the three goalies by far. Windsor isn't the best team in the OUA by any means, but Sandven gives them a chance to win whenever she's in the blue paint!

The Second Half

Teams that are looking to make a push for a playoff spot or to solidify a playoff spot will want to come out gangbusters in the second-half of the CIS season. I'm excited for the second-half of the season, and you should be too. There are a ton of excellent players coming out of the CIS, and many of the best will get a chance to shine as the playoffs near. The only thing missing? You. As in you should be there watching. Buy tickets, support your local university, and cheer on the women!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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