Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Rundown - Week 6

This isn't your normal week of women's hockey in Canada West. In fact, there was no hockey. With Remembrance Day landing on Friday, the Canada West Conference took the week off in honour of remembering the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in protecting our great nation, so we're doing something different this week as we run down the best of the first five weeks of the Canada West season. There have been some great performances thus far, so let's take a deeper look into the Canada West Conference.

Best Rookie So Far

There are a handful of rookies who have had immediate impacts with their new teams. Manitoba's Sheridan Oswald, Alberta's Kennedy Ganser, Regina's Melissa Zerr, UBC's Tory Micklash, and Mount Royal's Tianna Ko have all contributed to their teams' early successes on the ice, but the player who has really excelled as a freshman is UBC's Mairead Bast.

Bast leads all rookies in scoring, and she's a defenceman. Bast recorded a six-game point streak prior to the games against Lethbridge last weekend, and has looked like a veteran player on the Thunderbirds' blue line. Her four goals are tops for all rookies, and all four have come with the man-advantage. The former Pursuit of Excellence and Red Deer Chiefs player is having what could be a career year in the CWUAA, and she has helped UBC to the top-ranking in USports and an eight-game winning streak with her strong play at both ends of the rink.

Best Defenceman So Far

There a number of women who could qualify for this honour, but Manitoba rearguards show up often in this category. Erica Rieder and Caitlyn Fyten are putting up great numbers for the Manitoba Bisons, but the one Bison who has consistently made great plays at both ends of the ice has been Alexandra Anderson.

Anderson has already eclipsed her combined point totals from her first two seasons, and she has consistently played against top competition. Anderson's play against the Regina Cougars was inspired, and her eight points and +7 rating has her tied with Erica Rieder as the leaders on the blue line. However, it has been her defensive play that has her separated from her teammates. She's a defensive stopper with an excellent outlet pass that allows the Bisons to transition up the ice, and stands above her seven assists are proof of that fact. While Rieder and Caitlyn Fyten could easily earn this honour, Anderson's work in the first ten games has her slightly ahead at this point.

Best Goaltender So Far

There are eight goaltenders who have less than a 2.00 GAA, so this honour will come down to other stats. Wins, save percentage, shots-per-game, and shutouts all factor in. Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson is averaging nearly 47 shots per game against and has a save percentage of .935, but her GAA hovers around 3.00 and she's 3-3-2 on the season. UBC's Amelia Boughn is 4-1-0, has a 1.62 GAA, and a .927 save percentage, but she's split games evenly with Tory Micklash. One goalie's statistics have shone this season, and it will be another Bison who earns this honour.

Rachel Dyck leads the league in save percentage at .944, goals-against-average at 1.23, shutouts with three, and she is tied for the league-lead in wins with five. Yes, she took two losses in the weekend series against top-ranked UBC two weekends ago, but she has been almost unbeatable against the five other games in which she appeared where she pitched three shutouts and allowed only two goals. If she continues to put up these numbers and can find a way to slow UBC in their next meeting, Dyck might set some netminding records this season.

Best Forward So Far

It would be easy just to point at the top scorer in Cassandra Vilgrain for this honour, but there are other players who certainly have played well enough to garner some consideration. UBC's Nicole Saxvik has been just as good as Vilgrain. Manitoba's Lauren Keen has become the team's bonafide top centerman. Regina's Jaycee Magwood is keeping the Cougars afloat. Alberta's Amy Boucher has been a revelation on a very young Pandas team. However, one forward has stood out with her timely goals and solid play on both sides of the puck.

UBC's Kathleen Cahoon stands above the rest, and that's not just because she's 6'1" tall. #74 has been used in all situations for UBC this year, and she's showing her value to the team. She has a pair of power-play goals, a shorthanded goal, two game-winning goals, and she is tied for the lead in goals for UBC with five. While her eight points put her third in scoring on the Thunderbirds, she uses her big frame effectively as a power forward and often creates chaos in front of the net. She has the hands of a skilled forward, the size of a power forward, and the vision of a play-maker to find spots on the ice where she can create offence yet she's responsible defensively and rarely is caught out of position in the defensive zone. If Cahoon continues be a finisher for UBC this season while playing solid two-way hockey, she'll be a large reason for the Thunderbirds' success.

All-Stars So Far

While the above four players certainly deserve to be in this section, they've been honoured already. That means we'll exclude them from the all-star selections because they've stood apart from the rest of their peers to be honoured on their own. In saying that, I will nominate one player from each team over the next two sections as all-stars in the Canada West Conference.

Forward: Cassandra Vilgrain - UBC
Forward: Nicole Saxvik - UBC
Forward: Lauren Keen - Manitoba
Defence: Erica Rieder - Manitoba
Defence: Alexis Larson - Regina
Goalie: Cassidy Hendricks - Saskatchewan

Forward: Jaycee Magwood - Regina
Forward: Mackenzie Gal - Lethbridge
Forward: Sasha Vafina - Calgary
Defence: Caitlyn Fyten - Manitoba
Defence: Abby Benning - Alberta
Goalie: Zoe DeBeauville - Mount Royal

Up Next

The standings below show that anyone is still within striking distance of a playoff spot, so no teams should be counted out just yet. Calgary needs to come around and pick up at least a couple of regulation wins in December if they hope to remain relevant, but they made an impressive run in the second-half of the season last season to make the big dance. Will the do the same this season?

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
25 37 18
vs REG
23 34 13
vs ALB
19 22 19
vs CAL
17 24 24
13 21 20
10 18 32
Mount Royal
8 14 25
vs LET
4 13 32

That's how I saw the first five weeks of the CWUAA season. Yes, you'll probably disagree with me, but that's what makes this conference so good. There are a number of players who could be the best at their positions, and I'm quite certain that the all-star selections could be swapped entirely. If you really want to disagree with me, I encourage you to head down to your local rink and check out any and all USports women's hockey action! It's the best hockey you're missing each and every week!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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