Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Reloading The Guns

When eight senior players graduate, there will be some obvious holes in a university team's lineup. As a coach or a recruiter, it is up to that person to determine how to best fill those gaps left by the departing students, and I have to say that I like what UBC's Graham Thomas is doing in rebuilding his team to be a contender for the upcoming 2017-18 season. It isn't often that NCAA-trained players opt to leave that circuit, but Thomas has managed to recruit Syracuse's Emily Costales for the upcoming season which is a major pickup for that program. If you thought UBC might take a step back, Thomas is doing everything in his power to dispel those thoughts.

So who is Emily Costales, you're asking? Well, she had the second-most points and seventh-most in the CHA for the Orange last season on nine goals and 16 assists. She was named an alternate captain last season in her junior season, and has 23 goals and 32 assists in 100 career NCAA games. Oh, and I forgot to mention that her hometown is Vancouver, BC. The convenience of playing for the Thunderbirds while living at home rather than on the opposite side of the continent seems like a nice touch.

"I really wanted to come back home because I was homesick," Costales told UBC's Len Catling . "I spent three years at Syracuse and the coaches were amazing and the program was great, but something that was missing was having my family and friends watch all of my games."

Having grown up in the BC hockey system, it's not like UBC is getting someone who doesn't know the lay of the land. She played alongside current T-Birds Celine Tardif and Mikayla Ogrodniczuk on BC provincial teams, and Coach Thomas feels her addition to the team will not only be seamless, but well-received in the dressing room.

"She's just a great person," Thomas said. "She's been an alternate captain and she can be a leader for us. She can fit in with our group. That's always so important when we take transfers."

UBC is loading up for another run at glory this season. Having captured their second-straight CWUAA Championship and USports National Championship medal, the players they are adding could make it a three-peat if things go well. They added Ireland Perrot from the Pursuit of Excellence Academy, Karlee Mazor from St. Mary's Academy, Emily Moore from Edge Academy, Jenna Fletcher from the Thompson Okanagan Lakers, Shay-lee McConnell from the Ontario Hockey Academy, and Jessie Sanghe from the Pacific Steelers prior to adding Costales, and each of those players is coming into UBC from a highly-regarded hockey program. To say that Graham Thomas has recruited well might be selling his work done this off-season a little short.

If the purpose of recruiting the best players is to keep up with the Joneses in your respective league, there are seven other CWUAA teams that have some work to do to keep up with this outstanding class of players that Thomas is bringing in. Alberta always finds great players, and I expect Howie Draper to really bolster his club with some strong talent. Regina and Saskatchewan have added a few quality players this spring, and Manitoba's class of five players could be expanded if any of the University of North Dakota players decide to head two hours north to continue their careers. Calgary, Lethbridge, and Mount Royal always seem to find gems in their recruiting classes as well, but I'm not sure that any of these other seven schools have done the job that Thomas has to this point.

Tip your hat to the Thunderbirds because they could be the toast of the CWUAA Conference once more this season with the talent they are amassing. Winning speaks volumes to athletes when deciding on what school to attend. More recruiters and coaches should remember that success begets success when it comes to building powerhouse programs. It seems Thomas has embraced this concept wholeheartedly as his Thunderbirds are, in my view, the team to beat next season in the Canada West after the work he's put in this off-season attracting top-notch talent.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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