Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Canada's Brightest

There's a bit of a double-entendre in that title since we're talking about Canada's brightest students and brightest hockey stars. Hockey Canada invited 21 U Sports women's hockey players to Calgary for Hockey Canada's Summer Showcase from August 5 through August 13, and it's literally a who's who of Canadian university women's hockey. A lot of the invited women have played in a Universiade Games or two, and it's expected that the bulk of these 21 women will represent Canada at the 2019 Universiade Games in Krasnoyarsk, Russia from March 2 through March 12. Without further delay, though, let's see who Hockey Canada invited!

U SPORTS All-Stars Roster

  • F Kelty Apperson, St. Thomas
  • F Mélodie Bouchard, Ottawa
  • F Sarah Bujold, St. Francis Xavier
  • F Claudia Dubois, Concordia
  • F Lyndsay Kirkham, Western
  • F Krystin Lawrence, Windsor
  • F Kaitlin Lowy, Guelph
  • F Jaycee Magwood, Regina
  • F Alex Poznikoff, Alberta
  • F Cassandra Vilgrain, UBC
  • F Katryne Villeneuve, Moncton
  • F Kaitlin Willoughby, Saskatchewan
  • D Alexandra Anderson, Manitoba
  • D Cristine Chao, Toronto
  • D Zosia Davis, Nipissing
  • D Lindsay Donovan, St. Francis Xavier
  • D Caroll-Ann Gagné, Concordia
  • D Kelly Murray, UBC
  • D Bryanna Neuwald, Ottawa
  • G Tricia Deguire, McGill
  • G Lindsay Post, Alberta
  • G Amelia Boughn, UBC
While I certainly haven't seen some of these players enough to make educated scouting reports on them, I can tell you that the Canada West Conference is well-represented by some rather outstanding athletes. Some of these athletes have already graduated - Lindsey Post and Kelly Murray, for example - but there's no reason they shouldn't remain on Hockey Canada's radar. Both Post and Murray were outstanding U Sports players, and I suspect we'll be hearing their names come this winter once the CWHL schedule gets rolling.

There are two CWUAA players who will graduate at the end of this 2017-18 season, and they are Saskatchewan's Kaitlin Willoughby and UBC's Cassandra Vilgrain. Both players are outstanding scoring threats for their respective teams, and both have shown enough to convince me that the possibility of playing at a higher level is possible. Willoughby led the Huskies in goals with 11 and points with 21 while Vilgrain led UBC in assists with 19 and points with 27 while finishing second in CWUAA scoring this season. If both of these players elect to register for the CWHL draft next summer, I have a feeling they'll find no difficulty in being selected.

That leaves the four players of Regina's Jaycee Magwood, Alberta's Alex Poznikoff, UBC's Amelia Boughn, and Manitoba's Alex Anderson as the three athletes from Canada West who could wear the red-and-white for Canada in 2019 in Krasnoyarsk.

Magwood's inclusion should be a no-brainer as she led the Cougars in every major offensive category last season - goals, assists, points, power-play goals, shorthanded goals, game-winning goals, and shots! To say the Cougars' offence ran through Magwood would be selling Jaycee short on how important she was to the Cougars' attack. Magwood looks like she'll be a fixture on Hockey Canada's radar for some time as she continues to lead the Cougars moving forward!

Like Magwood, Alberta's Alex Poznikoff was Alberta's leader in goals, assists, and points, but she was also a leader on and off the ice for a young Pandas squad. Her offensive output helped the Pandas to the CWUAA Finals and propelled them to the U Sports National Championship. Poznikoff's smaller stature and incredible speed make her nearly impossible to knock off the puck, and she can turn that speed on at the drop of a hat. Her incredible acceleration was key to her pulling away from defenders at times, and she has soft hands and a bag full of moves when it comes to scoring goals. Her vision off the wing showed off her great setup skills as well, proving the Poznikoff has all the tools to keep her in Hockey Canada's programs moving forward.

UBC's Amelia Boughn was perhaps the best story of last season as the UBC netminder stole the show in leading UBC to the best record in Canada West. She was often the best player on the ice for UBC despite their scoring prowess as she kept the puck out the net so the UBC offence could skate it back down the ice. The former Cornell product won 14 games for UBC last season while posting an incredible 1.72 GAA, leading UBC to the CWUAA title and a U Sports National Championship bronze medal. Boughn's abilities should keep her in the Hockey Canada program for the foreseeable future.

Finally, Manitoba's Alexandra Anderson is the third player who could venture off to Russia in her fifth year of eligibility. The Manitoba rearguard finished second in conference scoring by a defenceman with 18 points, trailing only Kelly Murray of UBC by two points. Anderson has shown amazing growth in her first three years with the Bisons, and she's trusted by the coaching staff in all situations. She's a shooting threat on the power-play with her bomb from the point, she regularly skates the puck out of her own zone while under pressure, and she finds openings in the offensive zone where she threads passes to teammates. In short, Anderson has given Hockey Canada every reason to notice her.

In addition to the eight players above, there were four more Canada West players invited to the Summer Showcase as Manitoba's Alanna Sharman, Erica Rieder, and Lauryn Keen and UBC's Alexa Ranahan were also invited from Canada West, but all four players are unable to attend due to prior commitments and/or rehabbing of injuries. Also unable to attend are Guelph's Katherine Bailey, St. Mary's Breanna Lanceleve, and Montreal's Alexandra Labelle and Jessica Cormier. The addition of these players would have made this U Sports All-Star Team very impressive with the firepower they'd bring, but the squad listed above should still be a very competitive team when it comes to their play over the eight days. The U Sports All-Star Team will be coached by Laurentian's Stacey Colarossi, with Moncton's Marc-Andre Cote and UBC's Graham Thomas serving as assistants.

I have to say that I'm already getting excited for another fantastic season of U Sports women's hockey as students and players are getting close to returning to their respective schools. Bisons women's hockey will hit road in early September with a couple of preseason games against Jaycee Magwood and the Regina Cougars in a pair of neutral site preseason games. I do have to admit that the game in Virden, Manitoba probably will be anything but "neutral" as Virden is Bisons center Karissa Kirkup's hometown, but we'll see if a few Cougars fans venture east to even out the cheering sections. In any case, U Sports hockey is almost back!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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