Friday, 22 November 2019

A Late Addition

It was a bit of a shock back on September 9 when the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team announced their recruiting class for the 2020-21 season. Normally, you don't expect a team preparing for the 2019 season to have their scouting done and signed for 2020 season, but it was pretty clear the Bisons knew who they wanted when it comes to next season. Until today, that is, when they announced a sixth player who will join the Bisons for the 2020-21 season!

As per the College Commitments website, the Bisons will add winger Aimee Patrick of the St. Mary's Academy Flames prep team next season as their sixth recruit for the 2020-21 season! Patrick currently is third in scoring for the Flames with two goals and four assists, but the 5'9" winger skates well, uses her size to battle to the front of the net and along the boards, and has the hands to finish around the net.

If there's one drawback to Patrick's game, it's that she is susceptible to penalties being called against her based on how she plays. While she skates well, she occasionally gets caught not moving her feet and will take a penalty, and Patrick using her size occasionally gets her in trouble for bodychecking. These are rather easily-correctable problems that I assume coach Rempel and his staff will resolve once Patrick gets to camp, but it's notable that she leads the Flames in PIMs after nine games in the CSSHL.

With the Bisons having two players in their fifth years of eligibility in Jordy Zacharias and Amanda Schubert, there will be a number of players who will compete for their minutes next season. Incoming recruit Meagan Relf will likely find playing time behind Erin Fargey with Schubert graduating out of the program, but it's a little more confusing up front where five players will compete for Zacharias' playing time along with at least one of this year's recruits. This is where the numbers don't really add up for me.

Look, I'm never going to complain about kids wanting to further their education by getting a break to go to university through their athletic endeavours and abilities, but I'm slightly confused about this numbers game that head coach Jon Rempel is playing next season. Unless there are additional players who may be considering other options outside of Bisons hockey, the Bisons will have a larger collection of scratched players in the 2020 season than any other that I can remember. If coach Rempel is simply leveraging the best players in Manitoba for his squad through sheer numbers, that's an avenue he's free to explore, but I'm not sure it helps if there are players who find themselves sitting more than playing.

The thing that seems to happen with the Bisons is that there are specific eras where the staff recruits heavily from one program. It happened in the early part of the last decade where the Balmoral Hall Blazers were heavily featured throughout the Bisons' lineup. It seems that the St. Mary's Academy Flames, who have had some success in the CSSHL, are getting their era now with the three recent recruiting classes.

Regardless of me doing any questioning of coach Rempel and his staff's recruitment process, I'm excited to see Aimee Patrick join the Bisons. She's going to be another great addition to the program from the Flames just as Katie Chatyrbok, Sarah Dennehy, and Kate Gregoire are, and just as Bisons alumni Nicole McGlenen was over her five years and Jenna Thompson was for a season.

As the Bisons rebuild their program following a national championship season and some exceptional seasons, the Flames will play a large part in getting the program back to national recognition. And while the hockey is important, it's even more encouraging to see these young women do some amazing things in the classroom as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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