‘I’m feeling super, super blessed’
The Wilfrid Laurier women’s hockey team got a taste of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) once Geneva Kliman joined this season’s roster.
The 22-year-old defencemen officially became apart of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) after spending four years at Dartmouth College in the United States.
Kliman is currently a masters student in the social psychology department at Laurier and has two remaining years of eligibility as an athlete.
The Toronto native only got three years out of the NCAA as she suffered a head injury in her senior year. After that, she had to put hockey on hold.
“I fell a height,” Kliman said. “I had to get facial reconstructive surgery and I just suffered a big concussion so I couldn’t play.”
Prior to her fourth-year head trauma, Kliman was a key player for the ‘Big Green’. In her junior year, Kliman was the second-highest scoring defencemen on her team, racking up 15 points in a single season.
“The level of competition was really high,” Kliman reflected when asked about the NCAA. “There’s a ton of time you need to commit, every day there was an hour of ice whereas here you only have Tuesday and Thursday morning practices.”
Kliman officially made her Laurier debut after a year and a half off the ice. She explained that her decision to re-enter the hockey world came from Laurier’s impeccable reputation and her roots in Ontario hockey.
“I had been contacted by other U.S. schools,” she said. “I really liked [WLU’s] proximity to home and Laurier’s always been known as the best.”
Other contributing factors to Kliman’s return included her fellow teammates, Paula Lagamba and Candice Styles. Both are former teammates of Kliman’s from back in their rep days and had recommended her to the team.
“They gave me support,” Kliman laughed. “It’s nice going to a team where you’re not going to be an outcast because you already have friends there, so it was an easy transition.”
Two months into the season, Kliman explained that Laurier’s squad has been incredibly welcoming and encouraging to all newcomers.
However, Kliman believes that because of her lengthy absence from hockey, she still needs to find some consistency in her performance.
“It’s taken me a bit to get back on that horse,” she said. “But I like the level of play [here], it’s competitive.”
Kliman scored her first goal of the season against the University of Toronto last Saturday. The Hawks had a 1-0 deficit going into the second period when Kliman shot from the point and evened the score.
Laurier defensive coach, Lindsey Arbeau, was telling the defence to move into the weak side and Kliman capitalized on that opportunity.
“The next shift I went out, snuck in, they popped it out into center, [and] I put all my body weight into this random slap shot,” she laughed. “This is why we listen to our coaches.”
Rick Osborne, Laurier’s head coach, is also known for having a great relationship with his squad.
“If you want to know something, they’re going to tell you,” Kliman elaborated.
“There’s nothing hidden, which is another huge difference I find between this and my last team.”
According to Kliman, NCAA teams are notorious for being quite secretive about their hockey operations.
“You never knew exactly what they were thinking,” she said. “Here, Rick will tell you everything about everyone’s situation. The whole team’s involved.”
With the Hawks looking to win their second OUA championship in a row and their ninth in ten years, Kliman will hope to be a benefit to the team after her long-awaited return to the ice.
“I’m feeling super, super blessed to be able to play this year,” she said.