New season, another search for victory
Leadership. Dynasty. Success. Revenge.
You don’t have to question the fight that will come out of the Wilfrid Laurier University women’s hockey team this year, because it’s the same as it is every year.
After finishing fourth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship last year in Edmonton, the Hawks are looking to rekindle the flame that has been burning underneath them for the last nine years.
And in Rick Osborne’s tenth year behind the bench, the head coach found depth in the best of places.
“We have nine, ten really experienced forwards. Third, fourth, fifth-year kids that are going to give us a lot of balance,” he said regarding his 2012-13 team.
The Hawks recruited six rookies that will join the squad after captain Abby Rainsberry and fellow veterans Alicia Martin and Katherine Shiriff graduated at the end of last season.
“I think [forward] Robyn Degagne is going to be a high impact rookie,” Osborne said. “We have two rookie [defencemen] that I think are going to come along pretty nicely by Christmas and will be comfortable in their roles.”
In Thursday’s exhibition match against the K-W Rangers, all three rookie forwards — Degagne, Emily Kekewich, and Erika Kiviaho — found the back of the net.
The Hawks generated good offence and controlled the majority of the game, while using the final period to sort out some minor kinks in their special teams.
Osborne also revealed that the Laurier squad would be getting some help in the back end from a former NCAA player. Defender Geneva Kliman, who is originally from Toronto but played three years with Darmouth University, will be joining the Hawks after taking a year off.
Kliman did not participate in the exhibition game against the Rangers because her eligibility did not go through in time, but participated in the warm up.
“She will be in the lineup next game, we finally got that all sorted out. And she’s a real high-end player,” Osborne said. “With Blaire Connelly focusing on school this year and not playing hockey that left a dent in our back end on the skill perspective. So [Kliman] is a good addition.”
Osborne also addressed the diversity in some of his veteran players.
“We have the option of using [Candice] Styles back or up depending on which was we want to go.”
With being crowned No. 1 in the country before going into last year’s CIS national tournament, the Hawks will be searching for another chance at redemption, and it’ll start right away.
The defending OUA champions will open their season on the road against the Western Mustangs, the same team they played in the OUA final.
“It’ll be a tough trip,” Osborne said. “I think there’s still some adjustments to the way our team plays, but we have a week or two to look after that.”
According to Osborne, the question of goaltending is still being decided.
Without Rachel Hamilton returning, the Hawks will look to last year’s stand-out rookie Erika Thunder as well as first-year Kayla Brown to fill the pipes.
But the starter has not been decided.
“Both have started slower than I thought they would,” Osborne said. “I’m not sure Erika came to camp in the kind of shape I would have liked her to or expected her to. She tweeked her back a little bit last week.
“I think that spot is going to be a share. It’s wide open. I’m not going to prejudge either of them.”
The season starts Oct. 6, which resulted in less exhibition and non-conference games earlier in the season. Osborne stressed that he preferred the games to be during winter break.
This will also help any final nerves in the rookies before the last part of the season.
“I’m hoping that by Christmas you won’t be able to tell who the rookies and who the vets are like most years on our team,” Osborne said.
He also mentioned that he used last week’s defeat against the Calgary Dinos as a breath of fresh air instead of a burden from the defending CIS champions.
“It was kind of nice — well it wasn’t really nice getting wacked by Calgary — but we were on the ice every day that week, really tired, and they were all in awe of [Hayley] Wickenheiser,” he said.
“I think that went a long way to get all of the butterflies and nervousness out of the team.”
Now, the team moves toward contending for another OUA title and a chance at the CIS championship once again.
And Osborne still has faith.
“I’m still very happy with all of them.”