Osborne: ‘I wasn’t expecting that’

Goaltender Erika Thunder has left the Laurier Golden Hawks to return home. (File photo by Nick Lachance)

Goaltender Erika Thunder has left the Laurier Golden Hawks to return home. (File photo by Nick Lachance)

After losing iconic goaltender Liz Knox following the 2010-11 women’s hockey season, head coach Rick Osborne sought out a replacement.

He tried to find something that would work between the pipes, and through conditioning and intense discipline, he thought he found a system that would work with second-year goaltender Erika Thunder.

However, following the 2012-13 season, Thunder let Osborne know that she would be leaving Wilfrid Laurier University to return home to Buffalo Point, Manitoba, leaving women’s hockey looking for that potential goaltender again.

“I think she was having some living issues and just home sick type of issues, so in order to continue … she thought that she would go home and sit out a year and then maybe apply to a good [division] three college where she could resume college,” Osborne said. “So she thought about it and thought about it, and it was very tearful and emotional, and she decided that she was going to leave.”

According to Osborne, Thunder came into training camp at the beginning of the year not in the best shape, and returned from the winter break not physically ready for the remainder of the season.

With concerns, Osborne started looking to fix the goaltending woes.
But when the women’s hockey team began their bootcamp in January, Osborne saw a positive response from Thunder and decided to continue with his current goaltending.

“There were just some late developments after her exit interview that really flipped her and I wasn’t expecting that,” Osborne explained.

However, despite Thunder’s surprising exit from WLU’s women’s hockey program, Osborne had already recruited a goaltender he saw immediate potential in.

Amanda Smith, a 5’5” goaltender from the Etobicoke Dolphins of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) was one of Osborne’s main recruits. Smith started 20 of her team’s 22 games and had a 9-8-3 record, with a 2.19 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.

“Amanda Smith, the goaltender we did eventually bring in, we had talks with her throughout the season and she was pretty interested in us,” Osborne said. “She was interested in us and Yale. And she was pretty high on our list, too, because she’s very athletic. She reminds us a lot of Knox when she was here.”

Osborne believes that Smith will join current goaltender Kayla Brown between the pipes, and mentioned it could get competitive for the starting position.

“Smitty was brought in not to be a backup, she was recruited to be kind of a 1-A, 1-B with Kayla,” he said. “And then whoever gets hot in the second half will go with it.”

“I think it’ll be competitive at camp. I think they’ll both play,” he continued. “So we are very excited to have her come and have someone her quality and capability and step right in and become a good partner for Kayla.”

Despite the setbacks following the 2012-13 season, Osborne feels very confident in the depth of his team, as well as the goaltending situation he’s dealt with for the last three years.

“I feel like we’re in probably the best shape we’ve been in in a few years with goaltending,” he said.

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