Wickenheiser wins CIS player of the year

Hayley Wickenheiser has been an Olympic gold medalist, a world champion and even a professional hockey player. Now, she can add Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) player of the year to her resume.

Wickenheiser took home the honour at Wednesday night’s CIS awards banquet, held at Laurier as part of this weekend’s women’s hockey nationals. The 32-year-old finished the season tied for fifth in Canada with 40 points in just 15 games.

“It’s a great award to win…. I learned a lot about being a student-athlete,” said Wickenheiser. “I have a lot of respect for these players and everything they do day in and day out.”

This was Wickenheiser’s first year playing CIS hockey and though pre-season expectations were high for her Calgary Dinos, with a three-time gold medalist joining the team, they failed to qualify for the Canada West final, falling in the semis to Manitoba.

The other major awards handed out at Wednesday’s gala were for coach of the year and rookie of the year, as well as the Marion Hillard Award for community service.

Brock’s Jim Denham took home the coach of the year award after guiding the Badgers to their best record in team history, going 22-5-0. This was also Denham’s first year as head coach at Brock.

“We did have a great year, but this award is something that totally surprised me, I had no idea when I got here that I was getting it,” said Denham. “But when you win coach of the year, it’s a team award; I couldn’t have done it with out the players and my assistant coaches.”

The CIS rookie of the year was awarded to St. F.X. X-Women forward Alex Normore. Normore finished third in the CIS in scoring — ahead of even player of the year Wickenheiser — with 41 points, 16 goals, 25 assists.

“It’s a huge honour, especially because there are so many good rookies in Canada,” said Normore. “It was definitely a goal, but it was more about the team goal of trying to win…. We have a couple vets on the team and they definitely made all the rookies feel welcome, it was great.”

The final major award was the Marion Hillard Award for community service, which went to Mount Allison’s Andrea Switalski. The fourth-year defenceman is involved with multiple community services including being co-president of the Mounties in Motion program, which tutors at local high schools as well as volunteering as a student therapist with the Mount Allison soccer teams.

“I don’t try and do it, I just love to do it,” said Switalski of her volunteer work. “I go to the high school every morning at 7:30 and I just love being there. I don’t see it has being a time problem because I enjoy doing it.”

The first and second team All-Canadians were also announced at Wednesday’s banquet.

The first team forwards were: Marieve Provost of Moncton, Wickenheiser and Kelly Walker. Defencemen Cathy Chartrand of McGill and Suzanne Fenerty of St. F.X. along with McGill goalie Charlene Labonte rounded out the group.

On the second team, the forwards were Anne-Sophie Bettez of McGill, Normore and Breanne George of the University of Saskatchewan. Brock’s Beth Clause was the goaltender, with McGill’s Gillian Ferrari and Dalhousie’s Laura Shearer occupying the defence spots.

The CIS all-rookie was also announced and was highlighted by a pair of St. F.X. X-Women and a pair of Laurier Golden Hawks. Normore and defenceman Jenna Pitts represented the X-Women while forward Laura Brooker and defenceman Alannah Wakefield were the Laurier contingent. The other two spots went to McGill forward Katia Clemente-Heydra and goalie Nicole Kesteris of the University of Toronto.

Game action kicks off today at 4:00 when McGill takes on Manitoba. Laurier will play St. F.X. in the second game at 7:30, following the opening ceremonies at 7:00.