The U Sports hockey landscape is vast.
34 different teams spanning all across the country; all with different playing styles and fierce rivalries. The league is separated into four conferences and today 49 Sport will be diving into the powerhouses in each of them in terms of their women’s programs.
OUA (Ontario University Athletics) – Guelph Gryphons
The Guelph Gryphons have been a powerhouse in the OUA for the past few seasons and finally became champions last season.
Their star goaltender Valerie Lamenta will be gone, but lucky for the Gryphons they still have a very reliable backup to fall back on. Aurore Beaulieu spent her first three seasons as the backup and put up impressive numbers. She has a .942 save percentage through three seasons and when she played a career-high eight games last season, she won them all. In fact, she has only lost one game in her entire Gryphons career.
Having a strong goalie supporting the Gryphons’ already potent offence is a recipe for disaster for their opponents. Last season, Guelph scored the most in the OUA, averaging 3.29 goals per game while also posting the best save percentage in the league at .949.
While the Gryphons don’t have any player leading the conference in production, what makes them so special is their team depth. Last season they have 10 players produce 10+ points, three of the players being juniors. While Guelph will be seeing many key veterans leaving, they still have a ton of younger players ready to step up and continue their legacy.
Canada West – Alberta Pandas
The Pandas were CanWest champions last season and their dominance isn’t over yet. Their two goaltenders Kirsten Chamberlain and Halle Oswald are two of the best net-minders in the conference. This gives Alberta an edge over all the other teams, in addition to the fact that they have the league’s top three scorers. Alex Poznikoff lead the league in both goals (15) and points (37) which made her Canada West’s Player of the Year.
With both the best goaltenders and scorers in the conference, the Pandas finished last season with a 19-5-4 record and first overall in the conference. They ended up losing in the national competition to the Guelph Gryphons and that bitter taste will help motivate the team this upcoming season.
AUS (Atlantic University Sport) – StFX
While St. Thomas won the conference last season, StFX is on the rise and will be the next powerhouse of the AUS. Their scoring depth is unmatched and many of their top offensive players are young. Their assists and points leader, Lindsey Donovan, recorded 25 points and is entering her senior year. Two of their top-five points leaders are just entering their sophomore year.
Not only do they have a nucleus of budding talent, so are their goaltenders. Their starter, Carley Molnar has the third-best numbers in AUS, with a .935 save percentage and a 12-7 record. The backup, Cassidy McEwen, has a .918 save percentage and a 6-3 record. In 28-game seasons, every game counts and having both an established starter and a backup that can hold her own is crucial. StFX has built a strong team that will only get better as they continue to grow with experience.
RSEQ (Quebec U Sports) – Concordia Stingers
The Concordia Stingers have a young and exciting team with plenty of talent. They didn’t have the best season last year because they struggled to play a consistent season. This year, there will be more familiarity among the players and one year under their belts will help them take the next step this year.
The team was notorious for its strong defence and goaltending and since half of the defencemen were rookies, it will only get better from here. The team will be seeing a lot of key players graduating including Devon Thompson (captain) and Sohpie Gagnon (assistant captain) but luckily for the team, there are so many promising rookies ready to step up.
In addition to the young core, the Stingers are adding some outside talent as well, most notably Emmy Fecteau from the Limoilou Titans. She finished last season with a whopping 46 points in just 24 games. The Stingers will be a problem for the other RSEQ teams for quite a long time.
Is there a possibility we see every one of these teams at the national championships? Yes, of course there’s a chance.; however, the likelihood of all the favourites winning out in their conferences is slim.
One only has to look at the 2018 NHL Playoffs to see that the favourites don’t always come out on top. Regardless of how the season plays out, the 2019-20 U Sports women’s hockey season will not be one to miss.