The Trinity Western Spartans women’s hockey team has been playing in the South Coast Women’s Hockey League, but are set to join U SPORTS in the fall of 2020. With the change in competition, comes a change in personnel and in this four-part series, we take a look into each of the team’s new faces ahead of the inaugural U SPORTS puck drop.
Langley, BC- There’s just something about Saskatchewan. While there’s a lot of things that make Canada’s flattest province special, for the TWU Spartans, its hockey players. Ahead of the Spartans inaugural year in U SPORTS, they have brought in six players from Saskatchewan’s premier midget hockey league, in hopes that the new faces can bring immediate success against the new Canada West opponents.
There are two teams represented among the six recruits, meaning that the Spartans are inserting instant chemistry into their lineup, something that could help instil success faster than if they were only a group of individuals.
Three of the players coming into the program have been teammates while playing with the Swift Current Wildcats and already have had a measure of success that they are bringing to the Spartans.
Ryleigh White: Swift Current Wildcats
The first of these players is defender Ryleigh White, who is headed to the Langley campus after spending three years in Wildcats blue.
As for what she is bringing to the team’s blueline, there is a lot to unpack. She has been a solid player on the defence of the Wildcats and has become known for her physical play, but does it in a way that frightens opponents, and keeps her out of the penalty box. Although keeping the puck out of her end is her focus, the offensive instincts are still there. She has scored at least 10 points in each season with the Wildcats, and is coming to the Spartans after a career-high year in which she had 17 points over 24 games.
Her on-ice contributions are one thing, but positivity in the locker room is another aspect that she will bring to the Spartans. “I’m just always smiling, so I think I’ll [make people] want to be there. I hope I can get some stuff rolling on the ice for the team,” said White to Swift Current Online, after she had committed.
There is a lot to like in White’s game and even more to like in her personality. Her addition to the Spartans will only help through the team’s transition to U SPORTS.
Joining the Spartans alongside White are Swift Current teammates Brooklyn Rublee and Ashlee Wolfe, who are two forwards that have found success in Swift Current.
Brooklyn Rublee: Swift Current Wildcats
Rublee committed to the Spartans just days after White, and has had a crazy year in Swift Current. After putting up a respectable 17 points in 2018-19, the kid from Dodsland, SK shot up the scoring charts in 2019-20 with 28 points through 30 games. It was her play this season that caught the eye of Spartas head coach Jean LaForest and landed her a spot with TWU.
In an interview with West Central Online, she credited the offensive explosion to some aspects of her game that she was able to harness, “I’m a pretty good skater – can skate fast and drive to the net hard,” she said, adding her intensity was certainly a strength as well. All of this is going to help her make an instant impact on the roster.
Ashlee Wolfe: Swift Current Wildcats
The final member of the Wildcat trifecta, Ashlee Wolfe is joining the Spartans after two years with Swift Current, in which she averaged over half a point per game in 57 appearances. In speaking with the media following her commitment, she explained how she is looking forward to playing alongside her two teammates, and also touched upon how moving to British Columbia has always been something she has thought of. Fortunately for her, both of those will become a reality when she steps onto Trinity Western’s Langley campus and the pristine ice of the Langley Events Centre.
There is clearly something that the Wildcats program has done right with these three players, and that’s exactly why they have drawn the eye of the Spartans.
However, it’s not just the Wildcats sending players from this league to TWU, as a duo from the Prince Albert Northern Bears are also making their way to Langley.
Brooklyn Anderson and McKenzie Mayo have played alongside each other over the last two years in Prince Albert and will continue to do so in Spartans colours.
Brooklyn Anderson: Prince Albert Northern Bears
Anderson has spent the last four seasons in Prince Albert and has found a good measure of success in the small Saskatchewan town. Through her years with the Bears, she has become known as a regular contributor on the scoresheet, and her contributions have only risen in the last couple of seasons.
As a rookie, she found immediate success with the team and was a part of the squad that made a deep run into the postseason. She has hovered around 20 points each year and finishes her midget career a hair less than a point per game. Coming to the Spartans alongside her teammate is a fact that will help her settle into the brand new locker room.
McKenzie Mayo: Prince Albert Northern Bears
Just like Anderson, McKenzie Mayo is coming to the Spartans after spending her midget years in Prince Albert. It has only been two seasons in Prince Albert for Mayo, who joined the team in 2017, and is moving to collegiate hockey a year younger than her teammate, but there is no doubt in her mind that she is ready.
In an interview with the Prince Albert Daily Herald, Mayo said “It feels good to be able to commit to playing U SPORTS hockey with one of my teammates,” before going onto explain how the potential of playing under the tutelage of Laforest and studying at the campus were major reasons for choosing TWU.
What Mayo is bringing to the team is a calm demeanour to the blueline, but she’s also the type of defender who will be able to contribute offensively. Through her two years with the Northern Bears, she scored 21 points in 51 games. Although that tally may not be Bobby Orr-esque, her technique and calmness under pressure are two reasons why she will find success in Langley.
The six players coming from the SMAAAHL are going to be important players to the Spartans in the coming years, and they represent a sizable portion of one of U SPORTS’ largest recruiting classes.
Chantel Weller: Regina Rebels
Weller is coming to the Spartans without any teammates, but she has become very familiar with the other five players over the last four years. The goaltender has guarded the crease of the Regina Rebels since 2017 and has consistently been one of the league’s premier netminders. In 2019-20, she finished with the league’s second-best save percentage with a .945 stat line, the best of her career. Although there is a lot more to goaltender evaluation than save percentage, it is still a very important stat and one that she has shown she can dominate.
The right-handed goaltender will only turn 18 a few weeks after puck drop, making her one of the youngest goaltenders in all of U SPORTS. That being said, with the confidence she has shown in her play over the last 12 months, age should not be a factor when it comes to keeping pucks out of Trinity Western’s net.