Vancouver, BC – UBC Women’s hockey returns to action on Saturday against the Pacific Steelers, the first of four preseason warmups before the Canada West season gets underway. It has been a long year of waiting, but soon enough, the women in blue and gold will hit the ice.
After a 2019-20 season that saw them bow out in the Canada West semi-finals, just what will this team look like? Let’s take a look at how things are shaping up in Point Grey.
Like the men’s team, the UBC women will see a lot key veterans departing from the team. The production of Hannah Clayton-Carroll and Mathea Fischer will be keenly missed, the two forwards being UBC’s leading scorers during their last Canada West campaign.
As well, their defense will see a number of changes. Mikayla Ogrodniczuk, a long serving member of the T-Birds d-core, has now moved onto the UBC Masters of Physical Therapy program. It will be the first time since 2015 that her name isn’t in the lineup sheet.
Goaltender Tory Micklash will also be graduating, having just finished her 5th year of kinesiology. Posting a stellar 1.71 goals against average on a .911 save percentage in her last season, the Thunderbirds will definitely miss her stability in net as they move on into the new season.
The Thunderbirds will be looking for their returning players to step up into the void left behind by the departing players. Defender Hannah Koroll was the third leading scorer on the Thunderbirds in 2019-20, and they’ll be counting on her to continue to develop and take on a bigger role this season.
Shay-Lee McConnell will also be depended upon for leadership up front. Returning for her fourth year with the T-Birds, McConnell adds a dependable two-way game to go along with some good scoring numbers. Head coach Graham Thomas will be wanting more of the same and then some, as UBC looks to improve from their sixth place finish.
Exciting New Recruits
UBC has been active in restocking their losses, taking on 5 new players. Mya Healey, Annalise Wong, Mia Bierd, Kailee Peppler and Kayla McDougall will all don the blue and gold in Canada West competition.
Healey joins the Thunderbirds from her hometown of Calgary, having split time between the Northern Alberta Xtreme and Calgary Fire. She posted 33 points in 55 career midget games, and brings a tenacious, aggressive style to the T-Birds lineup.
Wong is a local product, spending her time with the Fraser Valley Rush. A Richmond, BC native, the forward calls her speed and skating ability her biggest strengths. Wong put up impressive scoring numbers, tallying 43 points in 44 games.
Bierd is the last forward the Thunderbirds have brought in. A product of the Edge School in Calgary, her strong two-way game is complimented by speed and defensive awareness. In the 2019-20 season, Bierd scored 17 points in 23 games.
Joining these three forwards is defender Kailee Peppler. Having spent three years with the Prince Albert Bears, Peppler played this previous year with Rink Hockey Academy in Kelowna. A skilled, hardworking player, she put up 35 points in 85 games with Prince Albert.
Top goalie Kayla McDougall rounds out this strong class for UBC. A strong, competitive netminder, she posted a sparkling 1.67 GAA on a .914 SV% with the Stoney Creek Sabres. To top this off, she elevated her play in the playoffs, improving to a 0.85 GAA on a .966 SV%. McDougall’s stats made her one of the most sought-after recruits, and her joining UBC means that they have a very solid netminder for the next couple of years.
So, What to Make of it?
The one year hiatus from Canada West has caused quite a few shifts with the women’s hockey lineup. From longtime leaders graduating to exciting new faces, the Thunderbirds will definitely be a different team than the one that finished in 6th in 2019-20.
It’s a team full of question marks and one that isn’t necessarily a contender for the Canada West crown. However, I would peg them as a dark horse, one that could make noise. They are firmly in the top half of the teams in the region, and if things go well, I could see the Thunderbirds ending up in the Canada West finals.
Their matchup with the Pacific Steelers will be at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sport Centre, which will not have any spectators. Details on streaming are to be announced.