TORONTO, ONT – 2021-2022 saw the UBC Thunderbirds take down the Saskatchewan Huskies for their fourth Canada West title. Heading into 2022-2023 though, the conference looks to be as wide open as it ever has been as multiple teams enter the year with shots to take home the gold.
49 breaks down the nine teams vying for a title heading to the new season.
2021-2022 was, by all means, a good season for the Alberta Pandas, but by the standards, the program has set for itself, the year has to be underwhelming.
The two-time defending Canada West Champions had a respectable season finishing fourth in Canada West. They dispatched the Regina Cougars in two games before falling to the UBC Thunderbirds in two games, including a dismal 5-1 loss at UBC in game two.
The good news for the Pandas is that a lot of their best players are back for another run in 2022-2023. Madison Willan and Natalie Kieser return after both finishing in the top 10 in Canada West in scoring. Meanwhile, Halle Oswald is back in the net after an 8-2-1-1 season with a 1.15 GAA, and a .942 save percentage.
The Pandas also made a pretty massive addition with the transfer of Cassidy Maplethorpe from Brock University. Maplethorpe joins the Pandas with two seasons of eligibility after graduating from Brock and comes after leading the OUA in scoring and helping the Badgers to their first McCaw Cup title.
With a new big addition to their lineup, the Pandas will and should be gunning for their 15th Canada West title.
It was a rough fall in 2021-2022 for the Calgary Dinos. After finishing second in Canada West in 2019-2020, the Dinos return to the ice last season flat, finishing the first half of the season 4-8-0 and never making up ground, ending the year at 7-13-0 and missing the Canada West playoffs by four points.
The biggest challenge for the Dinos came in the net. They leaned hard on goaltender Gabriella Durante, being the only team to have a goalie play over 1000 minutes on the regular season as Durante started 19 of the 20 games for Calgary. The problem was with a 7-11-0 record, a 2.90 GAA, and a .900 save percentage; the saves just weren’t there enough nights.
Up front, the Dinos do return one of their top players, Elizabeth Lang, but with Lang a fourth-year, a new generation of Dinos will need to emerge for this program to take another step forward.
How do you properly judge the first year of a program?
After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed their entry into Canada West by a year, the MacEwan Griffins entered the conference following Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) championships in 2017 through 2019.
In their debut season, the Griffins hung tough but lost their last six games down the stretch to finish in eighth place in Canada West at 6-14-0. The biggest challenge for the Griffins came in generating offence as they finished with a league-low 23 goals in 20 games.
The good news for the Griffins is the offence they did get was spread out, which means they have opportunities to grow. Jayme Doyle, Chantal Ricker, and Aryn Chambers each tied for the team lead with three goals, and although Ricker moved on from Mount Royal, Doyle and Chambers return and have another year to improve.
In net, Natalie Bender graduated after posting a respectable 3-8-0 record with a 2.67 GAA and a .922 save percentage. That means the net likely gets handed to backup Brianna Sank. Sank went 3-6-0 with a 3.04 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 2021-2022, not numbers that scream top of the table, but ones that show there is an opportunity for growth. Really, with this season being just their second in Canada West on the ice, growth should be the main goal for the Griffins program this year.
The Manitoba Bisons were last on top of the Women’s Hockey landscape in 2018 when they were dual Canada West and U SPORTS champions. After 2021-2022, they could probably best be described as middling. The Bisons weren’t bad last season; they finished 13-7 for 26 points and fifth place in Canada West. At the same time, though, of the five “good” teams in Canada West last year, they finished fifth and fell quickly in two games to the Saskatchewan Huskies in the quarterfinals.
It’s hard to look at the Bisons and see how they get to the top of the conference in Canada West, but at the same time, with some key pieces returning, they should be able to hold their ground. Halle Edwards led the roster with nearly a point-per-game at 16 points in 18 games. For goaltending, the Bisons see longtime goalie Erin Fargey move on, meaning the net likely turns over to second-year Kimberly Davidson, who led Canada West with a .960 save percentage in seven games (5-2-0).
Overall the Bisons are not a bad team, but barring a breakout, especially upfront, they are probably looking at another year of being in the 3-6 range in Canada West.
Mount Royal Cougars
2021-2022 has to go down as a disappointment for Mount Royal. Finishing the season as the top seed in Canada West, the Cougars took down the MacEwan Griffins easily in two games in the quarterfinal but fell to the underdog Saskatchewan Huskies in two games in the semifinal. For a program that finished second in the conference with 61 goals on the regular season, one goal in two games against the Huskies simply was not enough.
Into the new season, the Cougars will have to deal with a couple of major losses. Up front, the 2022 Canada West Player of the year, Tianna Ko, moves on after completing her fifth season in 2021-2022. With 10 goals in 20 games, Ko leaves a large hole at the front of the Cougar lineup that will be tough to fill.
The other challenge will be in the net as Canada West Goalie of the Year Zoe De Beauville also moves on following her fifth season. De Beauville posted a sparkling 11-0-2 record for Mount Royal, including five shutouts. The challenge in net will be a little easier to stomach, though, as Mount Royal will likely hand the keys to the crease over to third-year Kaitlyn Ross, who posted a 5-2-0 record backing up De Beauville in 2021-2022 with a mind-boggling 0.98 GAA and a .950 save percentage. Ross likely won’t reach those unfathomable heights on a starter’s workload but still provides a steady presence for a Cougars roster looking to rebound this season.
It’s been a long time since the Cougars were on top in Canada West, as it was 2001, the last time the Canada West championship went to Regina. Heading into 2022-2023, the team in Saskatchewan’s capital is probably looking at roughly the same position they were after 2021-2022.
Clocking in at the number six spot in the conference, the Cougars were decidedly average in almost every way last year. Sixth in goals for, seventh in goals allowed and ending with an 8-10-2 record before falling to UBC in two games in the quarterfinal.
The biggest loss for Regina will be felt up front in the loss of Lilla Carpenter-Boesch, who finished fourth in Canada West, scoring 19 points and was the Cougars’ clear MVP. Fourth-year Jordan Kulbida also leaves the program for the NCAA.
The net is much more stable for Regina, at least, though, as second-year Arden Kliewer will likely take up the starting spot yet again. Kliewer put up respectable numbers as a rookie (7-6-2, 2.31 GAA, .922 SV%) and will look to take another step forward as the Cougars look to get out of the middle of the Canada West conference.
The Saskatchewan Huskies were truly the wildcard team of 2021-2022.
They finished fifth in the conference but upset the fourth seed Manitoba Bisons in the quarterfinal and the top seed Mount Royal Cougars in the semifinal to set up a matchup with UBC. They lost but still earned a trip to the U SPORTS National Championship, where they won their second U SPORTS Bronze Medal.
What’s most wild about the Huskies is they did all this will almost no offence. It takes to #27 on the Canada West scoreboard to find the first Huskie, and that person, Bailee Bourassa, who picked up 11 points, has graduated. That means Saskatchewan will really need to find some more offence if they want to keep pace.
The lack of offence is why the big piece returning for the Huskies is fourth-year goalie Camryn Drever. Drever was lights out with two shutouts in the Canada West playoffs. Drever truly shone in the semifinal matchup against Mount Royal, allowing just one goal in two games.
Trinity Western Spartans
It was a pretty miserable debut campaign for the Trinity Western Spartans in 2021-2022. Like MacEwan, Trinity Western made their entry into Canada West, and it was actually a relatively respectable beginning as the Spartans went 2-6-0 in their first eight games. A 12-game losing streak to close the season, though, sent them crashing to the Canada West basement and demonstrated that this young program has a long way to go.
There were problems for the Spartans on both sides of the ice last season, but at the same time, there were clear signs of growth. Up front, 24 goals on the season put them one above the MacEwan Griffins, but 10 points in 15 games from rookie Brooklyn Anderson was a hopeful sign of a potential breakout going forward. Up front, the Spartans bolstered their attack with a couple of solid NCAA D1 transfers in Amy Potomak, who joins TWU after four seasons with the University of Minnesota and Kate Klassen, who comes to British Columbia after a pair of seasons with the University of Connecticut.
In the net will be the biggest challenge for the Spartans (similar to any young program). Neither of their rookie goalies, Kate Fawcett (0-6-0, 4.91 GAA – 0.861 SV%) or Mabel Maltais (1-7-0, 3.92 GAA – 0.885 SV%), took the reigns last year. It will likely be Maltais who gets the first crack at the starter’s job in 2022-2023, and if the Spartans want to reach their highest ceiling (which as of now is probably sixth in the conference), one goalie will need to take control.
And finally, the defending champions.
Where their Canada West Finals opponents, Saskatchewan, demonstrated that you can sometimes succeed with little offence, the UBC Thunderbirds demonstrated the value of an offensive machine in 2021-2022. UBC ended the year with four players in the Canada West Top 10 in scoring, including Chanreet Bassi leading the league with 22 points and defender Rylind Mackinnon following up with 21 points and an absurd 10 goals from the backend. They were followed up by Ireland Perrot in fifth with 19 points and Mackenzie Kordic in eighth with 18 points.
UBC rode their offensive weapons all the way to their first Canada West since 2017 but only a fifth-place finish at the national championship after an upset 1-0 loss to the Nipissing Lakers in the quarterfinal.
There is not really much to say about how the Thunderbirds could improve. They are the defending champs and are returning their electric offensive core of Bassi, Mackinnon, Perrot and Kordic for another year. If they can light the lamp at the same pace, a second straight Canada West banner could be headed to Vancouver.