HALIFAX, NS – Five AUS players from three teams have made Canada’s women’s hockey team heading to the 2023 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The squad is made up of stars across U SPORTS, including two players from the defending national champion Concordia Stingers. From the AUS, two players from the AUS champion UNB Reds will join the squad. Two more will represent the StFX X-Women, as will a lone SMU Husky.
Altogether, three forwards, one defender and one goaltender make up the AUS selections. But they are high-impact ones. The selections consist of the three highest-scoring players in the conference, plus a blueliner and goalie considered arguably the best at their respective positions in the country. There’s a lot to look forward to from the east coast crew in New York this winter.
Maggy Burbidge (StFX)
All eyes are on Burbidge not only from around Atlantic Canada but the country. The second-year X forward is playing at a level above every other scorer in the country; her 34 points in the season’s first half is 10 (!) points above anyone else in U SPORTS.
In 15 games, she’s already outscored last year’s AUS leading scorer (FISU teammate Shae Demale) by nine points. Much of that is thanks to her ability to bury the puck like no one’s business. Her 18 goals lead U SPORTS by five. She’s a scoring machine and will deliver at any level.
With the season Burbidge has had, she’ll be in the driver’s seat for Canada’s offence, alongside Concordia’s Rosalie Bégin-Cyr and the Mount Royal Cougars’ Tatum Amy. Power play, last-minute push for a tying goal, you name it. She’ll be on the ice. With these teammates, Burbidge is an early-tournament MVP favourite.
Shae Demale (SMU)
The reigning conference MVP, Demale buried 25 points last year and is well on her way to eclipsing that with 22 this season. The fourth-year veteran is the heart of a successful SMU Huskies team plagued with playoff devastation, chasing its first title since 2018.
Demale has been central in every effort since joining the team following that last championship. She has dominated games and has established a knack for scoring at important moments. She has 11 career game-winning goals, including two this season. The Huskies go as she goes.
On the second or third line, Demale can prove to be a threat in many ways. Without the usual top-line pressures, she’ll be one of Canada’s most dangerous secondary scoring threats. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get power play time (even on the first unit) as well. The SMU rep is also smart on both ends of the ice and one of the best passers in the conference. These tools will get her tough assignments throughout games.
Lea MacLeod (StFX)
Alongside Burbidge with the X-Women this season, MacLeod has been on a roll. In Canada, she trails only her high-scoring teammate in points and is two assists behind MRU’s Amy for the most in U SPORTS. In 15 games, she’s already achieved a career-high 24 points.
The third-year forward makes it happen on the playmaking end for X. She established that well in 2021-22, scoring a disproportionate two goals and 18 assists. This year, she’s much more eager to shoot the puck, already with 22 more shots on net than last year. As a result, she’s one back of her career-high 10 goals from 2019-20 and has scored three game-winners.
With her play, MacLeod could be paired up with Burbidge, which I really hope to see. If not, she will have the freedom to play her game in the middle-six forwards. Most of all, MacLeod’s advantage is she’s reliable to play at any point of the game. She’s having her best university season on the power play yet, while currently riding career-best plus/minus in penalty minute numbers.
Jenna MacLean (UNB)
When MacLean is on the ice, someone on her team always wins. While she’s among the AUS’s top blueliners and has been recognized for it, MacLean is easy to miss as the four other AUS FISU picks play flashier, steal-the-show-type games.
But the defender in her fourth full season with UNB has proven over and over she doesn’t need to steal a highlight reel to be the best. She succeeds in every situation. MacLean will take down the opponent’s top player one shift, kill a penalty for two minutes the next, then assist on a power play goal after. Not many blueliners in the country can do all of that.
That makes MacLean a Swiss Army Knife of sorts for the FISU team. Carley Oliver of the Waterloo Warriors and Annabel Faubert can relieve her of some offensive duties, which gives the team options to employ MacLean in the shutdown role she has succeeded in. As the tournament goes on, I’d expect to see her on the ice more and more.
Kendra Woodland (UNB)
There’s no other goalie in the country like Kendra Woodland. In UNB’s run to an AUS championship last year, she seemed to have almost done it all. But the senior goalie has stepped it up again in 2022-23. There’s the 9-2 win-loss record, the best in AUS. There’s the 1.17 goals-against average, better than anyone in the conference with more than six starts.
But two things stand out for me. Woodland’s .955 save percentage is not only running well above her AUS career-best .947, but she’s doing that with the fourth-most shots faced in the league. Second, the tone of the game changes when she’s in the crease unlike any other AUS goalie in recent memory. With her bounce-back ability and endurance, she not only bolsters her own team but intimidates others.
Camryn Drever of the Saskatchewan Huskies will push Woodland in the crease on Team Canada, with the Ottawa Gee-Gees’ Aurélie Dubuc also in the mix. But Woodland is the starter for me. Both the numbers and impact she’s had on her team are too much to overlook. While everyone will get the chance to play, the UNB stopper should be between the pipes come the final game.
Wearing the maple leaf won’t be a foreign idea for Woodland either, after she represented Canada at the IIHF U18 World Championships where she won a bronze medal, and got a taste of the senior National Women’s Team level when she joined the Hockey Canada camp in Calgary in the summer of 2022.