A talented team ready to take it to the next level
See the Bison women’s hockey team hit the ice for the home opener at Wayne Fleming Arena on Oct. 20 and also on Oct. 21 against the University of Regina Cougars. Both games start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. All U of M students have FREE admission with a valid student card. For more information, visit gobisons.ca.
Talent. When you’re around the University of Manitoba women’s hockey team, you just can’t avoid it.
As the 2015-16 season proved, it is anybody’s game come playoff time. The Bisons ultimately fell one goal short in the third game of a best-of-three series in the Canada West Final held in Vancouver in March 2016. But according to Head Coach, Jon Rempel, many moves have been made to better prepare the team for a different fate this season.
“We needed to add a little more depth scoring wise, and on paper we have done just that,” Rempel said. “Sheridan Oswald is probably my top recruit this year. She is a very talented Hockey Canada kid. She can score, and has played at a very high level already in her young career. Sheridan had a lot of different options for sure, but at the end of the day, we were her best fit.”
This upcoming season, Sheridan will join her older sister, third year forward Courtlyn on the Bisons. Sheridan’s hockey experience includes participating in the world under-18 championships, as well as multiple high performance and strength and conditioning camps across the world. Rempel also hinted on the Bisons’ need to expand defensively. He believes that a stronger backbone will be evident come the pre-season
with other off-season signings.
“It became apparent that we needed to add a bit more depth on defence to give us more options,” Rempel said. “We added a couple great kids out of Pembina Valley in Megan Neduzak and Jenai Buchanan who will help fill that need. We also got two more forwards, Jordyn Zacharias, and Mekaela Fisher, who are both very good players in their own rights. Obviously, as we ran into some difficulties in our playoff run last year, I felt that we needed more depth, and that has been solved moving forward.”
Sporting a 13-13-0-2 conference record in 2015-16, the Bisons will look to put themselves over .500 and bounce back to the kind of output they received in 2014-15, where they finished the Canada West regular season 14-7-5-2. One player on the verge of an offensive explosion is third year forward Venla Hovi. Hovi, who came over from Finland to play for the Bisons, spent last season adapting to the CIS style of play and the Canadian culture. But this season, she is ready to take a massive step forward on a team filled with supportive characters.
“Our team is very close, and I am quite proud of how everyone is able to get along with one another, considering there is a mix of very different personalities.”
“Our team is very close, and I am quite proud of how everyone is able to get along with one another, considering there is a mix of very different personalities,” Hovi said. “Having played Team Finland reminds me just how honoured and lucky I have been. It also brings out my Finnish values, and motivates me as both an athlete and a person to be better and work hard for everything going forward.”
Rempel echoed Hovi’s remarks as he felt that her personality has been gravitational, both in and out of the dressing room.
“At our level, you cannot replace the kind of experience Venla has had in her life and in her career,” Rempel said. “She is a very decorated international player, but the thing I like most in getting to know Venla is the quality of person she is. She dealt with changes in nearly everything, from diet, to sleep patterns, to academics while playing in our environment. I think she really handled it well, and I do expect that this year will really be a takeoff year for her – building off of her playoff run last season.”
Hovi has enjoyed her time with Rempel as well, putting together an impressive stat line in the 2015-16 playoffs. But for the special teams expert, it isn’t all about points and winning. Being able to openly speak with her coach about everything is what makes it all look so easy for her.
“Coach Rempel helps me the most by encouraging me with his honesty in regards to my strengths, as well as what I have to improve on,” Hovi said. “I trust him and he trusts me. That way I feel like I can get the bestout of myself and help the team even more.”
“It is just a group of really high achievers that all want to be the best at what they do. When you look up and down the lineup, this group has something that not many other teams have. Now that we
are able to harness up most of our talent, we know that there are some special things ahead.”
Defenceman Erica Rieder is also set for a bounce back season after suffering a separated shoulder and torn labrum, which kept her from producing at her highest output last season. Battling back from the injury last season has definitely helped boost the expectations heading into the 2016-17 season. Much like teammates Hovi and Oswald, Rempel is expecting big things from Rieder once again.
If goaltender Amanda Schubert plays anything like she did over the course of the 2015-16 season and especially the post-season, the Bisons should be looked upon as a contender. At one point, Schubert made 66 saves on 67 shots in a quintuple overtime game in last year’s playoffs.
“I know I will never play a game like that one again,” Schubert said. “But I feel very lucky and privileged to have been a part of history with such a great group of people.”
When thinking back about her performance in net during the eighth period of that game, Schubert gives all of the credit to her teammates for helping keep her afloat.
“I think there was about three separate times in that game where my teammates literally pulled the puck off the line for me,” Schubert said. “We wouldn’t have gotten into one overtime, never mind five, if it wasn’t for them. But a game like that is why we play hockey.”
Although she refers to that overtime thriller as “a dream”, the netminder trio of Schubert, Rachel Dyck and Jessica Vance between the pipes will leave opposing forwards having nightmares this season.
Much like the resounding roar of talent, Rempel beams about his chance to work with a very special group of athletes for this coming season.
“It is just a group of really high achievers that all want to be the best at what they do,” Rempel said. “When you look up and down the lineup, this group has something that not many other teams have. Now that we are able to harness up most of our talent, we know that there are some special things ahead.”