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Women’s Hockey

Women’s Hockey Championship Preview: Manitoba earns No.1 seed ahead of national tournament

U SPORTS Staff

The Manitoba Bisons have been named women’s hockey tournament favourites in the lead-up to an action-packed weekend of #CHAMPSZN.

On the ice, the 2018 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup will be hosted by the UNB Varsity Reds while the Western Mustangs welcome the 2018 U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship. On the court, the TELUS 2018 U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball Championship will be hosted by the McMaster Marauders, while the Laval Rouge et Or will organize the 2018 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship presented by Hôtel Universel Québec.  

The 2018 U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship kicks off on Thursday at Thompson Arena in London, Ont. and concludes next Sunday with the gold-medal final at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT. All games livestreamed at USPORTS.LIVE.

A championship schedule and team-by-team previews are available below.

No. 1 Manitoba Bisons

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  • Playoff finish: CW champions
  • Regular season / playoff records: 22-5-1 / 4-1
  • Last U SPORTS championship: Never
  • Team offence: 2.32 goals per game (15th)
  • Team defence: 1.39 goals against per game (3rd)

Team leaders

  • Points: Jordyn Zacharias (21)
  • Goals: Jordyn Zacharias (12)
  • Assists: Alanna Sharman (15)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record): Lauren Taraschuk (10-2-0) or Rachel Dyck (12-3-1)

The Bison women’s hockey team has been ranked No.1 for seven weeks in the 2017-18 season – a first-time feat during the 21 year program’s history.

The team accumulated numerous firsts this season: winning a Canada West title at home; being the top seed in the conference; a Bison player winning Olympic medal and its first appearance at the national tournament since 2011. But the most important first is still missing for the Bisons in 2017-18: winning the U SPORTS national championship

Manitoba earned their way into the nationals the hard way, being pushed by Alberta in the deciding playoff game. The Bisons ultimately came out on top, winning in quadruple overtime at home in the second-longest game in Canada West history, capturing the conference semifinal best-of-three series in three games at home.

The Herd has a veteran presence with four fifth-year players plus nine players in their fourth season. Manitoba boasts five Canada West All-Star and All-Rookie selections including the Conference coach of the year Jon Rempel and rookie of the year Lauren Taraschuk.

No. 2 Saint Mary’s Huskies

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  • Playoff finish: AUS champions
  • Regular season / playoff records: 20-3-1 / 4-1
  • Last U SPORTS championship: Never
  • Team offence: 3.13 goals per game (3rd)
  • Team defence: 1.07 goals against per game (2nd)

Team leaders

  • Points: Breanna Lanceleve (28)
  • Goals: Siohban Birch, Nicole Blanche, Breanna Lanceleve, (10)
  • Assists: Breanna Lanceleve (18)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record): Rebecca Clark (14-3-1)

Since the calendar flipped to 2018, the Saint Mary’s Huskies have been playing at a very high level, consistently controlling game-flow. Aside from an overtime loss to StFX at the end of October and a five game stretch in November where the team went 2-3, with two of the defeats coming to the X-Women, the Huskies have been perfect on the season.

Saint Mary’s entered the playoffs on a 11-game winning streak, sweeping St. Thomas in the best-of-three semifinal before falling 1-0 in Game 3 to StFX in the conference championship. 

No. 3 Western Mustangs

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  • Playoff finish: OUA championships
  • Regular season / playoff records: 17-5-2 / 5-0 
  • Last U SPORTS championship: 2015
  • Total U SPORTS championships: 1
  • Team offence: 2.50 goals per game (10th)
  • Team defence: 1.66 goals against per game (9th)

Team leaders

  • Points: April Clark (22)
  • Goals: April Clark (12)
  • Assists: Emma Pearson (11)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record): Carmen Lasis (13-3-1)

The Western Mustangs are heading back to the U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship for the first time since 2016, but this time they’ll be doing so on home ice at Thompson Arena.

Western finished tied for second place in the OUA standings after finishing the regular season with six consecutive victories, and sweeping each of their first two playoff series, before capturing the McCaw Cup OUA championship with a 3-0 win over the Queen’s Gaels.

Forward April Clark leads the way for the Mustangs up front, tallying 22 points and 12 goals to lead the team in both categories. Captain Emma Pearson guides a strong Western defence corps and also makes an impact on the offensive end with 11 assists through the regular season. Rookie Carmen Lasis emerged as the team’s starter in her debut campaign, posting a 13-4-0 regular season record, to go along with a 1.48 goals-against-average and a .940 save percentage.

No. 4 Concordia Stingers

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  • Playoff finish: RSEQ champions
  • Regular season / playoff records: 14-4-2 / 4-2
  • Last U SPORTS championship: 1999
  • Total U SPORTS championships: 2
  • Team offence: 3.20 goals per game (2nd)
  • Team defence: 2.10 goals against per game (17th)

Team Leaders (regular season)

  • Points: Claudia Dubois (20)
  • Goals: Audrey Belzile (11)
  • Assists: Claudia Dubois (13)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record): Katherine Purchase (9-3-2)

The Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team took another big step forward in its progression by capturing the RSEQ championship for the first time since the 2004-05 season. The Stingers took a best-of-three Quebec final series two games to one over the first-place Montréal Carabins, winning the deciding game 3-1 on March 4.

Concordia finished second in the tough RSEQ conference with a 14-4-2 record. The team was ranked in the U SPORTS Top 10 all season, peaking at the No. 4 spot for four weeks in the fall.

Head coach Julie Chu, the former U.S. Olympian now in her third season at the helm, is the architect of the Stingers’ resurgence. Last season she brought Concordia to the nationals as the Quebec finalists. This year the Stingers return as the RSEQ champions.

No. 5 StFX X-Women

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  • Playoff finish: AUS finalists
  • Regular season / playoff records:  20-2-2 / 3-2
  • Last U SPORTS championship:  Never
  • Team offence: 3.29 goals per game (1st)
  • Team defence: 1.71 goals against per game (10th)

Team leaders

  • Points: Daley Oddy (31)
  • Goals: Daley Oddy (16)
  • Assists:  Lindsey Donovan (18)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record):  Carley Molnar (13-1-2)

The StFX X-Women were ranked every week in the U SPORTS Top 10 rankings this season, finishing with a 20-2-2 record atop the AUS standings. Coached by AUS coach of the year Ben Berthiaume, his X-Women led the country in both goals scored (79) and goals-per-game (3.29) and were second in shots (832). They were second in the AUS conference and 10th in U SPORTS in goals against (42) and goals-against average (1.71).

AUS most valuable player and first team all-star forward Daley Oddy led the country in points (31), goals scored (16) and plus-minus rating (+24) while her AUS first team all-star linemate and last year’s U SPORTS Player of the Year Sarah Bujold was fifth in the nation in both points (27) and goals (13). AUS rookie of the year Emerson Elliott was third in team scoring with 26 points, while AUS first team all-star defense Lindsey Donovan was second in conference scoring amongst blueliners (22). The X-Women are backstopped by AUS second team all-star goalie Carley Molnar who posted a 13-3-0 record with a .924 save percentage and 1.45 GAA.

No. 6 Montreal Carabins

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  • Playoff finish: RSEQ finalists
  • Regular season / playoff records: 14-2-4 / 3-3
  • Last U SPORTS championship: 2016
  • Total U SPORTS championships: 2
  • Team offence: 2.95 goals per game (6th)
  • Team defence: 1.54 goals against per game (8th)

Team leaders

  • Points: Alexandra Labelle (23)
  • Goals: Jessica Cormier (12)
  • Assists: Alexandra Labelle (14)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record): Marie-Pier Chabot (9-0-2)

The Carabins had an exceptional year, winning their second regular-season title in team history with a 14-2-4 record, including finishing the campaign on a six-game winning streak. 

Led by head coach Isabelle Leclaire, the team played in the conference final for the eighth time in its nine years of existence.

Montreal finished first in the country in a power-play advantage allowing its opponents only 34 goals, also first among all the RSEQ teams.

Five Carabin players managed to claim a spot among the RSEQ All-Star teams. Jessica Cormier was also named conference Player of the Year in Quebec after finishing first with 12 wins in 20 games.

No. 7 Saskatchewan Huskies

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  • Playoff finish: Canada West finalists
  • Regular season / playoff records: 19-7-2 / 2-2
  • Last U SPORTS championship: Never
  • Team offence: 1.71 goals per game (22nd)
  • Team defence: 1.06 goals against per game (1st)

Team leaders

  • Points: Kaitlin Willoughby (19)
  • Goals: Kaitlin Willoughby (9)
  • Assists: Kaitlin Willoughby (10)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record): Jessica Vance (14-3-1)

The Saskatchewan Huskies are returning to the U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when they won bronze.

Saskatchewan earned their berth at nationals after finishing second in the Canada West to the No. 1 Manitoba Bisons, who swept the Huskies in the Canada West Final. The two teams entered the final having split their season series two games apiece.

The Huskies finished the first semester of the Canada West season with a 9-7 record before winning 10 of 12 games to close out the regular season and claim second place in the conference. Saskatchewan knocked off the UBC Thunderbirds in two games at home before being swept by the Bisons on the road in the Canada West Final.

No. 8 Queen’s Gaels

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  • Playoff finish: OUA finalists
  • Regular season / playoff records: 17-3-4 / 4-2
  • Last U SPORTS championship: Never
  • Team offence: 2.75 goals per game (8th)
  • Team defence: 1.53 goals against per game (7th)

Team leaders

  • Points: Katrina Manoukarakis (30)
  • Goals: Katrina Manoukarakis (15)
  • Assists: Clare McKellar (17)
  • Probable starting goaltender (record): Stephanie Pascal (14-3-3)

It was a spectacular run for the Queen’s women’s hockey team in 2017-18 as they locked up the top spot in the OUA standings for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

The Gaels started the OUA campaign on fire picking up at least a point in their first 13 games while going on a nine-game win streak to close out the first semester. Queen’s finished out the season with an impressive 17-3-4 record for 52 points to finish as the top seed in the conference.

Queen's was led by OUA MVP and scoring leader Katrina Manoukarakis (15G, 30A) up front, OUA goaltender of the year Stephanie Pascal (14 wins, 1.33 GAA, 0.944 SV%) between the pipes and coach of the year Matt Holmberg behind the bench. The Gaels carved their way through the OUA playoffs taking out Waterloo in three games before sweeping Nipissing to advance to the OUA championship where they fell to Western 3-0 in the McCaw Cup final.

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

Wednesday, Mar. 14

  • All-Canadian Awards Gala, 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT

Thursday, Mar. 15 (Quarter-finals)

  • Saskatchewan vs. Saint Mary's,   4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT
  • Montreal vs. Western, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

Friday, Mar. 16 (Quarter-finals)

  • Queen's vs. Manitoba, 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT
  • StFX vs. Concordia, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

Full championship schedule here.