The U SPORTS Women’s Hockey All-Stars are in Calgary this week to face off against the Canadian Women’s Development team and three international squads, as a part of Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase.
The annual camp is used to help prepare and select the Canadian Under-22 team roster for a three-game series against the United States in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Also taking part are the development teams from France, Japan and Russia.
It’s the largest international presence U SPORTS has faced since first participating in the Summer Showcase in 2016.
"(We’re excited) to see the growth in our players and in the brand,” says U SPORTS head coach and Moncton Aigles Bleues bench boss Marc-André Côté, who served as an assistant the last two years. “That's really what we're here for and hopefully we have a good time too and win some games."
This year’s team is highlighted by the reigning U SPORTS Player of the year, Rookie of the year, several All-Canadians and All-Rookies, along with past U SPORTS All-Stars, FISU Winter Universiade participants and Team Canada Women’s Development selections.
Thanks to the elite talent taking part, the Summer Showcase often sets the table for a successful season for a number of key players.
“It was a really good season actually. It was kind of a fun year,” says team captain and Alberta forward Alex Poznikoff, who took home the Brodrick Trophy as national MVP last year with 15 goals and 37 points in 27 games. “I really clicked with my line, Autumn (MacDougall) and (Kennedy Ganser), and so it was really a lot of their work… it’s really going to be a confidence booster going into camp.”
Poznikoff, who joins her Alberta linemates on the U SPORTS roster, has been at every Summer Showcase for as long as they have participated, and she still looks forward to the camp.
“You still get nervous,” says Poznikoff, who earned an invite to the USA Series with Team Canada following last year’s camp. “But its just a little more relaxed and (you) kind of enjoy the camp more.”
Last year in Calgary, she played against MacDougall, who suited up on the Hockey Canada side.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling because you’re rooting for her on that team,” Poznikoff says. “But at the same time you can’t really be friends on the ice.”
This will be MacDougall’s first time playing for the U SPORTS side, and she will get to play with familiar faces.
“I’m even more excited this year because I get to play with my teammates, and I think it’s great that we get to represent our league and show it off to the country.”
MacDougall also says she’s particularly looking forward to playing the international talent
“I never really got the opportunity to play against another country other than Japan last year,” she says. “I think Russia would be cool (to play against)…even France, that’s super cool.”
Among those who once played on the Hockey Canada side is McGill goaltender Tricia Deguire. She was invited by Team Canada again this year, but will be between the pipes for U SPORTS.
“(Last Year) I was actually playing against my (McGill) teammate (Jade Downie-Landry),” says Deguire. “And I played against people playing in my league, which was fun because I know their tricks.”
Deguire finds that there are differences in playing for the U SPORTS team than for Hockey Canada side.
“Playing for U SPORTS again this year will be different from playing for Hockey Canada. The system is not the same hockey-wise,” she says. “I would say that the fact that I’m playing for U SPORTS, with more experience, I will be able to enjoy more things, since I know how it works now, so I won’t be stressed or rushed.”
The 2017 U SPORTS Rookie of the Year will be joined by a few fresh faces, like 2019 Rookie of the year Erika Crouse of the Ryerson Rams, who is looking to build on a productive first season.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the great bunch of girls that are on the team as well,” Crouse says. “It’s sure going to be an experience but I’m just very excited about it.”
This past season, Crouse racked up 22 points with 11 goals to earn her the honour.
“Honestly I was not expecting to receive the award, I was shocked, but in the end it boosted my confidence and I honestly think it was something that I needed,” she says. “Going forward into this year, I’ll use it as motivation to be a better leader.”
Crouse is particularly excited about playing alongside fellow Ram, Brooklyn Gemmill, and testing their abilities against premier talent.
“We played on the same line this year and we had a great year,” says Crouse. “So I’m really excited to see what we can do at a really competitive level, like this one.”
The U SPORTS All-Stars kicked off this year’s Summer Showcase with a simulation game against Russia, testing themselves in all areas of the game including even strength, power play, penalty kill and the shootout. Games will continue until Saturday against Japan, France and Canada’s two Development Teams.
Click on the players below to learn more about this year's All-Star Team.