Canadian Interuniversity Sport announced Thursday, January 8th, the names of the 20 CIS players who will make up Canada’s debut entry in women’s ice hockey at the 2009 Winter Universiade in Harbin, China, February 18-28. Team Canada is led behind the bench by York head coach Dan Church, with Ottawa bench boss Shelley Coolidge and former Ottawa assistant Kim Thompson serving as assistant coaches. Toronto head coach Karen Hughes will handle general manager duties.
Head Coach Dan Church
While Canada will be among the favourites to win gold in Harbin, Church downplays the existence of any extra pressure heaped on his players as they prepare for the games. “I wouldn’t say there’s increased expectation, because every time Canada suits up in women’s hockey, the expectation is to win gold,” explained Church. “I would say there’s an increased level of excitement leading up to the tournament. It’s great that women’s ice hockey has finally been included as part of the Winter Universiade, and I think the girls realize how special it is to be the first group to represent Canada at that level.”
Unlike the Canadian men’s squad, which for the Harbin games is an all-star selection from the Canada West conference, the women’s team is a cross-Canada all-star squad comprised of players from all four CIS conferences. Seven players hail from the Canada West, Ontario University Athletics and the Quebec Student Sport Federation each placed five skaters on the team, while Atlantic University Sport has three representatives. There is no shortage of talent throughout the lineup as 13 of the 20 Team Canada players are coming off seasons where they were recognized as conference all-stars.
Brayden Ferguson, CIS Player of the Year 2007-08
Moncton forward Mariève Provost of Laval, Que., leads CIS in scoring at the midway point of the season with 15 goals and 27 points in 11 conference games, while St. Francis Xavier forward Brayden Ferguson of Toronto was named CIS player of the year in 2007-08 when she led the nation in goals (25), assists (25) and points (50). Wilfrid Laurier defenceman Andrea Bevan of Collingwood, Ont., and McGill forward Vanessa Davidson of Kirkland, Que., were named first-team all-Canadians along with Ferguson a year ago. “It’s hard not to be impressed when you look at some of the accomplishments of these players,” remarked Church. “We’ve got nine players heading to China who’ve won a CIS national championship, five of the girls have been recognized as their conference player of the year, and we’ve got the reigning CIS player of the year on the team.”
Organizing a team that spans four conferences provided some challenges for the coaching staff, but was made a little bit easier thanks to a burgeoning partnership with Hockey Canada. “There was great discussion with other coaches from around CIS when it came to building a depth chart and identifying potential players for Harbin,” explained Church. “Being invited to Hockey Canada’s U-22 evaluation camp this summer provided us with a good chance to see how the players actually competed against one another. A good number of the CIS coaches are involved with the Hockey Canada coaching development program, so to have them take an active role in the Universiade program can only prove beneficial for CIS women’s hockey and the sport a whole.”
Although the team is comprised of players from all across the country, there will be familiar faces for some of the players in the dressing room. Five players are part of the Alberta Pandas, four are members of the defending CIS champion McGill Martlets, while the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and York Lions each have two players on the Team Canada roster. For all the top-level experience through the Canadian lineup, there is limited international experience within the ranks. Of the 20 players on the roster, only McGill rearguard Cathy Chartrand of Montreal, the MVP of the 2008 CIS championship, has spent time with the National Women’s Team. Bevan was part of the U-22 national side Church coached last spring.
“We’ll lean on them and their experiences a little bit to help the rest of the players deal with playing in that sort of environment,” said Church. “There are a number of issues that crop up when you play internationally - travel, adjusting to time zone changes, and the short term competition schedule are all things that Cathy and Andrea can help the other girls deal with.” Canada’s traditional rivals from the United States won’t be sending a team to the 24th Winter Universiade, but Church believes there are still a handful of teams that could prove to be a formidable challenge for the Canadians in their quest for gold. “Finland won silver at the U-22 tournament last year, so I expect them to be pretty good. I’m sure a number of the players we saw competing in Germany will be part of their Universiade team this year.”
“China doesn’t have a lot of depth but they have some top-end players in their lineup. They’ve also shown that they’re prepared to make the necessary commitment to the sport - to do what they have to do to excel at the highest level. Add to that the fact they’ll have the benefit of the home crowd behind them, and they should be tough as well.” Competing in a single, six-team pool, Canada will face Slovakia, Japan, Great Britain, Finland and the host Chinese in round-robin play with the top four teams advancing to the medal round. Team Canada opens the tournament against Great Britain on February 18th.
Goalies Stacey Corfield (U Manitoba) Melinda Choy (UBC) Defences Andrea Bevan (Laurier) Andrea Boras (Alberta) Cathy Chartrand (McGill) Stephanie Ramsay (Alberta) Rayanne Reeve (Alberta) Kelsey Webster (York) Forwards Alyssa Cecere (McGill) Kori Cheverie (Saint Mary’s) Leah Copeland (Alberta) Vanessa Davidson (McGill) Annie Del Guidice (Toronto) Brayden Ferguson (StFX) Caroline Hill (McGill ) Kayla Hottot (Ottawa) Andrea Ironside (Laurier) Jennifer Newton (Alberta) Mariève Provost (Moncton) Courtney Unruh (York ) Staff General manager: Karen Hughes, Toronto Head coach: Dan Church, York Assistant coach: Shelley Coolidge, Ottawa Assistant coach: Kim Thompson, Ottawa Athletic therapist: Nadine Smith, Carleton Equipment manager: Alana Goulden, York