This weekend’s contest between the University of Alberta Pandas and the University of Regina Cougars not only has implications on this season, but it will also speak to the future of these programs in Canada West and CIS.
The two teams, who were fierce rivals in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the sport was added to CIS, have anywhere from four to six rookies in their game line-ups, and what’s more, the teams are getting significant contributions from their first-years as well.
The Canada West rookie scoring list is 20 student-athletes deep, but a combined 40% of them are playing for either the U of A or the U of R.
Alberta head coach Howie Draper brought in one of his biggest and best recruiting classes before the 2012-13 season, and from that group, three skaters have already played in every game for the Pandas, and found their way onto the score sheet.
Rookies Jessica Kampjes (F), Kirsten Toth (D), and Hannah Mousek (D) have played in all 10 of Alberta’s games this season, and have combined for six goals and 10 points. Kampjes, who hails from Sturgeon County and previously played for the St. Albert Slash, is the sixth-highest scoring rookie in Canada West with four points. The sniper also has three goals, which is one off the rookie lead for goals. Toth, who is originally from Aldergrove, B.C., also has four points in her first 10 CIS games, collecting a pair of goals and assists from the blue-line. While not a true rookie, Jayden Skoye, who previously played for the Grant MacEwan Griffins, has a goal and assist in her first CIS season, while Mousek, who is from Olds, has a pair of assists.
First-year goaltender Lindsey Post, who moved to Edmonton from Montreal to play for the Pandas, has appeared in three games as well, recording one shutout win, a 1.00 goals against average, and a .952 save percentage.
Waiting in the wings for their chance to make an impact for the Pandas at the CIS level are forward Jessica Sekulic and goaltender Emily Mitchell.
The Pandas, ranked No.3 in CIS, are currently second in Canada West with an 8-2-0 record, and trail first place Calgary by a single point. Fifth-year forward Karla Bourke leads the team in scoring with four goals and 12 points. Goaltender Michala Jefferies has played in seven games for the Pandas, and earned a 7-0 record as well as a 1.70 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.
The Cougars, meanwhile, must have had a strong recruiting class of their own prior to the 2012-13 season as the U of R sits fourth in the Canada West standings with a 6-4-0 record. Returning players Rianne Wight and Stephanie Sawhuck lead the team in scoring with 10 and nine points respectively, while goaltender Toni Ross has played six games and has a 4-1 record.
However, Regina has four rookies who have also played in all 10 games so far this season, and another two that have appeared in seven games. Rookie forward Kylie Gavlin leads the freshmen Cougar scoring race with four points, but Alexis Larson (D) and Jill Kennedy (F) are not far behind with three points each, while Courtney Mish and Nicole Mitchell each have two points.
While the teams will be battling for 2012-13 points this weekend, as well as positioning in the standings, it is clear that both teams are playing a premium on tomorrow’s talent and teams as well.
Puck drop on Friday is 7:00 p.m. MST at Clare Drake Arena, and at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday at the historic U of A arena.