EDMONTON,ALTA.- The NAIT Ooks women's hockey led by new head coach Stef Thomson will be looking to improve upon a disappointing finish to last season.
The Ooks women's hockey team had a strong showing in the regular season last year finishing in 2nd with an 18-4-2 record, sitting one point behind the 1st place MacEwan Griffins. In the opening round of the ACAC Championship, the Ooks would find themselves facing the Red Deer College Queens. NAIT fell to a 1-0 deficit after a disappointing 4-2 loss in game one. The team would rebound with a commanding 3-0 victory in game two. In the deciding game, the Ooks would ultimately fall short after surrendering a three-goal lead in the third period, to a tenacious Queens' squad. NAIT would claim ACAC Bronze for the 2nd consecutive season. Ooks' Megan Leblanc was named ACAC Women's Hockey Rookie of the Year with her 15 points in 22 games. LeBlanc was also named ACAC Scholastic Player of the year for her success in the classroom.
"Being a very talented hockey program and losing a big game like that is never easy. I know that many returning players still replay that final game in their heads and you can sense the disappointment," said head coach Stef Thomson. "Despite having a roster where the majority of the players are new, we want to find a way to get back to playoff hockey where we are playing our absolute best. We know that playoff hockey preparation doesn't start in January, it starts now and every day until that final game."
This season marks the beginning of a new chapter with the hiring of new head coach Stef Thomson after Deanna Iwanicka accepted the head coaching job at the University of Windsor (USPORTS). Stef joins the Ooks after an accomplished NCAA playing career along with a variety of coaching experiences within Hockey Canada and the NCAA. With a new coach comes a fresh start, the Ooks will be looking to build on past successes while implementing a new culture. With a large number of first-year players, combined with a strong core of returning players Stef is optimistic for the team's future.
"As a coaching staff, we've made it a priority to focus on getting back to the basics and implementing good habits which we feel are critical with so many new incoming players. Each day the players bring a ton of positive energy to the rink and are ready to work," said Thomson. We recognize that we are a young team and that we will face various challenges throughout the season. We feel as if this is a special group that is willing to learn from every experience good or bad."
After facing some tough USport and ACAC competition during the preseason, the Ooks are now set to open up their season this weekend against the Red Deer College Queens. Their home opener will take place on Oct.5th at 6:00 pm in the NAIT Arena.