Women’s hockey opens season against Queen’s University

The York Lions women’s hockey team is set to begin the 2005-2006 campaign under the tutelage of second-year head coach Dan Church. The Lions open the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) regular season against the visiting Queen’s Golden Gaels tonight at the Ice Gardens (7:30pm). York also hosts the Windsor Lancers on Saturday at 6pm.

Right: Lions women’s hockey

A year after taking over the reigns behind the bench, Church has given the team a major overhaul, welcoming 16 new skaters while retaining only nine from last year’s squad.

While on the surface the season looks to be a year of development and rebuilding, the team is optimistic the talented newcomers will make an immediate impact and help the Lions challenge for a playoff berth.

One of the Lion’s strengths over the past few years has been, and will continue to be the outstanding goaltending provided by OUA All-Star Melanie Quinn, last year’s team MVP. With an improved defensive corps in front of her this year, expect the shots she faces to drop significantly. Backing up Quinn are second-year player Seanna Conway, who is a strong positional keeper, and rookie Megan Slumski, a two-time high-school MVP.

On defence, Serene Porter takes over as captain in her third year of play. The visual arts student is a gifted skater with great offensive and defensive awareness. Her skills, as well as her leadership, will be vital to the Lions this year. The only other returnee on the blueline for the Lions is Michelle Damiani, a strong physical defender.

Among the new faces on defence are Michelle Daniels, Jen Halinen, Stephanie Richards, Samantha Solheim, Kelsey Webster and Karen Wiltshire. Daniels is a strong defender with a great shot that will be a significant addition to the power play. Halinen plays well in the corners and is responsible in her own end. Richards, a smart defender with a heavy shot, joins the Lions after playing for the Brampton Jr. Thunder. Solheim brings speed and athleticism to the defence. Webster, the only skater over six feet, makes good decisions with the puck, while Wiltshire has great one-on-one skills.

Up front, the Lions have five skaters returning at forward. Second-year skater Jennifer Kramar and third-year winger Lisa Schad led the Lions in scoring last year with three goals apiece. Robyn Shaw, one of only two fourth-year players on the team, will use her speed and experience to add to her leadership skills, while Lisa Sweetman and Amy Attas will play a more significant role offensively this season.

Nine first-year skaters join the forward ranks: Dorothy Aniuk, Kaylee Black, Mandy Cole, Riley Edwards, Michelle Guy, Stacey Hornburg, Laura McLean, Kayla Meisner and Jessica Turi. Aniuk has played in both the Provincial Women’s Hockey League and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), while Black is a versatile player who can play either forward or defence. Cole spent last season with the Telus Lightning (NWHL), recording six goals.

Meisner and Edwards both played for the Beaver Brae Broncos last season. Edwards finished the season with 25 points in 11 games, while Meisner was a solid two-way centre that was excellent at face-offs. Hornburg and Guy join the Lions after spending 2004-2005 playing for the Cambridge Jr. Fury. Hornburg was the team captain and will add leadership to a young squad, while Guy is a solid two-way player comfortable playing in a variety of roles. Rounding out the rookies are McLean and Turi. McLean is a speedy skater that will kill penalties and pressure opposing defenders on the forecheck. Turi has solid puck handling skills and will be looked upon to contribute offensively.