Photo by Alex D'Addese

Crouse earns Rookie of the Year, Green an all-star

By Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

BURLINGTON, Ont. – To understand why the top three seeds in the conference finished where they did in the standings, a look at their talent-laden rosters is a good place to start. Ontario University Athletics (OUA) is pleased to announce the 2018-19 women’s hockey major award winners and all-stars, which includes multiple wins from the Guelph Gryphons, Western Mustangs, and Toronto Varsity Blues.

When talking about the offensive talent in the OUA, the conversation can certainly start with April Clark (St. Mary’s, Ont.). The Western Mustangs superstar has been as lethal as they come this season and was a threat to score each time she stepped on the ice for the purple ponies. The fourth-year player totaled 33 points this season – tops in the OUA – which included her lighting the lamp a sizzling 20 times. The mark set her as the clear leader in the province, five more than the second-ranked goal total, and also placed her at the top of the national ranks as well.

Among the many highlights of Clark’s bountiful season were five multi-goal games, including a hat trick in the team’s 6-0 win over Laurentian in January, and nine multi-point games in the 24 she played. Things were looking up for Clark from the get-go, as she kicked off the campaign with 10 points (6G, 4A) in her first four games and she kept up that electrifying play all season long. The first-team all-star, who also suited up for the U SPORTS All-Star team at the Hockey Canada Summer Showcase prior to the season, was the offensive star for her Mustangs for the second straight season, but found a whole new gear in her senior year en route to her selection as both the Player of the Year and Forward of the Year in the OUA.

While Clark was at the forefront of the conference’s goal-scoring elite, a member of the Guelph Gryphons ensured that the other end of the ice was well taken care of for her Gryphons. Valerie Lamenta (Montreal, Que), the 2018-19 Goaltender of the Year, was as tough to beat as anyone in the league this year and the numbers say it all. The fifth-year goalie led the OUA in both goals-against average (1.24) and save percentage (.952) on the year en route to her 10-win campaign. She has let in the third-fewest goals against, a mark that was greatly assisted by her five shutouts this season.

The first-team all-star’s stingy play has once again led her team to a championship appearance, and she’ll look to backstop them all the way to a third McCaw Cup victory in her five-year career. The two-time All-Canadian has been a consistent force for the Gryphons since her entry into the league – a tenure that has also included a national player of the year honour in 2015-16 – but with numbers like this, she may have saved her best for last.

While Lamenta anchors the team on the defensive end of the ice, with help from second-team all-star Laura Crowdis (Oakville, Ont.), among others, on the blue line, the team matches their top-ranked defence with a No. 1 offence as well. And at the forefront of their offensive game, is a first-team selection and team captain, Kaitlin Lowy (Toronto, Ont.). Lowy found herself near the top of the conference leaderboards all season long in both goals and assists, finishing her fifth season with a fourth-ranked total in the former (13 goals) and another top-10 finish in the latter (12 assists). Her impressive ability and leadership on the ice sparked a 25-point effort in her senior year, which was good enough for fourth in the conference as well.

Leading the team from behind the bench is the conference’s Coach of the Year, Rachel Flanagan, who is no stranger to this award. In her 12 seasons at the helm of the Gryphons women’s team, Flanagan has earned the top coach award on five different occasions and has brought Guelph to the OUA finals seven different times. Over her impressive tenure, Flanagan has amassed a record of 222-61-20, which includes her team’s most recent 18-win campaign. As mentioned, this mark was buoyed by a top-ranked offence (3.29 goals per game) and defence (1.397 goals-against average), as well as strong special teams efforts that resulted in a top-five powerplay (16.7%) and just 11 goals surrendered on the penalty kill (3rd in OUA). Overall, she has led her team to be one of the most well-rounded and dominant across the country en route to their fourth first-place finish over the last five seasons.

While several of this year’s winners have put their skill set on display for several seasons, one has made her mark early on, as this season’s top rookie has stepped into the spotlight right away for the Ryerson Rams. Erika Crouse (Kirkland Lake, Ont.), the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, made an immediate impact on the offence-happy squad, fitting right in with the conference’s second-highest scoring team. The first-year forward sat just one goal and one point off the team leads, respectively, capping her campaign with an 11-goal, 22-point bottom line. The Kirkland Lake native made her biggest impact down the stretch, stepping up in Ryerson’s final few games; a span that included five assists against Toronto in a 6-5 win, which she then followed up with back-to-back two-goal games for the GTA squad. Overall, her marks in both goals and points also placed her in the OUA’s top-10 this season.

The potent early production from Crouse also paired quite well with the contributions from veteran Kryshanda Green (Brampton, Ont.). The team’s captain and lone all-star selection this year was among the team’s top offensive threats once again, finishing with 10 goals (for the third consecutive season) and 21 points on the year, both good enough to join her teammate in the conference’s top-10 ranks in both categories. Earlier this season, the fourth-year forward also became the program’s all-time leader in goals scored with 25; a feat she completed as a result of her two-goal performance against Queen’s in early January.

Another fourth-year standout has earned multiple honours for the Toronto Varsity Blues, as Cristine Chao (Toronto, Ont.) was selected as the conference’s Defender of the Year and Most Sportsmanlike for the 2018-19 season. The defender led all OUA players in the position in both goals (7) and points (17) in her 24 regular season games. Now a three-time all-star after also garnering a first team nod this year, Chao quarterbacked the team’s top-ranked powerplay in fine form and managed to maintain these lofty contributions while amassing only four penalty minutes all season.

Joining Chao as a Varsity Blues all-star is fifth-year forward Lauren Straatman (Thorndale, Ont.), who picks up the honour for the first time in her university career. The second-teamer, who is currently representing Canada at the 2019 FISU Winter Universiade in Russia, ranked second in the OUA with 15 assists and fifth with 23 points overall. Her offensively-gifted campaign was highlighted by a pair of three-point performances on the year.

First-year phenoms Erica Fryer (Amherstburg, Ont.) and Taylor Trussler (Ayr, Ont.), meanwhile, have been recognized as all-rookie team members after making immediate contributions to the Blues. The former backstopped her team to an eight-game winning streak in January, which was capped by a U SPORTS Athlete of the Month selection, and finished the season ranked fourth in the OUA with a 1.49 goals-against average. The latter finished her first season with five goals and eight helpers after storming out of the gates with seven points in her first seven games, including a hat trick against Ryerson to kick off November.

The final squad of the GTA triumvirate also garnered a major award winner this season, thanks not only to her contributions on the ice for the York Lions, but her efforts beyond the rink as well. The Marion Hilliard Award winner, Jenna Gray (London, Ont.) did it all for the Lions this year, capping off her five-year university career with her best season to date. The second-team all-star doubled her previous career-high in points with 14 (3G, 11A), which put her second on the Lions this year. Her on-ice success was highlighted by two three-point games on the year, but even with her first all-star selection now under her belt, the senior defender has even more to be proud of in her final campaign.

Gray has served as a PAWS mentor and is also very involved in York’s work with HEROS Hockey, a foundation that uses ice hockey to empower at-risk youth. She has also been a leader within the York athletics community and has spearheaded a number of community and charitable initiatives throughout her tenure with the Lions. Inside the classroom, meanwhile, Gray is an Academic All-Canadian and is graduating this year with a degree in criminology. The veteran has played a leading role in all that she has done since joining the Lions in 2014. The team captain for the last two seasons finishes her on-ice career with nine goals and 30 assists, but her tenure has been made up of so much more to impact the classroom and the community as well.

Another fifth-year defender helps to round out the first team contingent, as Nipissing’s Zosia Davis (Cobden, Ont.) adds another all-star selection to her lengthy resume. She has been an OUA all-star throughout her Lakers career, which included a Defender of the Year nod a year ago, and ends her Nipissing career as the program leader in goals, assists, and points by a defender. She has played over 100 games during her university tenure, collecting over 60 points during that span, and caps off her career with another 15 points (3G, 12A) in 2018-19.

While Davis rounds out the top-tier defence corps, the conference’s second-ranked scorer completes the forward contingent, as Kassidy Nauboris (Brampton, Ont.) claims a spot on the first team this season. This season’s success was nothing new for Nauboris, but she outdid herself in her fifth and final season with UOIT. The senior forward set a Ridgebacks’ single-season record in assists with 17 and tied a UOIT record for single-season points. Her 15 goals and 32 points both marked career-highs for the Brampton native, and put her in the conversation as one of the best to ever suit up for the Oshawa squad. The now two-time all-star finishes her university career ranked second all-time at UOIT in goals, assists, and points.

While Nauboris’ tenure with the Ridgebacks is coming to a close, another forward is just getting started. Erin Ross (Lucan, Ont.) earns all-rookie status after she finished fourth in team scoring with 15 points (6G, 9A). The first-year forward becomes the fourth Ridgeback all-time to crack the all-rookie roster and is the first to do so since the 2013-14 season (Tori Campbell).

Like UOIT, the Brock Badgers also see a pair of players garner provincial recognition, with one of the league’s top forwards and goalies securing spots on the second team. Annie Berg (Beamsville, Ont.) paced the St. Catharines squad up front with her career year. She finished with 11 goals and 14 helpers, ranking in a tie for sixth in the former and fourth in the latter across the conference. Her 25 points, which made her the clear-cut focal point of the Brock offensive attack, also put her in a tie for third in the OUA.

In net, the Badgers relied heavily on the steady play of Jensen Murphy (Kingston, Ont.) and the senior goaltender rose to the challenge. The talented netminder finished third in save percentage (.944), and ninth in goals-against average (2.07), and she accomplished these stingy numbers as the conference’s clear work-horse between the pipes. The Kingston native saw the most time in the blue paint on the year and faced far and away the most shots, leading the OUA in saves with 807 (over 200 more than her closest competitor). She also helped Brock secure a spot in the postseason thanks to her league-high 13 wins, putting the feather in the cap of her senior season.

The final standouts from the year that was come on the all-rookie blue line, as the conference’s top first-year defenders are Jessie Fennell (Fonthill, Ont.) and Nicole Posesorski (Toronto, Ont.). Representing the Waterloo Warriors and Queen’s Gaels, respectively, these dynamic defenders played strong two-way games in their first foyer into the university landscape, with each player securing nine points in their debut campaigns.

The complete list of 2018-19 women’s hockey major award winners and all-stars is below:

Most Valuable Player – April Clark, Western
Forward of the Year – April Clark, Western
Defender of the Year – Cristine Chao, Toronto
Goaltender of the Year – Valerie Lamenta, Guelph
Rookie of the Year – Erika Crouse, Ryerson
Marion Hilliard Award – Jenna Gray, York
Most Sportsmanlike Award – Cristine Chao, Toronto
Coach of the Year – Rachel Flanagan, Guelph

First Team All-Stars
F – April Clark, Western
F – Kassidy Nauboris, UOIT
F – Kaitlin Lowy, Guelph
D – Cristine Chao, Toronto
D – Zosia Davis, Nipissing
G – Valerie Lamenta, Guelph

Second Team All-Stars
F – Annie Berg, Brock
F – Lauren Straatman, Toronto
F – Kryshanda Green, Ryerson
D – Laura Crowdis, Guelph
D – Jenna Gray, York
G – Jensen Murphy, Brock

All-Rookie Team
F – Erika Crouse, Ryerson
F – Erin Ross, UOIT
F – Taylor Trussler, Toronto
D – Jessie Fennell, Waterloo
D – Nicole Posesorski, Queen’s
G – Erika Fryer, Toronto

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