U Sask. Huskies seniors celebrate final game together at U Sports women’s hockey nationals – Saskatoon

Six years after moving from the Edmonton area to join the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey program, Camryn Drever stood in her familiar blue paint Sunday wondering there the time went.

“When my fifth-years told me that it goes by in the blink of an eye, they weren’t kidding and I didn’t understand it until now,” said Drever.

After the buzzer sounded on the consolation final of the 2024 U Sports Women’s Hockey Championship on Sunday, the Canada West player of the year was swarmed by her Huskies teammates in a swell of emotion and tears.

Drever is one of seven Huskies who saw their university careers come to a close on home ice as Saskatchewan fell to the visiting UBC Thunderbirds by a 4-1 score to finish the national tournament in sixth place.

Among the Huskies’ all-time leaders in wins, save percentage and minutes played over her six seasons in Saskatoon, Drever said she wasn’t ready to leave the net that she’s called home for so many years.

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“After we shook hands with UBC there I kind of went and stood in the crease,” said Drever. “I just took it all in and was like, ‘This is the last moments of my career as a Huskie.’ I’m sure there’s lots to come, but just different emotions all over.”

Click to play video: 'Huskies hockey defender steps onto ice after cancer diagnosis'

Huskies hockey defender steps onto ice after cancer diagnosis

The Huskies wrapped up hosting duties Sunday after advancing to the final day of the tournament with a 3-1 victory over St. Francis Xavier University on Saturday morning.

Drever made 37 stops in that consolation semi-final tilt, with Huskies head coach Steve Kook placing the graduating netminder among the program’s best ever.

“We had Vanessa Frederick that set a level,” said Kook. “We had Cassidy Hendricks that set a level, after that we had Jessica Vance who set a level, now there’s Cam that set another level higher.”

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“This one may be tough to beat.”

Exiting the Huskies alongside Drever are defender Isabella Pozzi, forwards Kara Kondrat, Kate Ball, Kenzie Lausberg and Sophie Lalor, as well as captain Kennedy Brown.

It’s a bittersweet goodbye for Brown, who overcame a devastating knee injury to return to the program this fall for her final season with the Huskies.

Brown was able to write a memorable final chapter to her time in Saskatoon however, as she scored the lone goal of the game for the hosts with a wrist shot just outside the face-off circle.

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“It was so exciting to be able to do that in our last kick at the can here and against UBC when tensions are high like that,” said Brown. “It was certainly really special to have all my teammates support on that play and support after that.”

Brown was named the Huskies’ player of the game in her final appearance with the ‘Dogs’ and shared an emotional embrace with Drever at the end of the game.

“She’s everything to me,” said Drever. “We’ve been roommates for the last five years and (Brown) the captain of the team. She’s an outstanding person and human, I just love her so much. Being able to share so many special moments with her and being able to cap it all off with a big hug and moment at the end was awesome.”

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Family and friends poured onto the ice at Merlis Belsher Place where more tears were shed, including Kondrat who said the day was meant to thank those supporters who helped fuel their hockey careers.

“Our parents have committed their lives to watching us play the game,” said Kondrat. “Just seeing them step out on that ice afterwards was definitely emotional again, but it was happy tears of course.”

This iteration of the Huskies is one of memorable experiences as the veteran core supported each other during the cancelled 2020-21 season, a heavily-restricted return to play in 2021-22 and a pair of trips to U Sports nationals.

From enjoying a bronze medal win on the national stage in Prince Edward Island to starting her final game in green and white, it’s a decision to come to Saskatchewan which paid off in spades for Drever and her fellow graduates.

“This was the program that I wanted to come to from the start,” said Drever. “Being able to come here where my parents grew up and where most of my family lives right now is awesome. It’s really hard to put into words what it means to me to be able to wear that jersey. It’s something that I will never forget for the rest of my life.”

Back to Sask. for homegrown U Sports athletes

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan families reunited at U Sports women’s hockey nationals'

Saskatchewan families reunited at U Sports women’s hockey nationals

When the St. Francis Xavier X-Women qualified for the 2024 U Sports women’s hockey championship, Assiniboia’s Amaya Giraudier knew she would be serving as de-facto tour guide for her east coast teammates.

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“It was pretty special to take my teammates back to experience what I kind of see here and show them around,” said Giraudier.

Arriving from Nova Scotia, it was a special reunion between Amaya and her parents Chad and Heather who had driven up from their hometown to support their daughter chase a national championship in their home province.

“We looked ahead at the beginning of the year and we knew nationals was here and thought there’s a chance,” said Chad. “We were just fortunate to be able to watch her here.”

With Amaya completing her third season in Antigonish, the Giraudiers had not seen their daughter play live in three and a half years before the opening game of the tournament against the Waterloo Warriors.

This week however, that distance has been limited only to the ice and the Girauders’ seats in section D.

“It was her dream to lead the team back to Saskatchewan since she started at St. FX, back in her first year,” said Heather. “Knowing that it was coming back to the U of S here, that’s what she wanted to do and now she’s living it.”

The Giraudier’s story is one of several family reunions in Saskatoon, with Saskatchewan players from across the country getting the opportunity to compete for a Canadian title in familiar territory.

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Regina’s Bailey McMaster was able to get into a pair of games with the University of New Brunswick Reds, following in the footsteps of her mother Brandy who competed at the same tournament over 20 years ago as a star with the University of Regina Cougars.

“My mom has been a big part of U Sports,” said McMaster. “She still I think is a number one point-getter and she used to coach too. Just wanting to make them proud and play my heart out every game.”

It was a Saskatoon area homecoming for UBC Thunderbirds teammates Kailee Peppler and Joelle Fiala as well, the lone team other than the Huskies to boast multiple players from Saskatchewan on their roster.

Hailing from Clavet, Fiala previously played NCAA hockey with Robert Morris University and was a mainstay on the Saskatoon U18 AAA Stars in the years prior.

Making it a special return to the city and arena where she established herself as an elite hockey player, closing out her U Sports career with UBC.

“I was a part of the first Stars AAA team to play out of this rink,” said Fiala. “To come back and see all of the development that’s happened within the city, within the university and the rink itself is pretty amazing. The women’s game has come a long ways.”

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As for Peppler, this week was a stark reminder of the women she used to look up to in Saskatoon and the example she and her teammates looked to set.

“It’s kind of like a full circle moment,” said Peppler. “I played here growing up and I played in Prince Albert, and in Saskatchewan all the way through. It’s been cool to be able to see younger girls come out here too, that’s what I was looking up to when I was their age.”

While Giraudier’s tournament came to an end in the consolation semi-final with a loss to the Huskies, it was a memorable week which she and her family will look back on fondly as a rare chance to be together in a rink again.

“I have a lot of support back home for sure,” said Amaya. “It’s something different watching through a screen, to have them here is really special.”

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