Revered as a tremendous leader and a hockey humanitarian, Anna Purschke finished her proud career with the Mount Royal Cougars on an acclaimed note. Accentuated by an historic first place finish, contributing towards the Cougars standing as a nationally ranked team, a prestigious accumulation of accolades involved the Canada West Student-Athlete Community Service Award.
In addition, a finalist for the U Sports Marion Hilliard Award, Purschke, raised in Sherwood Park, Alberta, also captured the Cougars Community Leadership Award. Also named to Canada’s roster for the 2021 Winter Universiade, unfortunately shelved due to the pandemic, the 2021-22 season was one filled with numerous treasured achievements.
Reflecting on the prestige of winning the Canada West and Mount Royal Community Leadership Awards, the social element represents the greatest reward. Highly passionate regarding volunteering, finding a tremendous reward in giving back to the community, two causes close to her heart include Special Olympics snowshoeing and the Super HEROS program.
“Those are massive honours to me, especially with the amazing group of student athletes represented in the women’s hockey conference and within Mount Royal’s student athletes. Volunteering has become a passion of mine since starting at MRU in 2016 and to be recognized for doing something I love to do has been a treat.
When it comes to volunteering, I love the interaction and connections I get to make with other people. The programs I mainly volunteer for is young athletes and athletes with cognitive disabilities and to provide mentorship and friendship to them is something that continually brings me joy.”
In addition to Purschke, a pair of Cougars teammates also captured Canada West Awards. Forward Tianna Ko garnered Player of the Year honors, sharing the conference lead in goals scored. Zoe De Beauville, posting five shutouts, emerged as the recipient of the Goaltender of the Year Award. All key factors in the Cougars sparkling 16-2-2 conference record, the combination of leadership, maturity and character comprised a tremendous core.
Taking into account the record haul of hockey hardware for the Cougars, including Scott Rivett as Coach of the Year, Purschke is exceptionally proud to be in the same conversation. As Purschke, De Beauville and Ko all started at Mount Royal in the same season, this titanic trio grew together, rewriting history with some of the greatest teams in program lore, simultaneously adding luster to Purschke’s achievement.
“100%, it made the award so much more special. I started this crazy journey at MRU with the two of them in 2016. To go through all of the highs and lows we did during those 6 years and have a finish to our careers like this one is something the three of us can cherish forever. I could not be more proud of the two of them and their accomplishments.”
Prior to the pandemic disrupting the sporting landscape, the Cougars enjoyed a progressive march to the peak. Capturing a silver medal at the 2020 Canada West tournament, earning a place at the U Sports Nationals. Following it up with a victory over perennial contender University of Toronto, it marked one of the most monumental wins in program history. Qualifying for the Medal Round, a chance to play for the Golden Path Trophy never materialized as pandemic fears halted continuation of play at the Nationals w.
Building on such an impressive run, the Cougars remained one of the elite programs nationally. Sporting an 8-0 mark in preseason play, the strong start foreshadowed a great season, of which the Cougars were primed for greatness. Climbing to the top of the Canada West rankings in 21-22, enjoying their first regular season title, it marked a proud pinnacle in Purschke’s final season. Although duplicating the magic did not occur in the postseason, there remains a lot to be proud of,
“Bittersweet is the only way I can put it. The club has continued to progress every year and to have that first place regular season finish was a nice treat. Obviously if we could have finished that off with a medal around our neck that would have been ideal but I think the regular season finish shows that MRU sets the bar.”
Statistically, Purschke’s greatest performance during 2021-22 was a four-point outing on February 12, 2022 versus the Calgary Dinos. Logging an assist in every period of play, Purschke found the back of the net in the second period, one of six Cougars to score in a 7-2 final.
The following game, a February 18 home date versus the McEwan Griffins resulted in a multipoint effort, including Purschke’s final goal as a Cougar. With the score tied at 1-apiece, she buried the puck past Brianna Sank at the 8:25 mark of the second period for the Cougars first lead of the game. With Mackenzie Loupelle and Sydney Benko earning the assists, said goal serendipitously stood as the game winning tally.
Such an inspiring performance served as a bridge for a highly emotional event. With the Cougars holding their Senior Night festivities the day after, Purschke belonged to a celebrated group including Tianna Ko, Zoe De Beauville, Andrea Sanderson, Kate Scidmore, and Maddison Toppe. Prevailing once again versus the Griffins, Ko scored the game-winning tally in a 2-1 final.
A cherished opportunity for celebration and gratitude, Purschke enjoyed the privilege of six years at Mount Royal. Although Senior Night brought a combination of joy and sadness, the teammates shall always hold a place of prominence for Purschke, a source of residual warmth.
With the opportunity to play professional in 2022-23, signing a contract with Sweden’s Leksands IF, Canadians Victoria Klimek and Abby Thiessen shall join her. Undeniably, the growth as a person and as a leader enjoyed in Cougars colors are poised to provide Purschke with further success.
“There was tears for sure. It was surreal that my time there was coming to an end. I remember having senior night in my first year and thinking I had such a long ways to go. It feels like I blinked and all of the sudden it was my senior night.
My time at MRU was unbelievable. I made friends for life, have memories that I will cherish forever, and was able to grow immensely as a person and a player. I am one of the lucky ones who snagged an extra year because of Covid, so getting to spend 6 years with my best friends at an amazing university has been a privilege.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”