In a career that helped propel Saskatchewan Huskies hockey into national prominence, fifth-year blueliner Julia Flinton, specializing in Agriculture & Bioresources studies, carved a significant legacy. From the moment that she first donned the Huskies jersey, there was a feeling that she brought great potential to become an anchor on the blueline unit in the seasons to come.
Following her strong freshman campaign (2011-12), Flinton not only gained a place on the Canada West All-Rookie Team, she was a nominee for the Patricia Lawson Award, recognizing the Huskies’ Top Rookie Female Athlete. She would follow it up with three nods to the Canada West All-Star Team (2014, 2015, 2016), highlighted by a nod to the 2014 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Nationals All-Star Team, becoming a protagonist for the program.
The 2014 CIS Nationals would serve as the vessel to establish Flinton’s legend. In a scintillating season that saw the Huskies win the Canada West Championship, it was enhanced by a historic yet gripping bronze medal that would set a precedent for the program.
Competing against the national powerhouse Laurier Golden Hawks, Flinton would record a heroic hat trick in a 6-3 final, providing the program with its first-ever podium finish at the Nationals. Taking place at the Grant-Harvey Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the impact of Flinton’s hat trick was enhanced by the fact that all three goals were scored on the power play, including a pair in the second period.
Despite Laurier’s Devon Skeats tying the game in the third, Sara Greschner would score a pair of power play goals against goaltender Amanda Smith. As a side note, Flinton, Greschner and Skeats (who would become the first Canadian to score a goal in the history of the NWHL All-Star Game) were named the Three Stars of the Game. Other Huskies recording multi-point efforts in the game included Kaitlin Willoughby, Cami Wooster and Hanna McGillivray.
“The Canada West championship was for sure a major highlight. The best highlight really. Our league is so competitive and winning that and earning our berth to nationals made history in our program. To be part of that history is extremely humbling and I am so proud to be a part of that. The program worked for a decade to get to that moment.”
Her fifth and final season would culminate with many more memorable milestones. In a season where her 26 points (4 goals, 22 assists) led all blueliners in scoring, not just in the Canada West conference but also in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, her efforts would be rewarded with First-Team All-Star honors, along with being named a finalist for the Mary Ethel Cartwright Trophy, which recognizes the Huskies’ Female Athlete of the Year.
“It was a huge honour to be named First-team All Canadian for the CIS. The group of girls that were also named are extremely talented and to be recognized as one of them was amazing. Some of those girls are national team players for various countries so it was pretty special to stand alongside them.”
The last points in her Huksies career consisted of a two-assist performance which took place in a February 13 contest against the rival Regina Rams. Of note, it was her second two-point output against Regina this season. On October 23, she would contribute a pair of points, including the game-winning tally in a 5-3 home win.
A valiant 2-1 home loss on February 6 against the Alberta Pandas resulted in Flinton’s final goal, scoring against Lindsey Post. With said goal, she would tie with three others for second in most goals by a blueliner in Canada West play. The three included Jocelyn Sabourin of the Lethbridge Pronghorns, Natasha Steblin from Alberta and Calgary Dinos veteran player Stephanie Zvonkovic.
Appearing in 28 games, Flinton’s 22 assists ranked second overall in the conference, only trailing Iya Gavrilova of the Calgary Dinos (and the Russian national team) who compiled 23. In addition, Flinton’s solid plus/minus rating of +18 ranked third in the conference while her 116 shots also placed in third.
Although Flinton was raised in Williams Lake, British Columbia, the province of Saskatchewan would serve as the backdrop for many of her hockey glories. Playing at the prep school level for the Notre Dame Hounds of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, she would capture the silver medal at the prestigious 2010 Esso Cup nationals, broadcast nationally in Canada on TSN2, the result of a hard-fought 4-3 loss to the Thunder Bay Queens. Overall, Flinton logged six points in nine playoff games.
During her time in Wilcox, she would be joined on the roster by fellow BC residents Kirsten Toth, Daniella Mastteucci (who would win a silver medal in the first women’s baseball tournament at the Pan Am Games) and Brittany Berisoff. Other notable teammates at Notre Dame included Olivia Howe and Taylor Woods, who had the experience of playing for Canada at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds.
During her Notre Dame career, the 2010-11 season may have been her most cherished. Not only did the squad qualify for the 2011 Esso Cup, Flinton gained the chance to play for another team that would represent a great milestone in her young career.
Gaining the opportunity to represent British Columbia in women’s ice hockey at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, she was joined by Hounds teammates Matteucci and Toth, only adding to the sense of jubilation and accomplishment. Although BC did not experience a gold medal finish, it featured a roster filled with remarkable talent, among them future Princeton goaltender Kimberly Newell, Jordan Krause, Julia McKinnon and Lauren Spring.
Others on the BC roster would also go on to success in the CIS akin to Flinton’s rise to prominence. Such a group included Daley Oddy, venturing out east to play for St. Francis Xavier and Stephanie Schaupmeyer, who would play for the 2016 Canada West champion UBC Thunderbirds.
In Flinton’s career, the chance to play for Team BC was prologue for another stint with a team of highly skilled star competitors. During her Huskies career, Flinton was bestowed the honor of playing for the Canadian national women’s team at the 2015 Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain.
The Canadian contingent would face off against teams from Japan, Kazakhstan and Russia, to name a few. In the semi-finals, Flinton would log the game’s first goal, a 5-2 final against Japan. Despite outshooting the Russians by a 40-34 mark in the gold medal game, Yulia Leskina would gain the win as the Canadians were shut out for the first time in the history of the tournament, a 2-0 final.
Despite the golden expectations, there was a significant personal victory for Flinton. In addition to getting the prestige of wearing the Maple Leaf, the dream of every girl from the moment they put on skates for the first time, it was a career highlight that was shared with one of her biggest supporters,
“I cannot even explain what it meant to me to finally put on that jersey. It is every girl’s lifelong dream. To finally reach it, there are no words. People ask me "what was the best part?" and honestly it all was, the whole experience.
My mom also came and for her to be there for the moment where I accomplished my life-long dream. My parents have been there and enabled me through so much sacrifice to be where I am today. It allowed me to say thank-you to her in a way by putting on those colors.”
Considering that Saskatchewan has held such a prominent place in Flinton’s hockey journey, her fifth and final season of CIS play symbolized a transition. While her years in Huskies green symbolized an exceptional era filled with vivid memories, Rutherford Rink and the skating sisters which shared her love of the game were part of an unmistakable chapter in her life, one that will fondly fulfill as the subsequent chapter brings Flinton back to her home province,
“I will miss all of it. The level of compete, the dressing room, Rutherford Rink. I cannot name just one thing. I will definitely miss all of the girls. I met so many amazing girls in this program and made life-long friends. Especially the four other girls I am graduating with. We have been through thick and thin together. With moving back to BC, I will not see them every day, but we definitely will not lose touch.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Josh Schaeffer Photography