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Iya Gavrilova Shines in a Season to Remember

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When Iya Gavrilova joined the Calgary Dinos program, the prominent player in the program was living legend Hayley Wickenheiser. Even when Gavrilova helped lead Russia to the bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Ottawa, Ontario, she graciously fielded many questions about what it was like to play alongside Wickenheiser.

Fast forward two years later, and Gavrilova can proudly claim that she is not only a world-class player in her own right, but that she is also the finest player in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) play. For her efforts, she became the first Russian-born player to be awarded the Brodrick Trophy, which recognizes the finest competitor in CIS women’s ice hockey.

Under the tutelage of head coach Danielle Goyette, the only woman to win Winter Games gold for Canada as a player and coach, Gavrilova’s game has not only improved, but her leadership skills have grown, testament to her serving as the Dinos captain this past season.

The 2014-15 campaign resulted in Gavrilova leading all skaters in goals scored and plus/minus rating in CIS play. As a side note, she ranked third overall in the scoring race. She would also finish her season with top five rankings nationally in Game Winning Goals (second overall with six) and shots on goal (fourth with 114).

Statistically, her best performance was a four-point effort on October 11, 2014, against provincial rival Lethbridge. That contest was actually the second of three straight matches in which she registered a multi-point performance. As a side note, she would finish her season with 13 games in which she logged at least two points.

Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she would begin a nine-game scoring streak on October 24. Before the Dinos season would expire, she also assembled another solid scoring streak of seven games (lasting from January 9-30, 2015).

Although the Dinos were the host program for the CIS Nationals, they were unable to qualify for the national championship game. Despite the heartbreak, the bigger picture revealed an even greater breakthrough for Gavrilova.

Suiting up for Russia at the 2015 Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain, she would lead the squad to its first-ever gold medal in FISU women’s hockey history. As the Russian captain, she finished third in tournament scoring. The historic win was punctuated by the fact that Russia defeated Canada in the gold-medal game, handing the hockey power its first loss in FISU play.

An added bonus for Gavrilova was the fact that fellow Russian, Alexandra Vafina joined the Dinos program (and also earned FISU gold). Like Gavrilova, Vafina had previously played for Shannon Miller in NCAA Division 1 hockey with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.The two would also lead Russia to the bronze medal game at the 2015 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Malmo, Sweden. 

In the aftermath of the Dinos season, the emergence of Gavrilova as the Brodrick Trophy winner is a relevant victory not just for the program, but for CIS hockey. Not only does her dream season build awareness that elite university hockey is contested in Canada, but it should also bear fruit in the very competitive efforts to recruit top European talent, which would only build on the fantastic foundation that Gavrilova has built with the Dinos.

Image obtained from: http://calgaryherald.com/sports/hockey/dinos-star-gavrilova-leads-russia-into-womens-worlds

Image of Gavrilova with philanthropist Joan Snyder obtained from: https://twitter.com/Iya_Gavri

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