The 2015-16 season served as one more opportunity for Lions fans to enjoy Kristen Barbara’s solid playmaking abilities. Over the last couple of seasons, her presence added to the growing legacy of remarkable competitors that have donned the Lions jersey, following in the footsteps of the likes of Allyson Fox, Sari Krooks, Autumn Mills and former teammate Lisa Stathopoulos.
During five sensational seasons for the York Lions, the Mount Hope, Ontario-raised Barbara set a standard among her teammates for strong play that resulted in numerous honors. In the aftermath of her freshman campaign in 2011-12, Barbara led all freshmen blueliners in OUA scoring.
Not only was she bestowed the honor of a spot on both the OUA and the CIS All-Rookie Team, she was also an OUA All-Second Team selection. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she captured the university’s Varsity Freshman of the Year Award, the first women’s hockey player to win it.
“Both the All Rookie and CIS accolades were great honors. Coming into York as a rookie there were so many unknowns but I was really happy with how I adapted to the university level game. In my fourth year, I was really able to see a lot of the strides that I had made from my first three years. I knew that at the beginning of every season I was going to expect more out of myself as I grew both on and off the ice.”
Having played at the PWHL level with the Stoney Creek Jr. Sabres, a program that also boasts alums such as Beth Clause, Laura Fortino, Sarah Nurse and Kelly Sabatine, who all played for the Canadian national team at the U18 and/or U22 level, she brought a fundamentally sound game to the Lions, where her skills continued to shine under the tutelage of head coach Dan Church.
Coincidentally, Barbara would be part of a group of OUA All-Stars that played Canada’s Under-18 team in a 2014 exhibition series. The experience would prove to be more than just a career milestone. Ever assiduous, Barbara utilized the opportunity to push herself and prove her place on the All-Stars, displaying the solid two-way play that made her one of the top blueiners not just in the OUA, but the CIS.
“When playing against the Canadian U18 team there were so many different things I was able take away. Playing with the best players from the OUA really allowed me to see where I was and push to be the best player that I could be. Playing against the U18’s you could see how excited they were to represent Team Canada and it was great for them to see the next steps within their careers.”
In later seasons, Barbara would blossom into a star, gaining subsequent spots on the OUA All-Confernece team. As a highly skilled blueliner that served as the power play quarterback, she was the OUA’s scoring champion among blueliners in 2014-15 with 20 points, on the strength of 13 assists, ranking second nationally. As a side note, Stathopoulos led all OUA skaters in scoring.
In the final game of the season, Barbara showed offensive flair with a three-point night highlighted by a pair of goals. Becoming just the second Lions player to be recognized as both an All-OUA and All-CIS player in the same season, it was testament to Barbara’s work ethic, setting a positive example for her teammates.
With over 100 career appearances in a Lions jersey to her credit, the final goal in Barbara’s glorious career took place on February 19 in a 6-2 road win against their longtime rivals, the Toronto Lady Blues. Of note, her final CIS game would also result in her final point with the Lions, obtaining an assist in a February 20 win against Windsor, one which saw the Lions prevail by a 5-4 tally.
Gaining the honor of the captaincy in her final season, it was a fitting tribute for such an accomplished player, whose Lions legacy is without dispute. Part of a graduating class that included Sarah Conway, Stephanie Dovaston, Megan Lee and Sarai Whitty, Barbara helped elevate Lions women’s hockey into an essential part of the sporting conversation on campus. While Barbara’s talents helped propel the Lions into the class of OUA hockey, her greatest legacy may be a humble demeanor that always set a positive tone while inspiring others.
“To be named team captain this year was a huge honor. I knew coming in that I wanted to have a good end to my career as a Lion and was fortunate enough to be looked at as a leader for this team. Regardless of whether or not I was captain would not determine how much I was excited to play my fifth and final year as a York Lion.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from: http://www.yorkulions.ca/