In a breakthrough season that saw Lauryn Keen become the cornerstone of the Manitoba Bisons offense, it was one filled with a superlative list of accomplishments and milestones. The pride of Manitou, Manitoba, the Agricultural and Food Sciences major became the first-ever player in the history of the Bisons program to be recognized as the Canada West Women’s Hockey Outstanding Player of the Year. Adding to such a proud and historic milestone is the fact that Keen was also recognized as the 2016-17 Bison Sports Female Athlete of the Year.
“Being named the Canada West Player of the Year was extremely humbling. It felt great to be recognized for a year’s worth of hard work. Being named this award will definitely give me some confidence going into next year knowing that anything is possible if you put in the work. In a competitive conference, it always means something when you are named to an award and it felt great to be chosen for this specific one.”
Having wrapped up her third season with the Bisons, not only did she lead the team in scoring with 34 points, on the strength of 25 assists, she would emerge as the conference scoring champion, finishing seven points ahead of the runner-up.
In addition, she would pace the conference in two other categories, including an astounding 1.21 points per game, complemented by a plus/minus rating of +22. Statistically, Keen’s finest performance consisted of four assists against Lethbridge on January 21, part of a convincing 5-0 win. As a side note, nine Bisons had at least one point in the win, which also saw Venla Hovi, who also plays for Finland’s national team, and Alanna Sharman log multi-point efforts.
Becoming only the second Bisons player to capture the scoring title, Keen’s performance only gains more luster considering that the Canada West conference is one of the most competitive in the nation. In reflecting on the feeling of achievement in attaining the scoring title, she is quick to point out that such success was attributed to a true team effort,
“I could not have captured this title without the help of my line mates. They were a huge part of my success. As well, I think it had a lot to do with mental and physical preparation and coming to the rink every day with the right mind set to want to get better at practices and putting in a solid effort at every workout, practice, and game.
Nationally, Keen ranked first in games played, first in assists with 25, testament to her playmaking abilities, fifth in points (34), fifth in plus/minus +22 and seventh in shots (101), respectively. Logging at least one point in nine of the last 11 regular season conference match-ups, Keen’s efforts were essential in propelling the Bisons towards a postseason berth. Perhaps the most impressive number was the fact that the Bisons were an impressive 16-4 whenever she logged at least point.
Recognized for her efforts as a Canada West First-Team All-Star for the first time, Keen would be part of a historic group of talented Bisons competitors whose skills gained national acclaim. Along with teammates Alexandra Anderson, known affectionately as Sparky, and goaltender Rachel Dyck, who was recognized by the university as the Women’s Hockey Team MVP, all three were bestowed the honor of U Sports All-Canadian status, a shared milestone that sees each gaining such recognition for the first time in their careers.
Keen was named a First-Team All-Canadian; she was joined on said team by fellow Canada West competitor Kelly Murray from the University of British Columbia. Meanwhile, Anderson and Dyck gained Second-Team All-Canadian honors, signifying the first time in program history that three Bisons competitors gained All-Canadian status in one season. To share in such an outstanding historic accomplishment with her teammates is one that Keen approaches as a strong point of Bisons pride,
“Being able to share this award with two other teammates was definitely a proud moment. Although hockey is a team game, it is always nice to see individuals recognized for their hard work and being able to share this status with both "Sparky" and "Rach" was very humbling.”
Setting the tone on offense early in the season, Keen’s early efforts would be highlighted by a five game scoring streak from October 8 to October 21. During said streak, she found the back of the net five times, while setting up three other goals, for a sterling eight point showing. With the Bisons going undefeated during this stretch, Keen would help her own cause by netting the game winning goal vs. the Mount Royal Cougars in a 2-0 victory that took place on October 14.
From January 20 to February 10, Keen registered a season-best seven game scoring streak, which ranked second in the conference for longest streak. Accumulating 15 points, on the strength of 12 assists, the highlight included a game-winning goal against the competitive Calgary Dinos on January 27.
Among her conference opponents, Keen enjoyed significant success at the expense of the Saskatchewan Huskies. A November 25 road match against the Huskies saw Keen record the game-winning goal, providing the Bisons with another crucial conference win. More offensive brilliance would follow, as a home match with the Huskies saw Keen factor into all three Bisons goals, with three assists in a 3-0 win.
Recording to 10 multi-point performances, the Bisons experienced a 9-1-0 mark, with their only loss taking place on December 3 against Mount Royal, a 5-3 final. Her most heroic multi-point outing involved a three-point output against Calgary on January 27. Highlighted by a pair of goals in another important road win, she would gain the assist on the game-winning goal, scored by Jordyn Zacharias against Dinos backstop Kelsey Roberts. Keen’s third-period goal allowed the Bisons a two-goal advantage, which would stand in the 4-2 final.
Reflecting on the season, Keen sees the overall effort of the team and the recognition among so many deserving players as the most important aspect. In addition to the honors bestowed upon Anderson and Dyck, they were part of a proud sorority of honored Bisons which saw Venla Hovi and Erica Rieder named to the Canada West Second Team All-Stars, while Sheridan Oswald added the milestone of 2016-17 Canada West All-Rookie Team.
As proud as Keen is of her own individual achievements, she prefers to observe the bigger picture. Hoping that the momentum obtained during this monumental season will serve as a springboard, optimism reigns for greater and more glorious achievements as a team in 2018.
“Looking back on the season, it’s great to see so many different teammates being named to some kind of an award. Although we didn’t go as far as we would have liked, it just goes to show how much talent we have on this team and the great things we will be able to do next year.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from: Canada West Athletics, Facebook and Saskatoon Star-Phoenix