Allowing only 33 goals against in 22 games, Rachel Dyck assembled a dream season that placed her in the upper echelon of elite goaltenders in U Sports ice hockey. Standing between the pipes for the Manitoba Bisons, she was an essential reason that the program qualified for the Canada West semi-finals, while also gaining frequent recognition in the national rankings.
Although the Bisons did not qualify for the U Sports national women’s ice hockey championships in Napanee, Ontario, the program features an amazing collection of talent. Along with Alexandra Anderson and Lauryn Keen, all three were named to the Canada West First Team All-Stars. In addition, Finnish national team player Venla Hovi, currently a Bisons star, and Erica Rieder were named to the Second Team, while Sheridan Oswald gained All-Rookie honors.
The honors continued as Anderson and Dyck gained the prestige of being named to the U Sports Second Team All-Stars. Meanwhile Lauryn Keen, the Canada West Player of the Year and recipient of the Bisons’ Female Athlete of the Year Award, gained First Team All-Stars, respectively. In addition, Dyck captured the University of Manitoba’s award as the MVP of the women’s ice hockey team. In reflecting on the honor of the career milestones attained, it stands out as a point of pride for Dyck, and a confident springboard towards greater heights in the season to come.
“To be named to the U-Sport All-Canadian Team is extremely humbling. As a hockey player at the beginning of the year you set out goals for yourself that you want to achieve and from that point on you work every day to make those goals a reality.
Achieving All-Canadian Team status was definitely a goal of mine and to see all my hard work over the past season and past years pay off means so much to me.”
Considering that the selection of Anderson, Dyck and Keen to the All-Canadian team represents a Bisons program record, their achievements reflect a strong team culture. A significant aspect in team building and strengthening the belief in each other can be traced back to the beginning of the season, when a journey across the Atlantic to another hockey hotbed, as a four game exhibition series against teams in Finland and Sweden were defined by sportsmanship and mutual respect.
For Dyck, the time spent in the Scandinavian hockey hotbeds provided a cherished season highlight, while allowing Hovi an opportunity to return to her hockey roots. The Bisons participated in a series of exhibition games spanning August 25 to September 1, 2016. A pair of exhibition games in Finland saw the Bisons defeated Helsinki by a 5-0 mark, with a goal scored by Hovi, while Dyck made 31 saves in a 2-1 win versus Espoo as Alanna Serhan and Karissa Kirkup scored for the Bisons.
Against SDE-Stockholm on August 30, Hovi logged the game-winning tally in a tightly contested 1-0 final against the Swedish team. The final exhibition game in Sweden saw Dyck contribute with Amanda Schubert for a combined shutout as Charity Price scored the game’s only goal as Djugarden fell by an identical 1-0 score. The international experience is one that Dyck and her teammates acquired a series of memories that shall last a lifetime,
“Looking back on the season my favorite moment was at the beginning of the year when we took a team trip to Finland and Sweden. It was awesome to be able to share that experience with the team and make some memories that we will never forget.”
Statistically, Dyck established herself as the finest goaltender in Canada West, while ranking prominently among all goaltenders nationally. Among U Sports goaltenders in all four conferences, Dyck ranked second in games played, third in minutes, fourth in games started and eighth in Goals against Average (GAA).
Undoubtedly, the most impressive number is Dyck’s 15 wins, which ranked first nationally, improving on her previous seasons’ total of eight wins. Sporting a 1.51 GAA along with 447 saves, she started out the season with a shutout win at Lethbridge on October 7, setting the tone for the astonishing achievements to come. In discussing such a breakthrough season, Dyck remains humble, quick to point out that everything she accomplished was attributed to an overall team effort.
“I am extremely proud of these achievements but hockey is a team game and I would not have been able to do this without the support of my teammates and this season they showed up every game and battled hard in front of me.
I trust my team to be able to bail me out and they have the same trust in me which speaks volumes and allows the team to play more comfortably. The 15 wins and 5/6 shutouts are testaments as to how well the team played defensively this year.”
With her second start of the season, Dyck would retain the hot hand, blanking the Mount Royal Cougars on the road. Coincidentally, Mount Royal would also impact on Dyck’s season as the playoffs approach. With Mount Royal qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in program history, it was Dyck who faced off against them in their inaugural playoff game.
Following up on these two shutout wins with a weekend sweep of the Regina Cougars from October 20-21, Dyck would enjoy a fantastic 4-0 start with only two goals against. Before the holiday break, the wins would mount, as Dyck logged three in a row from November 25 to December 2, including a sweep of Saskatchewan.
Dyck’s best performance in the first half of the season was highlighted by an impressive 1-0 performance against the Calgary Dinos, which took place on November 4. With a passionate contest that needed to be resolved in overtime via Courtlyn Oswald’s heroics, Dyck showed tremendous resolve, her confidence increasing.
Starting January with an 8-3-0 total and four shutouts, the momentum did not stop for Dyck who remained the best backstop in the nation. After a 4-3 loss to UBC on January 14 (she had shut them out the day prior), Dyck reeled off five straight wins.
The five-game win streak began with a 5-1 win at home against the Lethbridge Pronghorns on January 20. Said streak would also involve a road sweep of the Dinos, plus a home sweep against the Saskatchewan Huskies, which included a 3-0 blanking of the green and white on February 3.
Although Dyck looks back on the streak with modesty, becoming conscious of its impact in discussion, her approach reveals a bigger picture. The defining aspect of her season stretches beyond numbers, awards and honors. Definitely, the poise that she brings to each game day tells the tale, weaving a confident tapestry where a team-first approach and a positive attitude make Dyck an All-Canadian both on and off the ice,
“To be honest, I did not even realize that we had that streak at the end of January, but as a goalie one of the things that helps me most is taking each game one at a time and not letting my performance (good or bad) from the night before affect how I am going to play in that moment.
Obviously, when a team is rolling, it is a lot more fun to show up to the rink everyday and easier to have that steady confidence level. That kind of win streak was extremely important overall for the success of our season.
In this league, every weekend is an opportunity to gain 6 points and the ability to set ourselves up well for the end of the season when points matter all the more was very important for us.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Manitoba Bisons athletics