Part of a graduating class that included fellow fifth year players Kaitlyn McDonell, who served as team captain, and Paula LaGamba, goaltender Rebecca Bouwhuis assembled a solid playing career that established her as one of the most valiant to stand between the pipes for the Waterloo Warriors. Along with fourth-year player Lindsey O’Neill, they contributed towards a sensational 14-9-1 season, leaving a mark with the Warriors program.
An unforgettable freshman season was the launching pad for the tremendous promise that the Aurora Panthers alum brought to the Warriors program. Not only was said season a validation that she was capable of exceptional competition at this level, it was a building block which consistently helped contribute towards the program’s consistent standing as a postseason contender. Fittingly, her season culminated with a nod to the CIS All-Rookie Team, helping establish herself as a mainstay on the team.
Heading into her senior season, there was definitely a strong sense of motivation for Bouwhuis. Following a disappointing 2014-15 campaign that saw her record numbers not up to her usual standards, although she managed to show signs of brilliance, recording back-to-back wins in January 2015, her character and determination were evident as the senior season approached.
Such factors contributed towards her bouncing back for a memorable time, ending her career on a strong note. Statistically, she was a marvel as she ranked in the top ten for numerous goaltending categories in OUA competition. Of note, her 1.75 goals against average ranked eighth while a solid .939 save percentage placed seventh and her nine wins placed her in the top five, respectively.
In preparing for the season to come, a series of preseason tilts in the Maritimes and Quebec proved to be significant, setting a positive tone for Bouwhuis. Competing against the St. Francis Xavier X-Women and St. Mary’s from September 24-25, the final game would involve Montreal’s Concordia Stingers on September 26. In reflecting on the series, it was one that proved to be one of the most memorable in her career,
“I think one of my favorite memories was just this past season when our team took a trip to Halifax in the preseason. Being able to travel together as a team and bond over that weekend playing hockey together will remain as one of the highlights of my time at UW.”
With her strong goaltending skills shaping the team’s growing confidence, the final result was a respectable 14-11-1 mark. A key turning point took place on January 17 as Bouwhuis stopped 32 shots while Rachel Marriott accumulated three points in a 4-1 dismantling of the Nipissing Lakers. Picking up two straight wins, the Warriors picked up six points in the league standings.
As the Warriors played the last few weeks of the 2015-16 season with a passionate fervor, making a headstrong push for a postseason berth, Bouwhuis shined, possibly assembling the most memorable run in her CIS career.
Starting against UOIT on November 1, Bouwhuis would win six starts in a row, wrapping up her streak with a January 22 road win against the Queen’s Golden Gaels. After the win against Queen’s, she had successfully won in 8 of her last 9 starts. During the streak, her best performance may have come in a pair of back-to-back road wins against Ryerson (a 5-1 final) and a valiant overtime performance against Toronto, which saw Lagamba log the game-winning tally.
The journey towards qualifying for the postseason resulted in a strong sense of teamwork and collaboration for senior night. Although a playoff berth had already been assured prior to the opening faceoff, (as Lindsay McDonald’s first career CIS goal clinched a win against Windsor, which saw Bouwhuis make 22 saves for the shutout), helping to establish a feeling of ease, shifting the focus towards the honored players, there was still a desire to make a positive impression and log the win as a sign of respect for the outgoing seniors who helped pave the way.
Gaining the start, Bouwhuis helped set the tone, not allowing any goals in the first two periods of play. Lagamba would shine on senior night, earning an assist on the first period goal by Alison Hanson, while McDonnell assisted on her second period marker. Although Ryerson’s Melissa Wronzberg spoiled the shutout bid, the joyous feeling of victory could not overshadow any personal stats on this special day.
Although senior night carried with it mixed emotions, from the celebration of a career to the acknowledgement of transition towards a new chapter, the most important element is the chance to share in the happiness of having enjoyed the privilege of suiting up for one’s team. Such sentiments were not lost on Bouwhuis. Arriving early to the game, it was a chance to absorb the glorious moments attained at the rink. With her fellow seniors, it was the culmination of a journey in which the great sense of arrival was enhanced by the feeling of sisterhood and admiration as the rink and the team became a second home, and subsequently, a second family.
“Senior night for our team was a day of mixed emotions for me. It was a really happy time to look back on all the memories and friends I’ve made over the past five years but also sad to know that this time was slowly coming to close. Whether it was a week or a month from then, you know that your days on the ice playing at this level and with these girls are numbered.
All of us graduating players did get a chance to come to the rink early to talk and take some pictures which was really nice. I think our seniors this year had a unique experience from others in years past. We had already clinched a playoff spot so we did not have that added pressure, so we could relax a bit more and really enjoy the moment.”
Although the postseason resulted in a first round matchup with the defending national champion Western Mustangs, Bouwhuis relentlessly provided a valiant effort, as every Mustangs win was hard-earned. Through it all, there was a great sense of accomplishment in an otherwise eventful season.
Earning nine-win seasons on three separate occasions, Bouwhuis would start 85 games in five seasons for the Warriors. Compiling a solid 2.19 career goals against average, she would log an impressive 2281 saves, complemented by a sparkling .925 save percentage. With 37 career wins, the last coming on February 20, 2016 against Ryerson, Bouwhuis has a lot to be proud of. From strong friendships, a love of the game, and a chance to continue playing at a high level of play that was as much fun as it was competitive, it is among several elements that Bouwhuis shall miss in a career that shall provide lasting memories,
“I think one of the biggest things I am going to miss about playing for the Warriors is the team on that bench. I have met some of my best friends on this team and I genuinely believe that we have the best group in the league in that dressing room. I have been extremely privileged to play at this level for as long as I have and I know I will miss seeing the girls and being on the ice with them every day.
Our coaching staff has also been instrumental in developing me both as a hockey player and a person. I know I am going to miss their guidance and advice. While it is going to be tough not being on the ice with them, I cannot wait to watch just how far they go.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Black jersey (game shot) by Christian Bender
Remaining photos by Charity Matheson