In a phenomenal five-year career that resulted in the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds reaching unprecedented heights, Stephanie Schaupmeyer was part of a celebrated generation whose heroics shall be treasured in university lore. Under the tutelage of talented head coach Graham Thomas, Schaupmeyer quickly blossomed into a cornerstone for the program.
For the rebuilding Thunderbirds, Schaupmeyer emerged as a prized recruit, signifying a “homegrown” talent. Having starred for the prestigious Pursuit of Excellence program in her hometown of Kelowna, she would also don the Team BC jersey at two significant events. First appearing with the provincial team at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she would also don the BC colors for the 2012 Canadian U18 nationals in Saguenay, Québec.
Playing with the likes of accomplished star players such as Danielle Dube, Tatiana Rafter, Kelly Murray, among others, Schaupmeyer would attain such celebrated status by the apex of her superlative career, providing incoming players the prestige of calling her a teammate.
Having been part of over 110 wins over the course of five fantastic seasons, Schaupmeyer helped to transform the Thunderbirds into a perpetual calendar for a national title. She would also finish her great career as the all-time leader in games played in Canada West, demonstrating an amazing durability by appearing in 139 of a possible 140 games. Nationally, Schaupmeyer also ranked first in games played during the 2016-17 season, strengthening her legacy as an iron woman.
“Of course I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment, but I think more than that I am grateful. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to put the T-Bird jersey on that many times.
I played for a very special program, one that not everyone has the privilege of representing, and so every single game wearing that T-Bird logo was very special.”
Part of the first recruiting class in the Graham Thomas era, working towards resuscitating a Thunderbirds program in the doldrums, the results were astonishing. Looking to rebound from a devastating one-win season, the presence of Schaupmeyer et al. would prove that the program’s competitiveness was far from crippled.
Schaupmeyer would be part of the greatest single season turnaround in program history and one of the most fascinating in the history of Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s ice hockey, as the T-Birds emerged with the Canada West postseason title. Statistically, she instantly paid dividends.
With a regular season that saw Schaupmeyer place fifth in team scoring, she built on such momentum, finding her stride in an unforgettable postseason. Recording 10 points in 10 postseason contests for this Cinderella team, it was the catalyst for a program where postseason berths quickly became the norm. Gaining the opportunity to compete at the national championship level as a freshman, she was part of a feel-good story that constituted a key aspect of the sporting conversation on campus.
Remaining occupied in her first offseason from the blue and gold, Schaupmeyer would display the qualities that would establish her as both a cornerstone and key leader for the program. Showing an admirable focus off the ice, she was part of a collection of UBC students that visited El Salvador, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, the two weeks spent in the spring of 2013 building residences.
Possessing the maturity and values that made her a model teammate, the essence of teamwork was relevant in such charitable endeavors. Becoming a hockey humanitarian quickly propelled Schaupmeyer into role model status, bringing an enriching happiness to those around her, testament to her compassion and sense of friendship.
Coupled with a solid work ethic, a gratifying reward would arrive in Schaupmeyer’s senior season, as her integrity and character were complemented by the honor of team captaincy. A fitting tribute to such a phenomenal athlete and person, she reflects on such an honor with great humility, quick to acknowledge that the roster was composed of many devoted towards team success,
“Again, the word grateful comes to mind. We had a team this season that was full of leaders and really made my role as captain incredibly easy. Regardless though, I was very proud to be the captain this season.
After co-captaining the season before and having such a great run and making it to the national final, I think there was a bit of pressure. I was lucky though to have coaches that supported and challenged me, but most importantly believed in me and the rest of the girls, which I think was key in us getting back to the national championships.”
Part of a graduating class that includes Jenna Carpenter-Boesch, Melissa Goodwin, Kelly Murray, Emily O’Neill, Haneet Parhar, Nicole Saxvik and Katie Zinn, this amazing collection of talent collaborated towards a remarkable run during this decade that represented the halcyon days for UBC women’s ice hockey. With more world-class hockey talent emerging from the Pacific coast, the success of the blue and gold is among the hallmark of such an exciting time of growth.
After a landmark 2015-16 season that saw the T-Birds qualify for the national championship game, a first in program history, Schaupmeyer was hoping to set a positive tone for an ambitious group looking to return to the grandest stage in U Sports. Starting her season with assists in back-to-back games against the nationally dominant McGill Martlets and Western Mustangs, part of the East-West Showcase, it was a strong indicator that the program would be among the favorites to return to Nationals in 2017.
In Canada West play, Schaupmeyer would register her first assist of the season in a hard-fought 5-3 loss to Saskatchewan on October 8. Said assist was also the springboard for a three-game scoring streak, which saw UBC sweep the Calgary Dinos in the other two games, winning by scores of 4-1 and3-2. In addition, she would collaborate with Nicole Saxvik on the game-winning goal scored by Mairead Bast at the 17:57 mark of the third, capitalizing on a power play.
From a statistical standpoint, Schaupmeyer would enjoy the most success against the Dinos in her senior season, logging seven points against one of the conference powers. As a side note, Schaupmeyer’s solid playmking abilities would also translate into a national ranking, placing second overall in power play goals with 6.
Perhaps the finest performance took place during a weekend sweep of Manitoba before Halloween. Registering five points along with six shots on net, Schaupmeyer was a key contributor in a series which saw UBC prevail by a cumulative score of 9-4. The second game would see Schaupmeyer hit her stride, logging the game’s opening goal. Gaining a pair of assists, including one on the last goal of the game, coincidentally scored by Bast on a power play, it was part of a brilliant weekend for the captain.
A January 28, 2017 match with Lethbridge would mark the beginning of another three-game scoring streak. Logging a goal and assist in a 3-0 blanking of the Pronghorns, it would also signify the last multi-point effort in Schaupmeyer’s career. By the end of the streak, which saw UBC sweep the Regina Cougars in the first weekend of February, she would log power play goals in three-straight games.
The culmination of the scoring streak would also bring with it a statistical milestone, as the February 4 goal against Regina was her last in Canada West play. Scoring against Cougars backstop Jane Kish at the 14:53 mark of the third, it also stood as the game-winning tally in an eventual 3-1 road final. Alexa Ranahan and Cassandra Vilgrain both logged the assists, as the Thunderbirds returned home for their final homestand of the season.
Heading into senior night, a February 11 tilt with the visiting Mount Royal Cougards, Schaupmeyer’s presence truly signified the end of an era. In spite of a visceral 2-0 loss, there was a tremendous feeling of celebration among the stars of the blue and gold, signifying the arrival of this amazing group of women as icons in Thunderbirds hockey history.
With the graduating class dubbed the “Elder 8”, five of them were from the first recruiting class of head coach Graham Thomas. Said class saw Schaupmeyer donning the blue and gold alongside the likes of Jenna Carpenter-Boesch, Emily O’Neill, Haneet Parhar and Nicole Saxvik. As a side note, Saxvik is second all-time in most games played in Canada West history, trailing Schaupmeyer by two games, with 137 to her credit. In UBC hockey lore, this group is known by the sobriquet, “Original Five.”
“Senior night was tough. It was awesome in so many ways, but it was hard. I had 5 years to prepare for that night and it still got the best of me! Honestly though, and I hate to sound biased but I’m going to say it anyway, I think I had the best graduating class that any program will ever see. Not even as hockey players, but as people. Those girls are what I will miss most about playing for UBC.”
Although the Thunderbirds were one win away from a new single season Canada West record for wins, the win-loss mark of 23-4-1 in 2016-17 had two historic connotations, providing Schaupmeyer and the remainder of her senior class with a fitting finish to their stellar careers. In addition to setting a single-season program record for most wins in a season, such achievement was enhanced by the first-ever Canada West regular-season conference title.
The Canada West championship would see the Thunderbirds climb into the upper echelon of elite teams. Defeating the Alberta Pandas at Doug Mitchell Arena in the third and deciding game by a breathtaking 1-0 score, as Amelia Boughn recorded 16 saves, while All-Canadian Cassandra Vilgrain logged the championship winning goal, it allowed the program to boast of back-to-back conference crowns for the first time. Coincidentally, Alberta was the only other team in Canada West history to achieve this feat.
Considering that Schaupmeyer’s freshman season was defined by the T-Birds qualifying for Nationals, it was only fitting that her senior season held such a similar, yet very celebrated outcome. Returning to the national championship tournament brought Schaupmeyer’s career full circle.
Entering said tournament as the Number 1 seed, it not only symbolized how much the program had grown, blooming into a national power, it accentuated the program’s highly disciplined approach to success, maintaining a commitment to excellence. In the opening round of Nationals, the Thunderbirds competed against the host team Queen’s Golden Gaels. Schaupmeyer scored a third period goal against Golden Gaels valiant backstop Stephanie Pascal. Said goal may have been the final one in her proud Thunderbirds career, but it would also be a monumental one, standing as the game-winning tally in a 3-2 final, as UBC fought back from a potentially colossal upset, advancing to the medal round.
Although gold was not meant to be at Nationals, the fact that Schaupmeyer emerged with a bronze medal was an opportunity to celebrate her legacy as a sensational leader in Thunderbirds lore, one which future recruits shall emulated. Capturing the bronze medal at Nationals signified the second straight podium finish for the program, having also earned a silver in 2016, representing a fitting end to her career.
As Schaupmeyer reflects, the chance to have been part of an amazing chapter in Thunderbirds sporting history brought with it a tremendous sense of achievement and a remarkable closure. For the next player that wears Schaupmeyer’s number 23 in the blue and gold, they shall recognize that such an epic number is a constant reminder of the team’s motto, Relentless, Respect, Resiliency.
“I do not even know how to describe it. Going back-to-back is not easy. I think our team was so determined to repeat the successes of the previous season that sometimes we forgot how tough it really was. Just getting back to that national stage was a huge accomplishment, and medaling twice in a row was incredible.
As a graduating player, I think that is all you can ask for. Knowing your graduating class is leaving that kind of standard for the program and the girls to come, I think that was the most important part for me.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Richard Lam