The 2017-18 season began following pre-season play that saw The Herd pick up victories in seven of eight games. Regular season play saw the Bisons put together two separate nine-game winning streaks en route to a 22-6 record in 28 games.
Led by captain Caitlyn Fyten, Team Finland Olympic medalist Venla Hovi, and Lauren Taraschuk – a red-hot rookie goaltender, the U of M Bisons put on a show. Finding themselves atop the national rankings for multiple periods of time throughout the season gave the girls from Manitoba some extra motivation to close the year out on the right note.
The Bisons cleaned up the Canada West playoffs, losing just one game, before heading to London, Ontario –once again as the favourite – to compete at the U Sports National Championship.
Coming in as the number one seed, the Bisons failed to disappoint, pounding eighth seed Queen’s 4-0 in the quarterfinals, before holding off Concordia 2-1 in a shootout in Saturday’s semi-final game.
The University of Manitoba finished off third seeded Western in their home barn Sunday afternoon to take the gold, 2-0.
“Winning this championship means a lot, this group worked so hard for it,” said Bisons’ captain Caitlyn Fyten. “We are a family and I’ve never been on a team that works as hard as these girls do, and go to all the extra lengths that this group has this year. I am so happy for each and every one of the girls. Being able to share it with them has been amazing.”
U of M netminder, Lauren Taraschuk echoed her captain’s thoughts.
“There are no words, simply no words to describe this feeling,” the 18-year-old said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment, and have worked so hard for this moment. And the fact that it has come, we are just so proud of each and every one of us. Just looking back on the season and how hard we have worked, we have had this in mind and we’ve wanted to be here all season, and it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m sure that it will feel pretty good very soon.”
2017-18 was the first time that a Bisons squad was ranked higher than the third seed (2011). It was only the University of Manitoba’s sixth appearance in the National Championship in the program’s 21-year history.
By Carter Brooks
Photo provided by Western