12 March, 2013

What Does It Mean to Play in the AUS?

There isn't just one women's university hockey league out there. There's the RSEQ, OUA, Canada West ... and then we have the Atlantic University Sport. So what makes this maritime, East-Coast league so different or so special? 

First of all, here are some statistics:

The AUS league has a total of 6 women's hockey teams from St Francis Xavier University, St Thomas University, Saint Mary's University, University of Prince Edward Island, Université de Moncton, and Mount Allison University. 

Each team plays a total of 24 games in a season with maybe a few exhibition games on the side.

2 forwards and 6 defencemen and 9 goalies are ranked nationally for individual statistics.

Our league has a total of 287 goals, 394 assists, 3,554 shots on net, and a combined save percentage average of 0.923

The AUS league has a 86.25% penalty kill percentage and a total of 8 short handed goals scored throughout the season.

Throughout the season at least 1 to 2 teams have made the CIS Women's hockey top 10 weekly, we have 1 player on the CIS second team all-star, 1 player on the CIS all rookie team, and the only winner of the Marion Hilliard Award. 

Not too bad right? So let's go back to our initial question, what makes playing for the AUS women's hockey league so special? What do we have to offer? What I would like to emphasize is not statistics or accomplishments, it goes much further than that. 

Atlantic University Sport is composed of some of the most honest and passionate players I have ever had the pleasure of playing with and against. The work ethic each team has and the teamwork they demonstrate on and off the ice is something that has to be lived to be understood. We all share the love of the game and we play because we love to compete. We live through every emotion as a team, we make memories that will last a lifetime, and we all have a silent mutual respect for every other teams jerseys as well as our own.

The weekend of February 21st the AUS had our annual championship playoffs to see who would be heading to the CIS Nationals in Toronto. The weekend consisted of a tournament with two pools, and the winner's of each pool face off against each other in do-or-die final. That weekend was not made up of just hockey though. Yes, every team came out to compete and to fight for the title, but what I saw during that weekend was something I had never seen in my hockey career. 

Stereotypically, hockey is a sport where you focus only on your team and no one else's. So naturally, when you lose or are out of the tournament you head home and that's the end of it. The complete opposite happened during that weekend. Here's an example for you: 

During our game (Université de Moncton) against the St Thomas Tommies, it was one of the most competitive games (if not the most competitive) of the year. The puck was going from one end to the other with amazing opportunities and saves from both sides. At the end of the game both teams shook hands and we had a silent mutual understanding that it's games like that that remind us why we love the game to much. After the game, I either participated or witnessed girls from my team go over and talk to some of the Tommies to talk about what a fantastic game it was and even high fives or handshakes. There were respectful exchanges on Facebook status's, and even both teams personal Twitter accounts were saying how much respect each team had for one another. Players and even parents were exchanging tweets to one another. 

Never in my career would I have ever seen anything like it. Throughout the weekend, as teams were playing, other teams from the league would show up to support one another. To see teams lose humbly and return the following day to support another and cheer a team on was absolute magic. I truly believe many girls that weekend finally understood what it means to be a female hockey player in the AUS: We stick together as a league. To watch teams come out to show support, encourage, and even congratulate other teams after their own loss or win takes my breath away at how amazing some of these girls really are. 

Girls hockey is not simply a game, it's a shared passion that lives in every player on the ice. To see the competitiveness on the ice is one thing, but if you could take a moment to picture this in your head: Imagine you are on your bench and you look up in the stands. You see your parents and friends supporting you, and right next to them you see more then one team in their tracks suits clapping for you guys. Amazing, isn't it? 

That being said, the congratulations to the X-Women on a well deserved AUS title, and another congratulations for their bronze medal at the CIS nationals in Toronto. You had our league supporting you all and you did us proud. 

Lastly, as it happens every year, we have our graduates. Being such a young team this year, our only fifth year graduate was our teammate and captain Geneviève David. David played for les Aigles Bleues the year the team won their own bronze medal at Nationals and has brought years of experience to this team. She has led by example on and off the ice and her name will echo for a long time to come on this team. She has an exceptional talent in hockey; she was born for this sport. She has earned the respect of her teammates as well as the league. She helped anchor this team and stood up to any challenge thrown her way. She is humble for the amount of talent she has and has a natural ability to push others around her to be the best they possibly can be. She is the player a lot of girls wish they could be and has contributed to making us better players and people. She can walk away from this team with a true sense of accomplishment. Best of luck in your future, 'Mama G'. Haha.

I wish the girls good luck with the rest of the school semester and to have a wonderful summer! It's been a pleasure once again playing with you all and getting you know you all a little bit more. See you in September, be ready!

For those who are interested, here is a small video of Les Aigles Bleues 2012-2013 season:



Une Aigle un jour, une Aigle pour toujours!

Fière d'être une Aigle Bleue!

- Monika Cormier


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