Edmonton Thunder Female Midget AAA Hockey Team

Alumni Earns Honor

Dan Barnes: Alex Poznikoff emerging as powerful Panda - January 22, 2017


When you’re just five-foot-two, it’s easy to slip under the radar.

But Alex Poznikoff plays bigger, works harder and trains longer than most of the women she plays against. Desire and tireless effort have been her calling cards all along, character traits that separated her from the pack through bantam in boys hockey and even now when she skates for the University of Alberta Pandas.

Those attributes should also serve her well in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where she will be the only Pandas player competing for Team Canada in the Winter Universiade, which kicks off Jan. 29 and runs into mid-February.

She can also count on momentum, because the 19-year-old from Edmonton heads into that tournament on a tear. She shredded the University of Calgary for eight points in two weekend games, including a hat-trick and two assists on Saturday. After a quiet start to her sophomore season, she has put up 11 points in four games and leads Canada West with 24 points in 22 games. That’s also good enough for fifth in the country.

So yes, Canada West coaches know all about her. After being part of a U-18 Summit Series against the United States, serving as an assistant captain for Team Alberta in the Canada Winter Games, and now headed to Universiade, she is also on the radar of the management, scouts and coaches who assemble Canada’s various national teams.

But outside of her mother Angie, who coached Alex for a decade, nobody knows her game better than Howie Draper, now in his 20th year as Pandas bench boss. He said Poznikoff is in the top 25 per cent of the hundreds of players he has coached.

“You always have that prototypical player that has all of the elements you want as a coach, that you value as a coach. All of the girls we have had pieces of it, which has helped them contribute to the success we’ve had over the years. Not to take anything away from them, but very few have had that full package, and I think she has that.

“It’s the U of A hockey model, the prototypical hard worker, not necessarily huge but can score when you give them a chance, they’re just go, go, go and they’re tough, they play tough. Good people, they want to learn, want to get better. She’s all of those things.”

In time, he said, she will also be his captain.

For now, she leads quietly, mostly by example. She’s the first on the practice ice, often last off. She works constantly on her shot, which still lacks accuracy, she admitted. And when she isn’t on the ice at Clare Drake Arena, she’s firing pucks into the net on the family’s backyard rink in Callingwood, tending to a punishing off-ice workout regimen, or applying that work ethic to a degree in Phys Ed.

Poznikoff has been integral to the Pandas’ 12-4-3-3 record, and a national title would be important. But a larger goal awaits.

“She wants to make the Canadian Olympic women’s team and wants to make it very badly,” said Angie. “That would be our hope for her. In all honesty, you’re going, ‘I don’t know, it’s a big sacrifice.’ But she makes the sacrifices and she continues to drive through it.”

The rewards are significant. Earning a spot on the Universiade team is “pretty much” the best experience of her hockey life.

“Prior to this? Definitely when I got to play the series against the U.S. in Under-18s (in 2014),” Alex said. “You got to put the Maple Leaf on. It was Canada versus the U.S., so it was neat to be part of that hype.”

Each new team is part of a process that hopefully lands her on the Olympic squad for Beijing in 2022.

“I know it’s a tough road. I think if I stick to it, it’s a possibility.”

The road winds through Almaty, where Canada plays China, Kazakhstan and Great Britain in Universiade pool action, and will be looking to reclaim gold after losing to Russia in 2015.

“Alex’s speed and puck skills impressed me in Calgary at camp along with her consistent play and willingness to try new systems,” said Team Canada’s head coach Rachel Flanagan. “She’s easy to get along with and is a great teammate.”

Team Canada added two new players since the August camp and Flanagan isn’t sure where Poznikoff or anybody else will fit on the depth chart. But the trip will pay dividends regardless.

“When players go off to these kinds of opportunities, they often come back a better player,” said Draper, who will be there as an assistant coach. “It boosts their confidence. They learn from other players and other coaches.”

That experience turns into confidence, especially if it’s supported by work ethic, which has never been a problem.

“She always seemed to have an instinct for the game and I just let her go with her instinct,” said Angie. “She was such a good player the whole way up. It was always about work ethic. If you work hard, you’re going to have fun at this game. It’s things like that you preach along the way. But I don’t know if that helped her or not, or if that was just in her.”

Alex was happy to give credit to her mother, who earned a Master’s of Coaching at the U of A.

“She was a huge part in the development of my hockey. I really enjoyed that actually. She really knows the game. She never played hockey but she saw the game so well. I learned a lot from her.”

Writer: Dan Barnes

Cayle Dillon - Assistant Captian of the Pandas for the 2016/2017 season.


Pandas battle inter-provincial rival in home-and-home series to open 2016 season By Connor Hood on October 5, 2016

The University of Alberta Pandas hockey team will begin their 2016 regular season this weekend, as they host the Calgary Dinos in a home-and-home series.

The Dinos will open the series at home on Friday at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary, before the series shifts to Edmonton for Saturday’s tilt, with puck drop scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena.

The Pandas are coming off a stellar regular season a year ago, posting a 16-9-3 record, earning them the top spot in Canada West. That success would be short-lived, as the Pandas fell to the Manitoba Bisons in the conference semi-final. The Dinos also suffered a similar fate, losing their first playoff matchup to the Regina Cougars, before being eliminated at the CIS tournament in the first game as the tournament host.

Alberta enters this season like every other, with championship aspirations, but with a dramatically different team than the one which lost in the semi-final a year ago. The Pandas lost six players to graduation, and will now ice a roster consisting of 12 first-year student-athletes, and only three fifth-year players.

Despite the team’s youth, the Pandas roster is chock-full of skill and speed, headlined by 2015/16 Canada West all-rookie team member Alex Poznikoff. Poznikoff lead Alberta with 11 goals and 16 points last season, while her 11 goals were tied for the most among conference rookies. The Edmonton native also spent the summer competing in Hockey Canada’s summer camp, and has already found the net nine times in seven non-conference games this season.

Poznikoff will be joined up front by third-year Hannah Olenyk, fourth-years Deanna and Ashley Morin, and team captain Sasha Lutz.

On the blue-line, the Pandas will guided by fifth-year defensive standout Megan Eady, as well as fellow 2015/16 Canada West all-rookie Cayle Dillon. Eady played in all 28 games a year ago, recording 5 points, while Dillon’s 10 points led all conference rookie defenceman. Also looking to replicate her success from last season is fourth-year Morgan Kelly, whose 11 assists were tops among all Pandas.

Most importantly, however, is that Alberta will be returning Canada West all-star goalie Lindsey Post. Post played in 23 games last season, recording a 14-9 record, while leading the conference with a sparkling 1.34 goals against average, a 0.931 save percentage, and eight shutouts last season. Post will be backstopped by second-year Dayna Owen, who held her own with a 2-2-1 record and 0.921 SV% in 2015/16.

As for rookies, forwards Kelsey Tangjerd, Kennedy Ganser, and Morgan Burr will immediately step into contributing roles, while Taylor Kezama and Alison Barnett will look to have an impact on the back end.

After being away for two years, Amy Boucher is back in Edmonton, playing for the Pandas.

As for Calgary, the Dinos also faced a similar off-season, losing their best player, and conference leading scorer Iya Gavrilova. Gavrilova lead Canada West with 20 goals, 23 assists, and 46 points last season, while leading the CIS with an astonishing +27 rating.

While nearly impossible to replace that kind of production, the Dinos will still ice four of their top six scorers from 2015/16, including fellow Russian Sasha Vafina. Vafina finished second in the conference to only her fellow Dino with 14 goals and 35 points last season.

Alexandra Poznikoff feels at home with U of A Pandas hockey team - October 24, 2015

PhotoThere’s no place like home for first-year University of Alberta Pandas hockey player Alexandra Poznikoff.

Even a few offers from NCAA hockey teams over the past couple of years couldn’t lure the 18-year-old forward away from her roots in Edmonton.

“Obviously, it’s my hometown,” Poznikoff said of choosing to join the Pandas and enrolling at the U of A as a physical education major. “I just knew they were such a good team and Howie (Draper) was their coach. He’s the assistant coach of the national team. I knew if I came to him I would be in good hands.”

Born and raised in Edmonton, Poznikoff started playing hockey on boys’ teams before being introduced to women’s hockey in her mid-teens with the Edmonton Thunder triple-A midget team. At the 2014 Esso Cup, the right-winger scored six goals and added four assists in seven games, earning tournament MVP honours.

Poznikoff was a major contributor to a Thunder team that competed in the Esso Cup three years in a row, winning bronze in 2013, silver in 2014, but failing to medal last season in her final year of midget. She attracted the attention of Hockey Canada and was invited to play in the 2014 summer series against the United States.

The transition from playing on the wing with the Thunder to centre with the Pandas took a little getting used to. But the determined forward, who prides herself on hard work and puck control, quickly learned her new position, scoring her first goal as a Panda in a home game against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns on October 10, 2015.

Poznikoff displayed persistence on the goal, fighting off two Pronghorns defenders and maintaining control of the puck, while dropping to one knee and wristing a shot past the glove of the opposing goaltender.

“It was hard to control the puck,” she said after the game. “In those situations, you just have to keep your feet moving.”

From here, Poznikoff has made significant strides in her game. She scored two goals and added an assist to help the Pandas defeat the Regina Cougars 4-2 on October 17, 2015, snapping the Pandas’ three-game winless streak.

“She’s a very exciting player because she has a tremendous amount of power,” coach Draper said of Poznikoff. “She’s also got the work ethic, this undying energy to go, go, go every shift. As a result, she has a significant impact on the game.”

“She’s always had that and that’s one of things that attracted us to her,” Draper added. “In this last weekend against Regina it really started showing itself more than it had in the past.”

Draper has also noticed Poznikoff’s improved awareness, explosiveness and ability to make the right decisions in games, which makes her a huge offensive threat.

“That line of Janelle Froehler, Autumn MacDougall and Alex is a fun line to watch, because teams have to be wary of them every time they’re on the ice,” he said.

Poznikoff, much like Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, is undeniably talented and very humble. She gives more credit to her teammates than she does to herself.

“Most of my goals were because my teammates gave me some really nice passes,” she said. “One was a breakout and my linemate, Autumn MacDougall, just passed it right to me. All I had to do was finish it.”

She also credits the Pandas leadership group, comprised of fifth-year players, for helping her feel welcome on a new team. Her coach attributes her improved play to her comfort level in the dressing room. He says Poznikoff is already taking the examples set by the veterans and applying them towards her own game as well as the way she conducts herself on and off the ice.

“We have some girls that continually provide an outstanding model for what’s expected of a Panda hockey player,” Draper said. “When I see Alex playing, I think she brings a lot of that anyway. She’s probably leading in ways that she wouldn’t have expected to lead.

“A lot of what she does, she’s also feeding off the Janelle Froehlers, the Lindsey Cunninghams and the Amy Helfrichs, that are sacrificing themselves and pushing themselves to the limit to do whatever they can to help the team find success.”

After going pointless in her first three games, Poznikoff has exploded for four goals and five points in the last three games. It appears safe to say that she’s starting to feel right at home.

By Evan Davits, Edmonton Journal

Healey Named To Canada's Development Team - July 16, 2015

PhotoUniversity of Minnesota Duluth sophomore defenseman Jessica Healey has been named one of 43 players invited to Canada's National Women's Development Team selection camp in Calgary, Alberta.

The camp, which runs August 6-16 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park is part of Hockey Canada's National Teams' Summer Showcase. The 43 invitees are vying for spots on the 23-player squad that will travel to Lake Placid, N.Y. for a three-game series against the United States Under-22 Team August 19-22.

Healey, who will skate on the gold team, had two goals and one assist for three points in 36 games on the Bulldogs backline last season. She owned a +7 plus/minus rating as a rookie.

Academics | 7/1/2015 1:03:00 PM
Twenty-Nine Wildcats Named to Hockey East All-Academic Team

PhotoWAKEFIELD, Mass. – A total of 29 University of New Hampshire student-athletes were named to the 2014-15 Hockey East All-Academic Team on Wednesday.

Each student-athlete achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or higher every semester of competition during the 2014-15 season.

The women's first time honoree freshmen Amy Boucher, Bio-Medical Sciences (Edmonton, Alberta)

SUNYAC's Spring 2015 All-Academic And Commissioner's List Honorees - July 1, 2015

PhotoBrent Campbell, a freshman forward played in all but one game for the Cardinals… scored two goals and added two assists…her first career goal came in the Stafford Ice Arena against North Country rival SUNY Potsdam on Nov. 25, 2014.

Follow Bent Campbell as she continues here education and hockey at the Univeristy of Lethbridge.

Healey Selected WCHA “Rookie Of The Week” - February 24, 2015

PhotoIt was impossible to overlook Jessica Healey last weekend, and apparently the Western Collegiate Hockey Association agreed.

University of Minnesota Duluth freshman defenseman Healey nabbed the WCHA's Rookie of the Week honor Tuesday after her two-goal (including one game-winner) weekend against Ohio State University. Healey helped the No. 9 Bulldogs sweep the Buckeyes by scores of 3-1 and 5-2 and secure first round WCHA playoff ice for the upcoming weekend.

A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Healey put a bouncing puck on goal and past the goaltender Friday night at the 17:26 mark of the second period to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. It was Healey's lone shot of the game, where she also was +1, but more importantly, her first goal in a UMD sweater. Sunday afternoon Healey then did it again, drawing UMD even with OSU at 2-2 8:59 into the third period on a wrist shot from the left circle. In the series, Healey had two goals on two shots and was +2.

Women's Hockey Duo Of Amy Boucher And Vilma Vaattovaara Receive Hockey East Accolades - January 19, 2015.

PhotoWAKEFIELD, Mass. – Amy Boucher (Edmonton, Alberta) and Vilma Vaattovaara (Veikkola, Finland) of the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team were honored as Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week and co-Defensive Player of the Week, respectively, by the Women's Hockey East Association on Monday.

This is the third time this season Boucher and Vaattovaara have received WHEA weekly accolades. Both were previously honored with the same awards Oct. 13 and Dec. 8.

The duo led the Wildcats to a 2-1-0 record last week that included a two-game sweep at the University of Connecticut with a 3-2 overtime win Saturday followed by a 3-1 win Sunday. Earlier in the week, fifth-ranked Harvard University toppled the 'Cats, 4-1, at the Whittemore Center.

Boucher, a freshman forward, recorded a point in all three games to finish with two goals and an assist. She began the week with an assist on UNH's only goal vs. the nationally-ranked Crimson and scored a goal in both games at UConn. On Saturday, her tally lifted the Wildcats into a 2-2 tie with 5:27 remaining in regulation. One day later, Boucher's unassisted goal gave the 'Cats a 1-0 lead at 15:50 of the first period. Her other stats for the week included winning 31 of 62 faceoffs – both totals were team highs.

Vaattovaara, a junior goaltender, went 2-1-0 last week with a 2.28 GAA and .914 save percentage. She backboned New Hampshire to the sweep of UConn by stopping 51 of 54 shots for a 1.45 GAA and .944 save percentage. In Saturday's overtime win, she shut out the Huskies the final 53:50 of the game to allow the Wildcats to overcome a two-goal deficit. On Sunday, the only goal against came on a UConn power play and, late in the period with UNH leading 2-1, she held the Huskies scoreless for more than two minutes that they had a two-skater advantage.

Vaattovaara is 5-13-1 overall this season with a 3.07 GAA, .901 save percentage and two shutouts.

Boucher has recorded six goals and two assists for eight points in 22 games. With those numbers, she ranks second in goals and tied for third in points; she is also third in shots (62) and second in shooting percentage. In 12 Hockey East league games, Boucher has a line of 4-1-5.

Mikaeli Cavell Named UOIT's “Athlete Of The Week” - January 13, 2014

PhotoOSHAWA, Ont. – Mikaeli Cavell (Edmonton, Alberta) of the women's hockey team has been named the UOIT student-athlete of the week presented by Boston Pizza North Oshawa for the period ending January 12.

Cavell, a first year Kinesiology major, had a great performance in UOIT's 4-0 victory over the Ryerson Rams at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens. Her hard work paid off late in the second period when she forced a Ryerson turnover and scored an unassisted goal to give the Ridgebacks a four-goal lead. Cavell has scored three goals and five assists as she sits in the top ten of OUA freshman scoring.

Stephanie Zvonkovic Selected As The “Freshman Of The Year” - June 17, 2012

PhotoCongratulations to Thunder alumni Stephanie Zvonkovic on her selection as the “Freshman of the Year” for the Calgary Dinos Women’s Hockey Team.

This past season Stephanie patrolled the blue line for the Dinos where she scored two goals and four assists in regular season play as well as earning one assist and a plus three rating in four play-off games. Her real contribution during the year was her solid defensive play and compete level.

Stephanie completed an outstanding first season as the Dinos won the CIS National Championship last month and now has earned this great individual honor.

Thunder Alumni Wins National Championship - March 11, 2012

PhotoThe Thunder would like to congratulate alumni Stephanie Zvonkovic on winning the CIS National Championship this past month in Edmonton.  Stephanie is a first year member of the Calgary Dinos and helped her team to their first ever CIS championship.

Last season Stephanie was a big part of the Thunder’s season during their silver medal at the Esso Cup National Championship.

Congrats Steph!!

Reeves Named Lethbridge Pronghorn “Athlete Of The Week” - December 6, 2011

PhotoFreshman forward Kirsten Reeves continued her torrid pace and has been a key contributor to the Pronghorn women’s hockey team’s resurgence in Canada West during the first semester of the season.

Friday night in the ‘Horns 4-0 shutout win over the visiting UBC Thunderbirds, Reeves scored once and added two assists to lead the way. She also registered a game high 7 shots on goal.

In the ‘Horns 4-1 win the next night to earn the weekend sweep of the T-Birds, Reeves score once and registered another 7 shots on goal.

Through 14 games, Reeves leads all Canada West rookies in scoring with 6 goals and 4 assists

Thunder Alumni Named Hockey East “Rookie Of The Week” - October 3, 2011

PhotoWAKEFIELD, Mass. – Heather Kashman (Edmonton, Alberta), a freshman on the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team, was honored Monday afternoon as the Women's Hockey East Association Rookie of the Week. The WHEA also announced that UNH was selected the Team of the Week.

Kashman scored a goal in both games of UNH's season-opening two-game series last weekend at Niagara University to spark the Wildcats to 6-4 and 3-2 victories. In her collegiate debut (September 30), Kashman netted an unassisted goal at 8:26 of the first period to give the 'Cats a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish. One day later, the freshman forward scored midway through the first period to give UNH a 2-0 lead. Kashman finished with a +2 plus/minus rating in that game and +3 in the two games.

UNH opened the 2011-12 season September 30 with a 6-4 victory at Niagara. The Wildcats skated to a 1-0 lead through one period and extended the advantage to 3-0 as part of a five-goal second period. The six goals marked UNH's highest output since October 18, 2009 against Niagara (6-1 win at the Whittemore Center) and the highest scored by the 'Cats on the road since Feb. 8, 2009 at Vermont (6-2 win). In the series finale, UNH also built a 3-0 lead behind a pair of first-period goals and another tally early in the second stanza.

First Time For Everything - January 8, 2010

PhotoFIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Freshman Brittany Esposito (Edmonton, Alberta) made history on January 8, 2010 vs. NHU by scoring the first-ever goal in an outdoor women's college hockey game. The goal came just 1:29 into the contest as Esposito sniped the top right corner off a drop pass from senior Annie Hogan (Medford, Mass). Esposito scored twice in the game to set a new single-game career high.

The Huskies Freshman class has produced 33% of the team's total offense this season. Four of Northeastern's top 10 scorers are first-year student-athletes including Brittany Esposito (Edmonton, Alberta) and Casey Pickett (Wilmington, Mass) who are tied for third on the team with 14 points apiece.