Vance earns top CW hockey player award

University of Saskatchewan Huskies goalie Jessica Vance watches the play in her zone during U-Sports playoff action against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Feb. 23, 2018 at Saskatoon’s Rutherford Arena. --Kayle Neis/Saskatoon StarPhoenix

A former Prince Albert Northern Bear has won the top award given to players in Canada West university hockey.

University of Saskatchewan Huskies goalie Jessica Vance won the 2017-18 Canada West Player of the Year award.

The news was announced on Wednesday by the Canada West head office in Edmonton.

Competing in her second U-Sports season and her first season with the Huskies, Vance earned nine total shutouts over 18 games; when combined with her first two playoff starts this year, that stat increases to 10 shutouts over 20 games.

To say her story resembles a comeback would be an understatement.

While on the roster of the University of Manitoba Bisons, Vance recovered from an ACL injury ready to see regular playing time for the 2016-17 season.

But the U of M coaches indicted to her that she’d likely be riding the bench for the majority of the season: They opted to have two fourth-year goalies carry the workload for the Bisons that season.

Vance chose to cut her loses and transfer to the U of S, which held the prospect of regular ice time.

Due to Canada West regulations pertaining to transferred students, she had to sit out a 365 calendar days before seeing any game action; she didn’t get between the pipes until the Huskies’ 2017-18 season was well underway, in November 2017.

Vance didn’t disappoint.

Her first college game in over two years was a road shutout against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

Since then, her season was on the way up.

Along with her 9 regular season shutouts, Vance earned a 14-3-0-1 record over those 18 games played, a 0.77 goals against average and a 0.964 save percentage.

According to a press release from Canada West, her nine shutouts tied her for second-most in a single season, behind Lindsey Post’s record of 10; but the University of Alberta goalie needed 27 games to set that record in the 2014-15 seasons.

The U of S sports information director, Nicole Betker, stated in a press release that Vance is the first Huskie to earn the top award since Julie Paetsch did so for the 2011-12 season. Vance is only the third overall Huskies athlete to win the award; Breanne George was the first in 2009-10.

Huskies head coach Steve Kook said, “I couldn’t be any happier for Jessica. She’s had a long route to this award and she is very deserving of the honour. She plays and conducts herself with so much poise and confidence that it influences the way the rest of our team plays in front of her.”