Going into the 2017-18 season, Jessica Vance was getting used to her surroundings at the University of Saskatchewan after she had transferred from the Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey program.
Now that she has two years under her books in Saskatoon, the 21-year-old Vance is a lot more at ease as the starter for the Huskies program.
“It’s more of a routine for me and having those two seasons already with the team should really help me out a lot as I get ready for next year,” Vance said.
“I had a full season with everyone this time around, as I had to sit out for the first month last year, and just allowed me to build my chemistry with the team more. I’m the type of goaltender that likes to play the puck, so it’s important that we are all on the same page.”
Vance, who is studying kinesiology, had a 12-7-1-1 record with a 1.28 goals against average and a .946 save percentage with six shutouts for the Huskies this season, who made it to the Canada West semifinals before losing to the Alberta Golden Pandas.
“It was a tough loss to Alberta, but I think it’s something we can all build on, especially since we don’t lose anyone coming into next year,” Vance said.
“There’s a few rookies that will be coming in, but everyone knows the systems and the should be a pretty easy transition phase for the entire team.”
It was also a milestone season for the Huskies program as they moved from the 90-year-old Rutherford Arena to the brand new Merlis Belsher Place.
“It was cool to have so many of us make history with all of the milestones that come with a new rink,” Vance said.
“It was a little bit different at first but we got used to being in our new home after a few practices. We also got to play in front of some pretty big crowds as well, as everyone wants to see what the new arena is like.”
However, the biggest moment of Vance’s season came earlier this month as she traveled to Krasnoyarsk, Russia to represent Canada at the 2019 Winter Universaide.
“They announced the long list a couple of months before so I knew that there was a chance that I could go,” Vance said. “But when I found out that I made the team just three weeks before the games, it was super exciting.
“You dream about having the chance to wear that jersey and the event felt like going to the Olympics in a way, as you travel overseas and get to meet so many athletes from the different countries.”
Vance had a familiar face alongside her on the journey to Russia as fellow Prince Albertan Kaitlin Willoughby was making her second trip to the event for Canada.
“That was awesome,” Vance said. “She’s someone I looked up to when we played for the Bears and the Huskies and it’s been great to see her continue to do amazing things, especially with winning the Clarkson Cup with the Calgary Inferno last weekend.”
Vance had a 1.12 goals against average and a .958 save percentage for Canada as they picked up a silver medal following a close battle with Russia in the final.
“It was a sold rink for the last game and that was without a doubt the best experience I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Vance said.
“I’m hoping to be in a few more big games with the Huskies next year and I think the experience of being in Russia should help to calm any nerves I might have.”