A rookie's season can be long, filled with mistakes, spent on the bench and getting hazed by veterans. The season can also be a time to grow, learn from mistakes and prove you belong. The University of Calgary Dinos women's hockey team were blessed with an assortment of talented rookies this year, complementing the array of veterans returning from last season. Rookies such as Melissa Zubick, Sinead Tracy, Danielle Braaten, Tanya Morgan, Erin Davidson, Megan Frohaug and Nikki Love all contributed to the success of the Dinos thus far. But it is the threesome, nicknamed the rookie line, comprised of forwards Shelby Davey, Elana Lovell and Tiara Schoenroth, that have bewildered opponents and taken the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference by storm. The trio have combined for 49 points and are the leading scorers for the Dinos, earning Davey and Lovell spots on the conference all-star teams.
The girls have been on the same line much of the year and work well together.
"When I put those three together I saw that they clicked and they see each other on the ice," said Dinos head coach Danielle Goyette. "When you see chemistry like that you want to keep it. "
They all have unique skills and have impressed Goyette this year.
"Lovell sees the play really well," said Goyette. "Davey works so hard and Tiara, she is the girl who can finish around the net and has good hands."
Despite having unique skills, they compliment each other on the ice.
"When you have a playmaker, a good shooter and a finisher you can expect a good result," said Goyette. "They have been good for us this year."
While hailing from diverse backgrounds, the three found their way to the Dinos.
It was 1994, Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's goal record, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup and Shelby Davey began playing hockey in her hometown of Dinsmore, Saskatchewan.
Davey got her start after taking figure skating for a year and a half. Deciding that was not intense enough, she switched sports.
"I saw my friend playing hockey and I enjoyed watching it, so I thought I should play," said Davey.
Progressing rapidly as a hockey player over the years, she attributed her success to her dad and all the encouragement and criticism he provided.
"My role model for hockey is my dad," said Davey. "They [parents] tell us what we did wrong, what we did well. Basically what we did wrong. It's a good thing because it lets us know what we have to work on."
Trading parental guidance for the intensity of university hockey under the tutelage of Goyette, Davey came to Calgary because she wanted to stay close to home. Coming here on a visit, she met Goyette and decided this was the program for her. Davey loves the intensity that Goyette brings to hockey and lives for hard work.
"I would say that the time and effort we put in is the best part," said Davey. "I like being coached by [Goyette] because for every coach win is everything, but for her win is everything."
She is a true athlete, one who craves the win and truly hits her stride during playoffs.
"My favourite thing is playoffs because of the intensity," said Davey. "The rush of having to perform well because you don't want to lose."
No stranger to playoffs and winning championships, Davey was a member of the Swift Current Wildcats who won the Mac's Midget Hockey Tournament last year. She was in the tournament for four years, winning it during her last year with the team. Teammate Tiara Schoenroth was also a member of that team. Both Schoenroth and Davey agree that the Mac's win was the highlight of their careers.
An important part of hockey is enjoying its many aspects. Davey, while rarely having time to watch hockey on television due to a rigorous schedule, still has favourite players and teams.
"My favourite team is the Flames," said Davey. "My favourite player is Jarome Iginla because he is quite good looking. My favourite female player is Hayley Wickenheiser because she's Saskatchewan and she's the best in the world."
Athletes are known for their quirky superstitions and pregame rituals and if something goes awry it can throw off a player's game. Davey cannot function in a game without her ritual of shelving a shot during pre-game warm-up.
Davey will be dealing with her superstitions this weekend as she looks to add to her trophy case and win the ACAC championship. She will depend on her rookie teammates to get the job done.
It's rural Saskatchewan, the wheat fields lie dormant under a layer of snow, the frozen ponds are weary under the weight of skaters and a young girl is beginning to learn the craft of hockey. This was the scene back in 1994 when Tiara Schoenroth began playing hockey at the age of four. She pursued the sport while living in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. Like many Canadian kids, she looked up to her older siblings and wanted to follow in their footsteps.
"I started because both my brothers played hockey," said Schoenroth. "So whatever they did, I did."
Schoenroth proved her expertise with the stick and helped her team, the Swift Current Wildcats win the Mac's tournament last year. While there is no doubt that individual skill is important in hockey, having a great role model, somebody to teach you, is important. She, like Davey, attributes her success to her dad, believing that parents are influential in shaping the success of players.
"Without them we would not be here right now," said Schoenroth.
She decided to leave the wheat fields and prairie skies, trading it in for mountains and a chance to play for Goyette.
"I came because it is close to home," said Schoenroth. "I never visited the campus, but I talked to Danielle Goyette and she is the main reason I came."
Schoenroth's time with the Dinos has been productive. She was third on the team in scoring during the regular season, behind her rookie line mates, and provided fans with one of the best shootout moves ever seen.
"[Schoenroth] has the most dangles on our team, as anyone knows," said Dinos captain Cait O'Hara.
Schoenroth believes that playing for Goyette is an amazing experience and the Dinos provide something different for her.
"It's really intense at times, she [Goyette] is a really emotional hockey player and so is our entire team," said Schoenroth. "When she tells you something, you know she's been through it. Whatever she says you know it is going to be right and you can trust her."
Schoenroth is a skill player who understands her role on the ice. She is not the hard hitter, instead she works patiently in the corner to find ways to put the puck onto the sticks of her teammates.
"I don't have a lot of goals, I'm more of a playmaker, in the corners kind of player," said Schoenroth.
Schoenroth loves the team aspects associated with hockey, believing that hockey teams win or lose together, not as individuals.
"It's impossible to find the time, and when you have the time, you're so tired, you want to sleep all the time," said Schoenroth.
Schoenroth follows hockey sporadically outside of the Dinos, between studying for classes and sleeping. Her favourite team, although she is a little ashamed to say it, is the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed closely by the Flames. She looks up to the women that came before her in the sport.
"My favourite woman hockey players are Hayley Wickenheiser and Danielle Goyette," said Schoenroth. "My favourite male player is Sidney Crosby because he is quite good looking."
Right now there is no time for watching hockey or relaxing. Schoenroth is involved in an intense playoff campaign and will look to help the Dinos win their first ACAC championship.
You will find Schoenroth confusing goalies with her sick moves, setting up her teammates, and, if you are lucky, you will see one of her best moves, the T-move.
Hockey players in Canada are indoctrinated with the ideals of hockey from a young age and most kids learn to skate soon after walking. To play hockey in Canada, it is either learn quick or you will be playing soccer. This is not true for some gifted players, one of which is Elana Lovell, who got a late start in hockey, beginning when she was 11. She started playing ringette, but was a complete failure and was placed in net because her skills were not of a level where she could skate properly-- an inauspicious start to a sports career.
Lovell moved to Kamloops a year later and there was no ringette team, so she couldn't play. She began playing pond hockey with her dad and improved her skills. A year later, a friend of Lovell's began playing hockey and she joined the sport.
"I had to convince my mom," said Lovell. "I played with the boys for a couple of years and got better, by the end of the year, I was the best player on the team."
Lovell eventually joined the Kamloops Mystics and won provincials last year, winning the final game 7-3.
"Winning provincials last year, it was definitely a good feeling," said Lovell. "The team that beat us last year, we beat in the semi-finals 4-3. So they were not happy. Then we killed in the finals."
With minor hockey ending, Lovell had a decision regarding where to play university puck. She doesn't surf, so west coast schools held little appeal. She decided to play where the air is dry and the winter's cold-- Calgary.
"It's closer to home than anywhere else," said Lovell. "I didn't like [University of British Columbia] very much."
While living in Calgary, Lovell still feels that her time in B.C. shaped her as a hockey player and pays homage to those that helped her.
"I really look up to my trainer back home," she said. "His name is Greg. He's been there for me the last five years. In the summers, he pushed me through. He has pretty much got me here."
While looking up to role models back home, Lovell feels that there is a tremendous amount to learn playing in Alberta. Not used to being a hard-working player, she has learned from the veterans on the team.
"If you don't work hard and battle, you're not going to get success," said Lovell. "I've never played Alberta hockey, it's way physical compared to B.C. hockey. The first month I was injury prone; I was out for a month with a groin injury. Then the first game back I almost blew out my knee."
Lovell earned a nickname from her Dinos teammates in her quest to deal with the physical nature of Alberta hockey. She does not like the nickname and is working hard to make people forget it.
"My nickname is Lemon, because I get injured so much," said Lovell.
She has found her niche on the rink and has a distinct playing style.
"I'm a drifter," said Lovell. "I don't like to move my feet very much. I like to set people up and use the points."
She loves to hang back and wait for her teammates to get the puck, then she makes magic happen.
She has been extremely successful this season as she was fourth in the league in scoring and the top scoring Dino, with 13 goals.
Despite this talent for finding the puck, she is not selfish and is more than willing to dish the puck off to teammates-- displayed by her 10 assists this season.
Outside the rink, Lovell shies away from worshipping the younger players in the NHL, instead looking up to a player from the olden days.
"My favourite player is Ray Bourque, even though I'm a forward," said Lovell. "I loved watching him play."
Her favourite team is never cemented in her mind, and varies from the Vancouver Canucks to the Colorado Avalanche.
Moving to Calgary has opened her eyes to a world outside of B.C. and she is leaning towards the Calgary Flames at the moment.
Outside of hockey, Lovell is passionate about other sports, including soccer, basketball and the other popular pastime in Alberta.
"I was a fan of basketball," said Lovell. "I love LeBron James. I snowboard, too, but I have only gone once this year."
Broken noses and excruciating injuries aside, Lovell is looking to bring the heat as she closes out her first season with the Dinos. She will be working to help her team win a championship.