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Women's Hockey
Laura Brooker will be a key offensive player for the Hawks this season (Photo Credit: Adam Gagnon)
Laura Brooker will be a key offensive player for the Hawks this season (Photo Credit: Adam Gagnon)
Women's hockey season preview

WATERLOO, Ont. (October 5, 2012) - After returning to the top of the OUA podium last season, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are once again considered favourites for the OUA Championship.

With a very deep and veteran forward unit, some solid defenders and two young and talented netminders, the Hawks look good to make their 10th straight appearance at the CIS Championship.

Despite the loss of some key veteran players, including last year's team captain Abby Rainsberry and Katherine Shirriff, Lauriers third all-time leading scorer, the Hawks boast a forward unit that will be able to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis. Highlighting the group are two of the OUA's top five scorers from last year in Laura Brooker and Tammy Freiburger. Brooker, through just two seasons in the league, is already one of the most dangerous scorers in the history of league. With 36 goals in her career already, she is on pace to break, over five seasons, the Laurier and OUA record of 82 goals in a career currently held by Lisa Backman. As for Freiburger, she led the Hawks in goals and points a year ago and her big-body presence makes her tough to knock off the puck.

Asides from Brooker and Freiburger, other names at forward to keep an eye on for Laurier this year include veterans Caitlin Muirhead, who is coming off a career-high 21 point season, and Devon Skeats, who six goals in 10 playoff games a year ago, as well as second year forward Jessie Hurrell, a nearly point-per-game player last season.

As for the season's rookie crop of forwards, head coach RICK OSBORNE has brought in three talented players who have shown a knack for finding the back of the net during the preseason. Robyn Degagne, Emily Kekewich and Erika Kiviaho will all have the opportunity to make a difference for the Hawks and could be in the conversation for rookie of the year come season's end.

Moving back to the blueline, newly-appointed team captain Fiona Lester will anchor the defensive core that will also feature returning players Maureen Mommersteeg, Candice Styles and Haley Baxter. Lester, entering her fourth year with the Hawks, is coming off a season that saw her register 19 points in 36 games, including playoffs, while also playing in a shutdown role.

Laurier will have three new faces on the blueline this season but one of them brings with her three years of experience from the NCAA. Geneva Kliman, originally from Toronto, joins the Hawks after suiting up for Dartmouth College. The 5-8 defenceman brings some offensive flair as well as a physical presence to the position as in her final year with the Big Green she recorded 15 points to go along with 30 penalty minutes. Arla Biron and Lauren Blair will join Kliman as the three new additions to the Hawks blueline core.

In goal, returning second year netminder Erika Thunder has the edge for the starters role after an outstanding rookie season. Thunder posted a 1.30 goals against average and a 0.930 save percentage, as well as a league-high 19 wins. However, she will be pushed by incoming rookie Kayla Brown who brings strong credentials from the North Bay Ice Boltz program. Brown is coming off a season that saw her post 15 shutouts over the regular season and playoffs and has been described by Osborne as a Cindy Eadie-type netminder.

"I am very excited about the potential of this year's team," says head coach Osborne of his troops. "Our strong mix of returning veterans along with some solid additions at forward, defence and in goal gives us excellent depth that should carry us throughout the season."

Laurier's 2012-13 team will be put to the test immediately as they open the season on the road this Saturday against the Western Mustangs in a rematch of last year's OUA Championship series.
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