By Carter Brooks
Photos courtesy of Jeff Miller, Bruce Bennett, Lorne White, NAIT and Michelle Jay
The 2018 Canadian Women's Hockey League Draft is now a thing of the past. On Sunday, four young women with Manitoban ties each heard their names called by CWHL front office staff. Interestingly enough, all four players now belong to the Calgary Inferno.
With its first pick in the 2018 draft, Calgary announced the selection and signing of Neepawa's Halli Krzyzaniak - the former captain of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks - fourth overall. Krzyzaniak, who had also been selected by the Boston Pride in the fourth round of the 2016 National Women's Hockey League Draft has represented Canada internationally on a handful of occasions.
The 5-foot-7, 160-pound 23-year-old spent four years playing Division I hockey, racking up 14 goals, 54 points and 71 penalty minutes in 139 games for North Dakota, while finishing her college hockey career a +54.
After selecting Canadians in the first three rounds, the Inferno deviated from their regular course, selecting Americans Alex Rigsby and Tori Hickel in the fourth and fifth rounds. But it was in the sixth round in which Calgary dipped their toes back into the Manitoba hockey pool, selecting former University of Manitoba Bison Venla Hovi 32nd overall.
Hovi - an experienced vet who has won two Olympic bronze medals, as well as a bronze in the 2017 World Championship - came over to Manitoba to play for Head Coach Jon Rempel and the University of Manitoba Bisons for three seasons, beginning in 2015-16.
The 30-year-old produced immaculately for the Bisons in her three years with the program, picking up 21 goals, 49 points, and 38 penalty minutes in 51 career regular season games, finishing her U-Sports career producing at 0.96 points per game. Although missing a significant chunk of time due to her Olympic commitment, Hovi collected four goals and 11 points in 12 games in the 2017-18 season. She leaves the University of Manitoba as one of the most decorated athletes ever to compete as a Bison.
The next Manitoban chosen in the CWHL Draft was Thompson, MB. product Kendra Hanson. The former Norman Wild AAA female midget league star elected to play in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2016, and ended up leading the league in points in back-to-back seasons.
The 5-foot-8 centreman registered six goals and 25 points in the 2016-17 season for the NAIT Ooks, before collecting 13 goals and 26 points last year.
The Inferno made quick work of their remaining supplemental draft selections, taking Calgary Dinos' forward Cheyann Newman, Minnesota's Nina Rodgers, Japan's Aki Fujimori and Winnipeg's Tatiana Rafter.
Rafter, 26, has also represented Canada nationally in 2013 at the Winter Universiade, where she put up seven goals and 15 points in just seven games for the Canadians. Rafter spent the last three seasons in the NWHL, most recently with the Metropolitan Riveters, and may never skate for the Inferno, but her CWHL rights now do officially belong to Calgary.
After five incredibly productive seasons with the University of British Columbia, Rafter recorded 12 goals and 16 points in 51 NWHL career games, before signing with SK Gorny in St. Petersburg, Russia in late August in advance of the 2018-19 season.
The 2018-19 Canadian Women's Hockey League season is set to begin mid-October, as the Markham Thunder look to defend their Clarkson Cup title.