Alberta Collegiate All-Stars to Challenge Calgary's CWHL Franchise

Mark StaffieriContributor IIJanuary 25, 2013

NAIT's Sherri Bowles is the ACAC's leading scorer, Photo by Jenn Sieppert, Image from
NAIT's Sherri Bowles is the ACAC's leading scorer, Photo by Jenn Sieppert, Image from

The Calgary-based franchise from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League known as Team Alberta will be hosting an exhibition series against a group of women’s hockey All-Stars from the the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.

Known as the All-Star Showcase Game, this inaugural event will be hosted at Calgary’s WinSport Complex on Jan. 26 and 27. The ACAC currently has only four teams in its conference. A fifth team, known as the Mount Royal Cougars were promoted to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level in autumn 2012.

Four colleges ice women’s teams in the ACAC and five players (three forwards, two defenders) will represent each school in the showcase. The Red Deer Queens are first in the ACAC with an 11-3-0 record, while the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks sit in seconds with a record of 10-2-1. Lagging behind are the Grant MacEwan Griffins and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans with seven points each.

The two goaltenders for the match were picked by a committee of all four head coaches in the ACAC. Camille Trautman of Red Deer and the undefeated Jill Diachuk of NAIT were the two selections. Both backstops have a goals against average of under 2.00, respectively.

In the ACAC scoring race, the top two scorers (Sherri Bowles of NAIT and Gillian Altheim of Red Deer) were selected for the All-Star team. The showcase is a possible opportunity to impress Team Alberta coaches and staff.

Nicknamed the Sherriff, Bowles is a third year center whose game has improved by a quantum leap. After slumping to 15 points in 22 games during the 2011-12 campaign, Bowles has improved to 21 points in 2012-13 in just 14 games.

Heading into the final stretch of the season, Bowles has the opportunity to reach the 30 point mark. Perhaps more impressive is the disciplined game that she is playing. With 37 penalty minutes in 2010-11, and 30 in the following season, Bowles has made a conscientious effort to reduce her penalty time. This season, her 14 penalty minutes signify a commitment to a smarter game.

Gillian Altheim grew up admiring Jarome Iginla and attended the Parkland Hockey Academy. The 19 year old has not endured a sophomore slump. After a rookie season that saw her log 7 points in 24 games, she has responded with a remarkable 20 points in 14 games this season.

Entering the All-Star Showcase Game, Team Alberta is without four of its stalwarts on defense. Invited to the Hockey Canada Winter Women’s Training Camp, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Bobbi-Jo Slusar and Tara Watchorn (Team Alberta’s second leading scorer) will likely be absent for the event.

On the offense, Alberta counters with the likes of Jenna Cunningham (the squad’s leading scorer), Erin Duggan and Kerri Sanders. In addition, the club features teen phenom Madison Haller (daughter of Stanley Cup champion) Kevin Haller. Although Haller has not yet lit up the scoresheet in the CWHL, this exhibition series may be the catalyst towards finding her scoring touch.

Despite the missing players manning the blueline, Team Alberta counters with a very talented goaltender. Kathy Deschenes is a workhorse goaltender who has logged over 500 minutes of play during the 2012-13 CWHL season. She may prove to be the factor in the outcome of the series, as women’s hockey fans in Alberta are treated to a unique series.