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Ice hockey's her passion

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TERRY Matheson concedes that Stephanie Allison's hockey skills have to improve. But he's not worried.

"With her work ethic, she'll have no problem," says Matheson, head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team.

Allison, who spent the last four years as a member of the Southeast Ice of the Winnipeg Women's Hockey League and last year also played for the Dakota Lancers in the Winnipeg High School Girls' Hockey League, has agreed to skate for the Bisons next season.

"She's got a strong character and plays hard every shift," says Matheson. "She's a clutch player, who comes through in key situations. She'll be in the hunt for a starting position."

He compares Allison's style to that of forward Mike Keane (another Winnipegger) of the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, and former Montreal Canadiens defensive specialist Bob Gainey.

Allison, 17, who graduated from Dakota Collegiate in June, notes that she talked to a few Division 3 schools in the U.S.

"They don't give athletic scholarships and it's too expensive. But I've always wanted to play for the Bisons," says the winger.

Allison has been playing hockey since age 10. Prior to that, she was into ringette.

"But I'd always played street hockey with the older boys on the street, and always watched the NHL (on television) and hockey was big in my family," says Allison, who scored 25 goals and added 16 assists in 26 high school games this season.

She played her first three years of hockey out of Dakota Community Centre before joining the Ice. This year was her first year playing in the Winnipeg High School Girls' Hockey League.

"Playing high school hockey was awesome. I had lots of fun," says Allison, noting that Dakota lost out to St. Mary's in the semi-finals.

She had been asked to play for her school the previous season, too.

"But I had to say no because I was playing AA and coaching Atom A-1 and Peewee A-1 girls' teams," says Allison, adding that she didn't do any coaching this year.

She admits that it was "pretty crazy" playing both AA and high school hockey this season.

"I was playing hockey every night during the winter," observes Allison, who was voted her high school team's MVP and was also a finalist for Dakota's top Senior 4 female athlete of the year award.

If a scheduling conflict arose between the two teams, Allison always chose AA. "I committed to them first."

Although AA is a higher calibre, she states that high school hockey is coming along.

For the past few weeks, Allison has been doing off-ice training with members of the Bisons.

"I got cut from the provincial under-18 squad last summer because I wasn't fast enough," says Allison, adding that she's also playing in a co-ed hockey league this summer. "After that, I began working very hard to improve, mostly doing strength exercises for my legs and to increase my stride. My main focus now is to be successful as a university player. If I do well there, then my ultimate goal is to try out for the national team."

PHOTO MIKE DEAL/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 16, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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