The College Louis-Riel Voyageurs women’s hockey team moved up a division this season, but it has hardly missed a beat.
The Voyageurs were champions of Division B of the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League in their first season a year ago, and now they’re poised to make a run at the A Division crown.
The team is off to a 7-1-2 start, and announced its arrival to the rest of the division with a 4-0 win over previously unbeaten Dakota.
Two key members of the Voyageurs, forward Karina Durupt and goalie Lauren LaFleche, were named the division’s top player in each of the last two weeks.
Durupt leads the team in scoring, and is fourth in the division with 19 points. LaFleche has three shutouts and a 1.23 goals-against average.
"I was definitely shocked," LaFleche said of being named player of the week. "I didn’t expect it at all. I was honoured, definitely."
Like any seasoned goalie, LaFleche was quick to share the accolades with her teammates.
"I have an amazing defence," said the St. Boniface resident. "It’s easy to perform when they’re backing me up."
The biggest surprise for the Voyageurs has been how easy they’ve adapted to the top division. Most of the players were expecting a rough ride, but it’s been smooth sailing since a pair of ties to open the season.
"I thought it would be a huge transition and we would have a bunch of problems," said Durupt, a St. Boniface resident who was named the MVP of the B Division last season. "But I haven’t noticed a big difference. There’s more speed and good competition, but nothing we can’t play with."
From LaFleche’s vantage point between the posts, she’s mostly in agreement with her teammate.
"I think there are definitely some girls who are better at shooting in the A Division, but as far as the pace it’s pretty similar," she said. "I feel like the competition is a little tougher, but it wasn’t a crazy difference."
Durupt is the only player on the Voyageurs who balances AA hockey with the high school league. She says the WWHSHL has had fiercer competition this year than the AA league.
"Once the score starts getting close and the games are tight, which they usually are, teams get more physical," she said.
Like most of the team — with the exception two Grade 10 rookies — Durupt and LaFleche are in Grade 12. They both say they’d love to finish their high school careers by shocking everyone and winning a championship.
"I think our team has the talent," LaFleche said. "If we work hard enough, we could beat any team in the league. It would mean so much to us. It would be amazing for a small little French school… people don’t expect us to do so good."