Winnipeg hockey player mulls chance at Olympics after four years at U.S. college
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/02/2020 (1023 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Although she’s nearing the end of her college hockey career, Kati Tabin is far from done with the game.
The 22-year-old blue-liner from Winnipeg, a co-captain of the NCAA’s Quinnipiac Bobcats, always dreamed of representing her country on the international stage.
Yet somehow, during a stellar high school career at Balmoral Hall, those opportunities never materialized.
Until 2017-18, that is.
“The (Hockey Canada) report would come out and it was never me and that kind of sucked growing up,” Tabin said in a phone chat from Hamden, Conn., earlier this this week. “Coming to Quinnipiac, obviously, I still had it in mind. How cool would that be to play for your country?
“Then I worked my butt off going into my sophomore year. I stayed here for summer school for the two months and worked out like crazy, did extra skills and got invited to Team Canada. It was a dream come true and then I made the (developmental) team.”
Tabin’s dedication and willingness to push herself was apparent to Bobcats head coach Cassie Turner, who has represented Canada as both a player and coach.
Tabin’s timing, however, was uncommon.
“It’s very unusual,” said Turner. “Hockey Canada tends to stick with players that have really been in their program. She really improved that much that she found her way onto that team. She certainly has put in the work. A lot of it came from maturity, but also in how she’s been training.
“She invested a lot in her off-ice training and stayed at Quinnipiac and trained with our strength coach over the summer. That really made a difference. She was always fast, but it took her to the next level in terms of her skating.”
Good offensive numbers — the five-foot-eight Tabin has four goals and 13 points in 32 games this season — and a crafty all-around game have helped return the Bobcats to national prominence.
Last month, Quinnipiac was ranked No. 10 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine women’s college hockey poll, a position it holds entering the final weekend of the regular season. Quinnipiac’s last appearance in the top 10 came in 2017-18, when it was rated ninth to start the season.
The Bobcats are also sitting sixth in the Eastern College Athletic Conference standings, behind No. 1-ranked Cornell, No. 6 Princeton and seventh-ranked Clarkston.
To earn a berth in next month’s eight-team national tournament, Tabin and her teammates will face the difficult task of winning the ECAC tournament title or depend on the slim chance of earning one of four at-large bids.
“We have a younger team so it took a little longer to get going, but I think they’ve figured it out the fastest,” said Tabin, who has been paired with freshman Kate Reilly, a B.C. product.
“In the past, it took us until (this point in the season) and it was too late. The freshmen who came in have played a huge role and they’ve been great. All the returnees know what it takes, and we’ve been getting done.”
Added Turner: “This is the strongest group we’ve had since probably we won our conference tournament four years ago. I’m super-optimistic about this group. I don’t think people want to play us in the playoffs.”
As she nears the end of her four-year college career, Tabin has been forced to consider what comes next. She’s completing her studies in business marketing and is almost halfway to an MBA degree, thanks to spending her summers at school.
But the national team also beckons — she’s on a short list of 16 defencemen being considered for the 2022 Canadian Olympic team. The demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2019 will limit the options of many elite players graduating from college, including Tabin.
Without a domestic league, Tabin is considering two main options. She may join a club team in Sweden or relocate to Montreal, where former national team head coach Danièle Sauvageau has set up a training base for players affiliated with the national team program.
Turner believes Tabin’s all-round game is well-suited for international level.
“This has been her strongest season,” said Turner. “She’s been very consistent. She has a great offensive side to her game, she can jump into the play with the puck, without the puck. She can beat defenders one on one.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.