On the MVP track

Jordyn Zacharias is leading the Canada West back in her natural position of centre

Bison centre Jordyn Zacharias after scoring the winning goal in the shootout against the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Nov. 17 at the Wayne Fleming Arena.Bison centre Jordyn Zacharias after scoring the winning goal in the shootout against the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Nov. 17 at the Wayne Fleming Arena.

Jordyn Zacharias of the Bison women’s hockey team is playing her way into the MVP conversation in the first half of the season.

Heading into the second half of the season, Zacharias leads the Canada West with nine goals and five assists through 16 games. If you talk to Zacharias about her year, she seems to be enjoying the good bounces and is quick to highlight the contributions of her high-scoring linemate, Alanna Sharman.

“It’s been a pretty unreal year so far, I mean obviously it has to come with a little bit of luck but also some skill too,” she said. “I’m pretty happy with where I am, playing with Alanna Sharman and I feel like we complement each other well.”

Sharman is currently in a three-way tie for second in Canada West scoring with 12 points – three goals and nine assists – through 16 games.

Zacharias came to Manitoba after playing 2015-16 in the NCAA with the University of Connecticut. There she scored six goals and six assists for 12 points in 18 games. The Winnipeg-born forward is one point shy of tying her U SPORTS career high of 15, showing a massive jump in progression from her first season as a Bison last year.

“Honestly, I had a little bit of a rough start, I didn’t score my first goal until the fifth game, maybe had one or two assists before then, so it came at me pretty hard but I’m happy to be where it is,” Zacharias said.

Zacharias spent the past summer working at the Mini-U program at the University of Manitoba and noted a ‘less is more’ approach to off-season training.

“Honestly my time was a little more limited,” she said. “I wasn’t skating which is different, last summer I skated twice a week and this year I took that off and mostly focused on the gym.”

When Zacharias wasn’t working, she was playing slo-pitch, which despite an early injury helped keep her muscles working during the off-season.

“Well I fractured my tibia at the beginning of the summer so that probably wasn’t smart,” she said with a laugh.

“I think playing slo-pitch is a great way to use different muscles. Honestly you get some quick starts out of it, when you hit the ball you have to book it to first base so your feet are always moving and it’s a good way to keep up some cardio.”

Zacharias mentioned that it has not been uncommon for her to dabble in other sports throughout her life.

“I think it’s great to play other sports,” she said. “Even when I was growing up I would take some time off in the spring to play softball, lacrosse, whatever and yeah I love playing different sports and I think it’s beneficial.”

Aside from the off-season changes, Zacharias is taking each day the same as she always has, both on and off the ice. However, being a year older and more experienced is paying off.

“I guess the really big change on the ice is having a little bit more confidence,” she said. “Taking a little bit more time with the puck rather than giving it away right away.”

Manitoba started the season with a heavy schedule, playing the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, University of Alberta Pandas, and University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Following that they went on a tear which has them and Zacharias atop the conference.

“It feels great,” she said. “Honestly, who wouldn’t, right? But it’s nice to see that my hard work is paying off, but also it’s even better to see how good our team is doing.”

Manitoba seems poised for a trip to the national championship after falling in the second round last season, something Zacharias said she feels could be in her squad’s future.

“What we’re doing is working pretty well,” she said. “The difference I think from last year to this is year is we just want it a lot more. Our biggest thing is when we’re down this year we’re able to come back and score some and win it, rather than last year when we were down we kind of just left it there.

“Because we are going to play some tougher teams like UBC, U of A, where we might be down. Just being able to stay positive and come back, I think staying positive on our bench and in our dressing room is going to be huge.”