Stone wall senior

Rachel Dyck talks championship race and handing over the reigns

Rachel Dyck follows the puck to the corner against the Saskatchewan Huskies at the Wayne Fleming Arena.Rachel Dyck follows the puck to the corner against the Saskatchewan Huskies at the Wayne Fleming Arena.

Born in the Interlake Rachel Dyck took the long road to the University of Manitoba.

Her hometown of Winnipeg Beach sits 30 minutes north of a Manitoba Junior Hockey League market – Selkirk – and around an hour from her new home in Winnipeg.

Dyck joined the Bisons during the 2013-14 season, but saw limited action until taking over the crease a year later. In her first starter campaign, she led her team to a 16-4-0-1 record, setting a career benchmark in wins. She has since proven herself to be one of the best and most dependable starters in the conference, consistently leading the conference in almost every statistical category.

But this season has been full of ups and downs for the Bison goaltender. While her personal stats have dipped slightly – a 2.25 goals against average down from a 1.51 last season, for instance –  Dyck is still winning and currently sits second in Canada West with seven wins through 11 contests.

Following some early season stumbles, she has  regained her all-star form. After opening the season with a 2-2 record, Dyck rattled off five straight regulation wins – good for 15 points in a deep conference – before finally having the streak snapped by Alberta. During the streak, she had a sparkling 1.00 goals against average and .930 save percentage.

Her team is also living up to expectations, and is ranked number one in the country coming out of the holiday break.

“It’s been pretty cool to kind of see our results pay off,” Dyck said. “We’ve been pretty close in the past to being ranked number one but now having it actually be ranked number one is pretty sweet.”

It is the first time in Bisons history that the women’s hockey program has been ranked number one.

It is a “pretty huge accomplishment,” Dyck said. “I think our team is kind of just taking it in stride and not letting it get to our heads or anything.”

With the ranking and Manitoba’s dominance over the past few seasons, even more expectations are being placed on this crop of young talent. Chief among them being a championship title – something Dyck is confident is attainable.

“I think every year it’s been our goal,” she said.

“I think this year more than ever we can see it happening, but I think we just kind of have to take it one weekend at a time and see where that gets us. Not look too far ahead but the possibility of it happening is, I think, exciting for us.”

Expectations were also high for the goaltender herself after earning all-star honours following a lights-out season in 2016-17. She posted a 1.51 goals against average, .931 save percentage and five shutouts during the campaign.

Dyck is in the final year of her tenure with the herd, and will be succeeded by heir-apparent Lauren Taraschuk. It was expected by many that Dyck would retain complete control of the crease while the Bisons chased a championship, but she has split time with the rookie sensation.

“I was definitely different having a rookie come in because for the past four years I’ve played with Amanda Schubert,” Dyck said.

“She was always my goalie partner and we had a very close relationship, so seeing her go and getting a new goalie partner was different at first.”

Schubert is now playing professionally in Finland for KJT, while Dyck has built a strong relationship with her new partner.

“I think it’s been nice to be able to learn off of each other,” she said. “She’s done really well for us so far and I think for the team as well it’s good to have two goalies who they know can win and they trust.”

Taraschuk has been off to a blazing start in her U SPORTS career, posting a Canada West-leading 0.84 goals against average to go along with a .958 save percentage. She also has three shutouts and sits tied with Dyck at seven wins.

Dyck noted how her and Taraschuk push each other to succeed.

“I mean obviously I want to play every game,” she said. “It pushed me to work harder in practice and earn those starts.”

The veteran netminder has still taken the lion’s share of starts this season – 12 as opposed to Taraschuk’s nine – but she was still hopeful for the success of the program once she leaves and beyond happy for her time wearing brown and gold.

“It’s been a wild ride,” she said with a laugh.

“I can’t really believe it’s been five years already. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long but at the same time it feels like I’ve been here forever. I don’t have anything bad to say about my time here, I really enjoyed it, my teammates and everyone that’s come here the past five years have been amazing, and yeah I think this team is only going to get better.

Dyck will likely reach, or even eclipse, the 50 career win mark by the end of the season, and her stellar 1.87 career goals against average, .914 save percentage, and 11 shutouts would make any netminder jealous. However, the prospect of bringing home a national championship in her final year is, for Dyck, a success that would far surpass the others.

“It would be kind of a cherry on top,” she said. “Yeah that would be pretty sick. That’s definitely the goal but, like I said, don’t want to look too far ahead.”