All-star shakeup shifts Bisons women’s hockey team

Analysis: Departure of Taraschuk and return of Schubert leave lingering questions

Fargey follows play from the bench during the U Sports women's national hockey championship in PEI

The U of M Bisons women’s hockey team’s crease will look a bit different — but also very familiar — next season.

On April 16, the Winnipeg Free Press published an article where national championship winning netminder Lauren Taraschuk announced she would not be returning to the Bisons. After two solid seasons, the Winnipeg-born goalie is taking a step back from competitive hockey.

This move immediately thrust rookie goalie Erin Fargey into the spotlight, but with only four games under her belt in Canada West, fans are right to have questions about how the goaltending situation will shake out in 2019-20.

The shake up between the pipes did not stop there, though, as in April the Bisons announced veteran goalie Amanda Schubert will be returning to the Manitoba crease to finish her final year of eligibility.

Along with Schubert’s return the Bisons added goaltender Kaitlyn Nault to the recruitment class.

Now with the dust settling from a whirlwind of moves in the blue paint there are some questions to be answered. The herd’s goaltending situation has gone from a certainty to an unknown quantity and it will be good to know what to expect heading into the new season.


Fargey finally gets her shot

Bisons fans did not get to see much of Langdon-born Fargey during her rookie season, but in the four brief glimpses they got, she shone.

The Albertan had a 1.27 goals-against-average and .934 save percentage — the latter identical to Taraschuk through 24 starts — while picking up two wins, including a shutout.

Fargey is a technically sound goaltender with good vision and has the raw talent to make any team she plays with a championship contender. The fact she was left on the bench so often during the 2018-19 campaign while Taraschuk tied for the greatest number of games played among conference goaltenders is a head scratcher.

That being said, this lack of playing time may be exactly what Fargey needs to make the difference next season.

Early career setbacks have not stopped her before, as the 19-year-old was cut from three different teams in a single year while playing in Alberta but overcame the disappointment to win a provincial title.

Now Fargey needs to channel a year spent riding the pine into a year commanding the crease, and she has the skills to succeed in this endeavour.

There is explosiveness to Fargey’s movements when she needs to make a stop, but her sound positioning is what really makes her special.

In the modern game all shooters have the accuracy to make goalies work. The one thing holding most goalies back is a slow release. This slow release is where patient and well-positioned netminders like Fargey thrive, and are able to glean where a shooter is aiming before the puck comes off the stick and to get in position to make the stop.

Larger netminders like Taraschuk can survive on raw size alone if need be, but it is up to those like Fargey to make up the difference with technique.

Size is also a major factor in what makes the Bisons returning veteran, Schubert, an intriguing acquisition.


Stability the word with Schubert

Whereas Taraschuk was one of the tallest netminders in the conference — standing six-feet tall — Schubert is the smallest.

At five-foot-two, what Schubert lacks in height she makes up for in compete.

A great comparison for Schubert is former Bisons men’s hockey goalie Byron Spriggs. While neither are the most solidly technical goalies they both have the athleticism to keep them fighting to stop pucks long after the technique of other goalies has worn down.

The longer a play goes on, and the more a goalie has to move, the easier it is to get the puck past them. Schubert and Spriggs are the exceptions to this rule, getting better the more they move, representing the old ’80s and ’90s goaltending style of “just get your body in front of the puck.”

The more rubber they face, the better they play.

This style of play has helped Schubert lead the Bisons to spectacular victories in the past such as the quintuple overtime win over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the 2016 Canada West playoffs.

The Winnipegger stopped 66 of the 67 shots she faced against the Huskies, outdueling Cassidy Hendricks at the other end for over two hours of play as Manitoba claimed the 2-1 win.

Schubert’s play has also brought her to the professional ranks. She was part of KJT in the Finnish Liiga, the Finnish Elite League, during the 2017-18 season before returning the Canada.

The win over Saskatchewan and time overseas also exemplify what Schubert has over Fargey in spades: experience.

She has earned the trust of Bisons head coach Jon Rempel to play in important situations and whether she will act in a platoon role or as Fargey’s backup, the attitude Schubert brings to the rink and the knowledge she can impart on the young puck stopper will be invaluable.

No matter how Rempel and the Bisons coaching staff decide to deploy the two netminders, they will have two determined and talented women ready to keep Manitoba’s winning pedigree alive.