Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The impact that five graduating Griffins women's hockey players have made on the program will stay with head coach Lindsay McAlpine and her staff for a long time.
On Saturday night, Dominique Scheurer, Sandy Heim, Nikki Reimer, Raven Beazer and Katresa Shwetz will be honoured before the 6 p.m. contest against Olds College (Downtown Community Arena) in a special ceremony as they head into the final home regular season game of their university careers.
Scheurer – who has played both forward and defence over five seasons with the Griffins – will leave as the program's first international player. She and McAlpine met when the coach travelled to her home country of Switzerland on a University of Alberta Pandas alumni tour.
"I have a special connection with Dom because she's our first international player and the way that I recruited Dom was on a personal level," said McAlpine. "I was with my Pandas alumni team and ended up playing Dom's team in Switzerland and went out for a fondue with them afterward. She was speaking with me how she really wanted to play university hockey in Canada and I thought, 'that's ironic because I'm a university hockey coach. I think you could come over and make an impact.'
"Hockey-wise, she's brought to the program a level of hockey IQ and finesse that we probably haven't seen at MacEwan," she added. "I think it's rare in the North American female game as well.
"I think off the ice, I'm concerned for our team about who's going to take over any sort of music selection. She's kind of our team DJ. It's kind of a minor role, but it's a relatively major role that I'm curious to see who steps up into."
As the program's first international player, Swiss native Dominique Scheurer has paved the way for future Griffins from Europe (Matthew Jacula photo).
MacEwan will also be losing starting goaltender Sandy Heim after this season. The 2017 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference MVP holds the conference record for the longest playoff shutout streak when she blanked opponents for 287 minutes and 40 seconds in a 2017 playoff run that included her setting a program record 0.84 goals against average and .970 save percentage.
The Wilderswil, Switzerland product came to MacEwan a year after Scheurer did, and like her compatriot, is on the radar for her country's national team program in the future.
"I think Sandy was instrumental in our back to back ACAC Championships – she played a massive role on ice in terms of becoming our starting goaltender arguably from her first year into her fourth year," said McAlpine. "Switzerland's known for their goaltending and she absolutely filled that role for us.
"I really do wish the best for Sandy in going back home and making a push to make the Swiss national team and maybe the next Olympics. If she does, she might just see her old coach in the stands."
Reimer became the Griffins' captain this season, providing leadership in the dressing room, while serving as a defensive rock on the blueline. The two-time ACAC all-star from Winnipeg started her university career in the then-CIS with the U of A Pandas before joining MacEwan.
"Transferring from a program I came from, I was really excited to have Nikki," said McAlpine. "Howie (Draper) and I have similar coaching philosophies, so I think the transition was quite seamless for her.
"The thing that we're going to miss most from Nikki is her innate competitiveness. Nikki's desire to win is amongst the highest that I've ever coached at the female level. With that come that feisty personality and attitude. Nikki practices and plays the same way: she hates to lose any drill as much as she hates to lose in a game."
Nikki Reimer leaves a legacy of competitiveness in games and practices that the younger players in the program can look up to (Matthew Jacula photo).
Beazer has not only been one of the Griffins' top forwards throughout her career, she has doubled as the team's carpenter.
"Raven's been a quiet impact player since the day she came – an underrated player out of midget who I think continues to be an underrated player in our league now," said McAlpine. "She definitely puts up points for us but does a lot of things really well. Raven is a player we look to offensively but plays our systematic team game so well.
"I always talk about our girls outside the rink and if I was broken down with a flat tire at 3 a.m., Raven would be my first call," added the coach. "Raven would come and fix my tire and save the day. Without question, she'd answer that phone call.
"Little things – she made our entire team skate rack that we use for sharpening. She had to cut everyone's stick with a power saw because nobody else knows how to use it. She does a ton of little things off the ice that we won't know how much we miss them until we don't have them anymore."
Raven Beazer's two-way play on the ice has helped the Griffins win two-straight championships (Matthew Jacula photo).
Shwetz is the last sister of four from the Waskatenau, Alta. family to play for the Griffins. Shanya graduated last season, while older sisters Seyara (2006-09) and Kanesa (2006-08) previously played for MacEwan. Katresa Shwetz hasn't played a ton over her five-year career with the Griffins, but her legacy is the example she has set by always working hard when a spot in the lineup was unlikely.
"She has had amongst the least amount of ice time of anyone in five years, which you can look at as being frustrating for her," said McAlpine. "But I think most players in her situation would have walked away from the role she's playing. Kat embraces it like nobody I've ever coached before. I don't think Kat has ever missed a practice in her five seasons. She comes every single day knowing her chance to get into the lineup is very slim. With that, she does it with a smile on her face.
"She's in the community regularly for us and continues to be a proud member of the Griffins program, regardless of the role she plays. When you speak of players having to play hard roles, Kat exemplifies that like nobody else on our team."
Of course, Saturday won't the final hurrah for the five seniors as the Griffins will head into the first round of the playoffs Feb. 28 to March 3 in a best-of-three series against Red Deer College (exact dates and times TBA). If they manage to get past the Queens, they would have a chance to defend the title they've won the past two seasons in a best-of-five final starting on the March 8-9 weekend against the winner of NAIT and either Olds or SAIT.