The Ooks female hockey team is in a transitioning season with nearly half the roster and the entire coaching staff being new. Former head coach, Deanna Iwanicka, is out and new head coach, Stef Thomson is in and ready for a fresh start.
Iwanicka left behind a 10-year legacy, highlighted by three ACAC championships and two Coach of the year awards. Iwanicka will continue to coach in the USport league as she signed on to be the new head coach for the University of Windsor.
New head coach Thomson comes from Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire. There she honed her skills as an assistant coach teaching defense. Thompson is super excited about coming back to coach in Canada, where her first job as a head coach was at Trinity College in Toronto.
“These opportunities don’t just pop up on a regular basis and when they happen, they happen. It’s either I don’t take it, and just continue whatever I’m doing or I take a big risk, and I go for it,” said Thomson when she was asked why she took this position.
She is also aware of the newness of the team this year and “right now, it’s so tough because, with such a quick turnaround and so many new players, we just have to get back to basics,” she said about rebooting the women’s program
“There is zero reason why we can’t win a championship. Our culture is going in a direction where we’re going to be invincible.”
The Ooks have a new assistant coach as well – Jason Stephens, who has only ever coached men’s hockey but after being begged by Iwanicka to come coach the female program at NAIT, he took the plunge and committed to coaching, only to realize that she wouldn’t be around this season to coach with him.
Nevertheless, Jason is loving everything about the program so far and is quite excited for the upcoming season. “I love it, to be honest, It’s so different and a lot of fun and I can’t get over how quickly they pick up and learn the concepts. It’s definitely different than the guys game.”
Despite the quick turnaround of the coaching staff, Thomson and Stephens are working as a team to get everything ready for the upcoming season.
As much as Iwanicka’s legacy was momentous to the program and she built it into what it is today, players are also excited for the change in coaching staff and what the new coach will bring to the table.
“Right away she was super outgoing and definitely very personable,” Carlin Boey, a fifth-year player, said. “She’s very approachable and since she recently played college hockey, she can relate to us in a way we didn’t have before.”
Third-year Brittney Savard agrees; “Stef is very personable, she gets on your level and it’s a little easier to relate to her. There’s a lot of change but I think it’s a good change,” said Savard.
– Moira Bryan