Doing her best to save the day

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Lisa Urban was solid in net for the struggling Cougars women’s hockey team this season

Jonathan Hamelin
Sports Editor

The first goal Lisa Urban allowed this season was a memorable one.

The University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey starting goaltender was in net as the Cougars battled the visiting Calgary Dinos in their Canada West season opener in October. Besides the excitement of a new season getting underway, there was a buzz in the Co-operators Centre due to the debut of Hayley Wickenheiser. Wickenheiser, the legendary Canadian women’s hockey player, had made the decision to come back to school and play hockey for the Dinos at the age of 32.

Well, it didn’t take Wickenheiser long to introduce herself to Urban. A little less than nine minutes into the first period, Wickenheiser netted the first goal of the game and her first in the CIS on the powerplay. It’s not every day a player gets scored on by an icon they have watched growing up, especially one who has picked up three gold and one silver Winter Olympic medals, while being named the tournament most valuable player twice.

“I wouldn’t exactly consider it a special moment,” said a chuckling Urban, whose Cougars were swept by the visiting Alberta Pandas (16-3-3) last weekend. “It was strange to look up and see a national team player shooting on me. She’s definitely made a huge impact on that team.”

Bittersweet moments like those ones have really defined the season for Urban. While the fourth-year kinesiology and health studies student has played brilliantly at times, it has often been in a losing cause. Urban’s play was simply not enough to save the season for Regina. At 7-13-2, the Cougars have been eliminated from post-season contention.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” said Urban, who was born in Edmonton and played with the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League’s Edmonton Thunder before joining the Cougars. “Our team should have had a better fate. I think there are a lot of things that contributed to that. Some games sort of got taken away from us because of things we can’t control, like the refs.  It’s not what we wanted to happen.”

Urban’s numbers this season have not been exactly glamorous. She has posted a 3-6-0 record, with a 4.09 goals-against average and a .876 save percentage. Yet, Cougars head coach Sarah Hodges is still confident in her goaltender’s abilities. Before the season started, Hodges revealed that she felt Urban was one of the best goalies in the conference, if not the entire country.

“I stand by that assessment,” said Hodges. “She’s had some ups and downs this season, but overall I think she is capable of being one of the top goalies in our league.”

Urban appreciates the sentiments.

“That’s really flattering that she said that,” said Urban, referring to the best goaltender in the conference/country comment. “I think, just like any other goalie, I need to work at it every single practice and game. I think I have potential to be one of the best, but I don’t like to let things like that get to my head.

”Two factors that very well could have contributed to Urban’s so-so numbers so far this season are pressure and minutes played. Pressure-wise, Urban has had to deal with nearly 30 shots a game, making 577 saves (second in the CIS) in the process. Shaky play by the defence has not helped her out in this department. Time-wise, Urban has started 21 games (first in the CIS), racking up 1,203 minutes (third in the CIS). The fact that the Cougars have an inexperienced backup in rookie Morgan Cooper has made it necessary for Urban to play more often.

There are certainly bigger factors than goaltending that have contributed to Regina’s struggles this season. The offence, for example, put up 19 points in the first six games and has proceeded to register only 25 in the 17 games that have followed. Regina started off the season with a 4-1-1 record before submerging into an epic freefall.

The point is, while there are definitely areas on the Cougars roster you could point fingers at, Urban should not be one of them.

“Her numbers don’t really matter,” said Hodges. “She’s been solid for most of the season. As a goaltender, she is very quick and can get herself in position to make stops all the time. Because she’s in good position, she has pretty good rebound control. Mentally, she is a pretty strong person as well. She’s always had very good maturity from her first year and on.”

It is not hard to see why Hodges would have the utmost faith in Urban. After all, Urban has been the starting goaltender for Regina most of the time she has been with the squad. In Urban’s first season back in 2007-08, she took over as the starting goalie after the midway point of the season. Amazingly, Urban went on to sport a 4-5 record in 10 games played, with a 1.76 GAA (second-lowest in U of R history), a .927 save percentage and one shutout. Urban notes she “surprised herself and had an amazing season.” Since then, Urban has continued to be the team’s starting goaltender and has logged a lot of playing time.

Entering her last campaign with Regina next season, Urban will continue to be a player the Cougars need to rely on, especially if they hope to improve. There will be pressure on Urban to perform at her highest.

“I don’t mind the pressure,” she said. “I feel I have the ability to steal games for our team and I expect that of myself every single game. I look forward to the challenge of being that goalie that can pull out wins for our team.”

While Regina was swept last weekend by Alberta, it was another set of solid outings for Urban, who made a total of 68 saves. In Friday’s 3-1 loss, Urban turned 39 shots. Stefanie Banilevic tallied the lone goal for the Cougars. Urban made 29 more saves on Saturday, as Alberta triumphed 6-2. Rianne Wight and Kendra Finch scored for Regina.

The Cougars finish off their season this weekend on the road against the Lethbridge Pronghorns (4-15-3).

Strong effort in a losing cause
 
Jan. 7/11 at Saskatchewan
Urban made 41 saves
Regina lost 2-1
 
Feb. 4/11 vs. Alberta
Urban made 39 saves
Regina lost 3-1
 
Nov. 27/10 at Calgary
Urban made 31 saves
Regina lost 7-3
 
Feb. 5/11 vs. Alberta
Urban made 29 saves
Regina lost 6-2

Nov. 19/10 vs. Lethbridge
Urban made 29 saves
Regina lost 4-3 in overtime

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