Kelowna Minor Hockey product Sarah Casorso says she has never had this much fun in the game of hockey.
Casorso, now 20 and in her third season with the UBC Thunderbids female hockey team, is in Regina this weekend with the rest of the T-Birds as they will play the University of Regina Cougars in a Canada West semi-final playoff series with a trip to the Canadian national championships on the line.
“It’s just been exciting,” she said from Regina after flying to Saskatchewan to prepare for the best-of-three series. “This whole year has been such an amazing ride, coming off a year where we only had one win.”
It has been a season of firsts for the female hockey program at UBC. The team not only made the playoffs for the first time in four years, it won its first ever CIS playoff series with a two games to nothing victory last weekend over Manitoba. Casorso had a three point weekend for the T-Birds who have turned its program around this season, Casorso’s third year at UBC.
“We have an excellent coach this year who has turned the program around,” she said. “Everything from our systems to our overall atmosphere. He motivates us every day to work hard. I think the biggest thing is fun. Everyone is finally having fun on this team and that is playing into our success.”
Casorso teams with fellow Kelowna player Christi Capozzi on a blueline tandem that has been together since the days of Kelowna Minor Hockey. Rookie Stepahnie Schaupmeyer, also of Kelowna, gives the Thunderbirds an Okanagan flavour and she is coming off a four point weekend last weekend.
The match-up against the University of Regina is an even one with Regina finishing the season just a point ahead of UBC, giving them the right to host this weekend’s semi-final playoff match-up.
This year Canada West will receive two berths into the CIS female hockey championship, meaning the winner of this weekend’s semi finals (University of Alberta and the University of Calgary play the other) will qualify for the CIS championship.
For now though Casorso and the rest of the UBC club are focussed on trying to get past Regina.
“We’re very evenly matched, both very skilled and fast teams,” she said of the match-up. “I can’t say anything bad about them. They are very hard working but I definitely have no doubt in my mind that we can do this if we keep playing like we can.”
After two seasons where Casorso saw her team struggle, she also saw her love of the game of hockey dwindle. But this year has turned things around, not only for the entire UBC team but also for the Kelowna product, in her third year studying the arts at UBC.
“This is nothing like I have really experienced in my career,” she said. “I’ve never been so in love with the game as I am right now. I think about it all the time. It’s been crazy how this year has really changed my view on hockey and made me realize just how important it is to me.”
You can watch the UBC and U of Regina series on Canada West TV online at www.canadawest.tv.