Los Angeles, California – Please visit Red Nation Online for my Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2017 MLS SuperDraft story.

http://www.rednationonline.ca/Articles2016/WhitecapsuseMLSDrafttoreinforcedefense.aspx

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Jake Nerwinski (Left), and Francis de Vries (Right) selected by Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft in Los Angeles, California.

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Los Angeles, California – Please visit Equalizer Soccer for my story on Canada’s three players selected at the 2017 NWSL Draft.

http://equalizersoccer.com/2017/01/12/sheridan-tops-three-canadians-picked-in-nwsl-draft/

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Clemson Tigers goalkeeper, Kailen Sheridan was selected 23rd overall by Sky Blue FC in the 2017 NWSL Draft in Los Angeles, California.

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Los Angeles, California – Please visit Red Nation Online for my feature on U.S. Men’s National Team winger, Kekuta Manneh.

http://www.rednationonline.ca/Articles2016/NewUScitizenMannehdreamingofUSNationalTeam.aspx

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Equalizer Soccer for my story on 2017 NWSL Draft prospect Kailen Sheridan.

http://equalizersoccer.com/2017/01/09/kailen-sheridan-next-in-canadas-keeper-pipeline-nwsl-draft/

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****(Photo by Wilson Wong/UBC Athletics 2015 All Rights Reserved)****

UBC Thunderbirds goalkeeper, Laura Taylor. Photo Credit: UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds will honour the life and memory of Thunderbirds goalkeeper, Laura Taylor on Friday, January 6 prior to puck drop against the visiting Alberta Pandas. Taylor, tragically took her own life last April, just days before her 34th birthday.

Laura Taylor’s number 29 jersey will be retired by the Thunderbirds. The Taylor family will be part of a pre-game ceremony, as well as other on, and off ice components. Guests include UBC President and Vice Chancellor, Dr. Santa Ono, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dermot Kelleher, and UBC Department of Athletics Director, Gord Hopper.

The UBC Thunderbirds family want to shine the spotlight on mental health awareness issues and open a positive dialogue for anyone going through a tough time. The Thunderbirds have reached out to Bell Let’s Talk, and partners on the UBC campus. Coach Graham Thomas wants to remember Laura, and also help to anyone else struggiling.

“The overall goal besides remembering and honouring Laura, is also awareness for mental health,” said Thomas. “Just getting rid of that stigma and getting the awareness out there of starting the conversation. Bell-Let’s-Talk is involved, and there’s a bunch of partners involved on campus with mental health and suicide awareness. It’s obviously a great cause, and we’re getting a lot of athletes, people, and other groups behind it. Hopefully it will be a good turnout and a good event for awareness.”

Anyone who wants to make a donation to help raise awareness for mental health issues will be able to that at booths setup along the main concourse of the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Fans are encouraged to show support by wearing green. The Thunderbirds have also been given the go ahead for a chuck-a-puck fundraiser that will help raise money for mental health issues.

“We’re doing a new draw for all of our home games,” revealed Thomas. “It’s called chuck-a-puck. Fifty percent will go to the winner, and fifty percent of the proceeds in all the games will go to mental health awareness. They’ll have two or three different booths setup at the game, there will be opportunities to donate at the game and contribute to some different charities and foundations.”

People look up to athletes and think they’re invincible, that’s not the case. UBC Thunderbirds captain, Stephanie Schaupmeyer and her teammates have the ability to help raise awareness, and they want to help. A mental health issue can occur with anyone, it’s extremly important to speak openly about it and seek help if you need it.

“I think it’s so huge, especially as athletes,” said Schaupmeyer. “I think sometimes people think, we’re tough, we’re strong, we have our teammates, it doesn’t affect us. I think that couldn’t be more wrong. Mental illnesses aren’t discriminatory, and they aren’t picky about who they choose to trouble people with. I think it’s important that as athletes, we’re speaking up together.”

Laura’s time with the Thunderbirds was memorable. She was a leader and mentor and helped UBC win a silver medal at the 2016 CIS Nationals. Taylor might not have been on the ice for every game, but she was just as hard-working, passionate, and thrilled to be UBC Thunderbird.

“She was so dedicated, she loved hockey, loved the game, very smart, intelligent, caring, and helpful,” said Thomas. “(Laura) was acting in a mentorship role. She was going to be a neurosurgeon. As an older mature person, that’s the way she came in and that was her role and what she played into right away. She didn’t inform anybody about what she had gone through in her past, and what she was dealing with, which is the unfortunate part of the help piece. She was just so caring and giving, and thinking about others. We will always remember, appreciate, and respect that.”

When UBC looks to add to a fourteen game winning streak vs Alberta. They will no doubt have Laura cheering them on and supporting them from a far better place. That’s just the way Laura was with her teammates, excited, and ready for the next big team adventure.

“Laura was the kind of person that would light up a room when she walked in, said Schaupmeyer. “She had this insanely big contagious smile. She always had her phone out to document what was going on. She just loved being a part of the team, and we loved having her as part of the team. She will always be part of the team.”

http://memorial.supporting.ubc.ca/laura-taylor/

Notes: #BellLetsTalk day is Wednesday, January 25, 2017.

 

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Equalizer Soccer for my story on the NWSL possibly coming to Canada.

http://equalizersoccer.com/2017/01/04/nwsl-to-vancouver-its-a-definite-maybe/

 

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UBC Thunderbirds Mairead Bast following practice on Thursday, December 8.

UBC Thunderbirds Mairead Bast following practice on Thursday, December 8.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are lighting up Canada West competition thanks to an impressive 15-1 record and a fourteen game winning streak. UBC has rippled the net with a high regularity of goals, and defended with astute defensive structure, and excellent goaltending. UBC is scoring an average of 3.75 goals per game, and have allowed the fewest goals, 25 this season. The Thunderbirds have scored 60 goals with the power play accounting for 20 goals scored.

One particular asset to the UBC power play has been rookie defender, Mairead Bast. Not only has she added a pile of goals and assists, but she has stepped up and delivered an equally impressive display on the UBC back-end.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” said Bast. “The girls are amazing. I find it awesome that when we win, we celebrate in the moment, but we know what we have to do the next day. We never take it for granted, we just keep working every single day. Our practices are always hard.”

In 15 games, Bast has scored 5 goals, to go with her 8 assists. The power play has proven to be her bread and butter with 11 points coming when UBC has the man-advantage. The Bast blast from the point has her tied for first in Canada West power play goals with five. Bast is also tied for first in points by a defender with UBC teammate, Kelly Murray. The potent UBC power play has been a surprise for Bast who hasn’t always been a power play specialist.

“I’ve been pretty defensive and offensive,” admitted Bast. “This year, more offensive than I ever have been before. I think I owe it to the girls, they’re a great group and our power play has really been working for us. We’ve been working on it for a while now, and being able to capitalize on the opportunities when we have those chances are key in games. Ultimately, speciality teams do win championships.”

What’s been the big factor in the UBC power play success, and the lethal Bast blast from the point?

“I don’t think there is a key,” revealed a modest Bast. “I think it’s just staying focused and owing it to the girls. They make it so easy for me to play, and I hope that I make it easy for them to play. Ultimately we work as team, and getting those goals are big. It’s a team, we support each other, and the power play is key.”

The UBC Thunderbirds listening to Coach Graham Thomas as he share practice drills on Thursday, December 8.

The UBC Thunderbirds listening to Coach Graham Thomas during practice on Thursday, December 8.

The Red Deer, Alberta native, has shown her true grit, and character during the last month. We often hear about the tough Canadian hockey player mentality. Playing through pain, not missing a shift, and contributing despite an injury. On Wednesday, November 9, Bast had an unfortunate incident at practice. A drill was taking place with the hockey nets off to the side. Without seeing the moved nets, a crash occurred.

“You know what, I was not looking, I wasn’t really paying attention,” said Bast when asked about her collision with the hockey nets at practice. “I was reaching to get a puck behind me, from Hannah (Clayton-Carroll). I just dove right into the net, and I hurt my wrist.”

The diagnosis was a TFCC tear (Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex). In layman’s terms, Bast sustained a cartilage tear above her smallest finger (pinky), on her right wrist. She only missed one game. Bast made her return to the UBC lineup on Saturday, November 19 against the Regina Cougars.

“The wrist is getting better,” said Bast. “It’s still not one hundred percent, but it is getting better. The break will be good for it, just to let it rest a little bit. I have been playing through it. It’s a TFCC tear, so I tore some cartilage.”

The 18 year-old defender will be looking forward to healing her wrist during the Christmas break. The Thunderbirds will continue to hold sporadic practices next week, but the heavy lifting has concluded for the first half of the season.

Bast will also look to spend some quality time with family and friends. The Bast family have hockey in their blood, father, Tom Bast, was also quite the scoring machine. Bast put up 272 points in 271 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers. The hockey genes clearly run in the family with her brothers lacing up the skates as well.

“I have two brothers and a sister,” revealed a proud Mairead Bast. “My sister never played hockey, both my brothers do play hockey. My older brother (Gabe) plays in Pentiction for the Vees, and my younger brother (Luke) plays midget hockey in Red Deer. Red Deer is a very hometown hockey feel. When there’s a game, everyone is there. My dad (Tom) he played hockey, he’s been a really big supporter, and I look up to him. In the sense that he was a great hockey player. He always tells us that hockey is a privilege, not a right. Being able to learn from him, and my brothers has been key.”

The USports number one ranked Thunderbirds will use the Christmas and exam break to rest up with several players nursing injuries. The action on the ice returns on Friday, January 6 vs Alberta. Bast will look to recover from her wrist injury, and the Pandas will look to stop any Bast blasts from the point.