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Brielle Bellerive

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Brielle Bellerive on Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds season continues tonight as they take on the Calgary Dinos in Canada West action. UBC opened the campaign with a 5-4 loss, and a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Bisons last weekend. The Thunderbirds will be looking for more consistency, chemistry, and a quick start from the opening whistle against Calgary.

There’s always going to be an adjustment period with the addition of seven new players. Moving players around who can fit into specific roles on the team isn’t going to be solved overnight. Coach Graham Thomas, and his staff are working to make sure players are in the best position possible to be able to contribute to the team.

One of the newest Thunderbirds is, Brielle Bellerive. The North Vancouver native, is in her first season with UBC after transferring over from Clarkson University. After playing three seasons in the NCAA, Bellerive was looking for a fresh new environment, and she knew that UBC could offer that.

“I was just really losing the love for the game,” Bellerive admitted. “It wasn’t the best environment for me there. This was such a great opportunity for me. I’d played under Dom (Assistant Coach, Dom DiRocco) and Graham (Coach Thomas) already. It’s nice to be at home, I haven’t lived at home in six years.”

What type of player do the UBC Thunderbirds have in Brielle Bellerive?

“I think a two-way forward, a bit of a power forward,” said Bellerive. “I’m still finding myself. New team, new role.”

The Thunderbirds will be hoping that Bellerive can thrive while playing in her own backyard. She’s still waiting for her first UBC goal, but she’s already picked up a pair of assists. While her on ice role is still to be determined, Coach Thomas sees a terrific hockey player with a speed, skill, size, and a strong work ethic.

“She’s a humble kid,” revealed Thomas. “I think the indications show in the first part of the year, she’s going to be a player that can play in any role. We use her in PK (penalty killing) already, lots, but also on the power play. Kind of being well-rounded and can play defence and offence. She has a great shot. She has the potential to score.”


UBC Thunderbirds forward, Brielle Bellerive. Photo Credit: Rich Lam, UBC Athletics.

Bellerive comes from a family that has always loved playing hockey.

“I have two brothers that play,” Bellerive said. “I wanted to take after them, seeing as it was such a family sport. I’ve always played forward, and it’s definitely competitive in my family, we’re all forwards. Growing up, we always wanted to do better than each other, while supporting each other.”

Younger brother Jordan Bellerive signed a three-year-entry level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in September. He attended training camp, and is now in his third season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. Older brother Matt Bellerive, played for the Vancouver Giants, Red Deer Rebels, Kamloops Blazers, and Mount Royal University.

UBC has no shortage of talented hockey players, it’s more about putting puzzle pieces together, and finding the right combination to get the best out of everyone. Bellerive is going to play a big part in helping the Thunderbirds find success this season.

“She’s a great kid, very humble,” said Coach Thomas. “Works extremely hard, very quiet. Hard to get much out of her. She’s going to be a big presence for us. She competes hard too.”

It’s not easy to find a two-way player that’s defensively responsible, and can pile up the points on offence. When Bellerive and her teammates start clicking, UBC will have another dangerous contributor. Canada West opponents will have another challenge to deal with in shutting down the UBC Thunderbirds.


VANCOUVER, B.C – The Vancouver Canucks season opening home-stand continues tonight as they take on the Winnipeg Jets. The 1-0-1 Canucks will be looking to play more of a physical style against the Jets. Coach Travis Green wants to see his team compete with a higher intensity level, more puck possession, and less softness from his players.

“I thought our intensity level was a little bit lower than the game against Edmonton,” admitted Green. “It wasn’t like we played a terrible hockey game. We’ve got three out of four points in these two games. It’s not a terrible start. I thought our play was a little bit softer than the first game. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Inquiring minds jumped on Green’s comments when he spoke following Wednesday’s practice at UBC. Are the Canucks too soft, do they have the players required to play physical hockey?

“I didn’t say that we were soft physically,” Green, said. “I don’t think we have an overbearingly physical team. Anyone that watches hockey, and knows our team, probably knows that.”

Thomas Vanek is in his first season with the Canucks, and the Austrian winger finds himself playing on the top line with Daniel, and Henrik Sedin. Vanek netted his first goal as a Canuck on Tuesday vs Ottawa. He admits that it will take time to form a team bond.

“I’m new, and there’s a lot of new guys,” Vanek said. “We’re still trying to find our identity and what our game is. Obviously it wasn’t our best one, but still got a point out of it.”

Vanek and the Sedins aren’t going to go out and start throwing thunderous body checks anytime soon. That’s not their style of play, and not what they contribute. As a top line, you want them to have possession in the offensive zone, while creating, and scoring goals. Vanek points out that physical hockey isn’t always about one main statistic.

“I think physical is not just going out there and hitting guys,” Vanek said. “I think physical is having a good stick, taking good angles on guys, and playing a frustrating game.”

It doesn’t take much for Canucks fans to get riled up. Vanek’s hustle, hunger, and intensity has already been questioned. Is he too slow, why doesn’t he bring a maximum effort each game. Vanek committed an unnecessary slashing penalty taking the Canucks off the power play in the first period vs Ottawa.

“Yeah, I don’t think the penalty was much,” Vanek said. “I think I tapped his stick, and I guess that’s a penalty now.”

Henrik is enjoying having Vanek as a line-mate, and he expects chemistry to form as they continue to get familiar with each other. Vanek and the Sedins are terrific in the corners, fantastic passers, and they know how to score from all attacking areas.

“He’s strong, he’s really strong on pucks,” revealed Henrik Sedin. “When he gets the puck, he gives us time to move into areas. We might not be the fastest line on the ice, I think we’ve started good so far. We need to get our power play going, but 5 on 5, its felt good.”

The 33 year-old, is with his 7th NHL organization and he’s played with exceptional hockey players at all of his stops. He knows what it takes to get an offence, and power play going. Vanek admits that there is much more that he can do.

“I mean, it’s early,” said Vanek. “Playing with Hank and Danny, I think we’re getting closer. I think we’re starting to read off each other better, but there’s obviously a lot more to give.”

The Canucks are not built to run teams out of Rogers Arena. They have team toughness, but they won’t be among the league leaders in hits. Moving the puck forward, catching teams on transition, and dominating on special teams is how the Canucks can counter not having a physical team. Games won’t be won on paper.

“Right, exactly,” Vanek agreed. “You can’t look at predictions, I mean obviously you have your four or five teams who are probably better than most teams, but then I think there’s a group of twenty to twenty-five teams who are similar. Like I said, we’re searching for our identity. We feel like we can frustrate teams on most nights, and be in the game.”

The Vancouver Canucks are going to have to grind, and claw their way to a win on most nights. They have skilful, exciting players, and that’s what you can expect to see. As long as they play together as a team, and stick up for each other, you can’t say they’re soft.

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my story on the future Vancouver Whitecaps FC number one goalkeeper.



University of Manitoba Bisons forward, Venla Hovi in Vancouver, B.C. on Friday, October 6, 2017.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The Manitoba Bisons opened their Canada West season on the weekend splitting a pair of road games against the Canada West Champion, UBC Thunderbirds. Coach Jon Rempel has constructed a strong veteran roster that will look to contend for first overall, and hope to advance to the USports Nationals in London, Ontario, next spring.

Forward, Venla Hovi is a big part of the Bisons offence. A two-time Olympian with Team Finland, Hovi decided that she needed a new challenge after the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She took some time, and eventually decided to make the move to Winnipeg, Manitoba to further pursue her education at the University of Manitoba, while also playing hockey.

“I got offers from different universities after the Sochi Olympics,” Hovi said. “Then I had a year off after the Olympics. I kind of figured out that I didn’t want to stay in Finland anymore, and I just needed a change, in terms of playing hockey, and I just ended up here.”

As soon as you watch Hovi, she stands out from the rest of the players on the ice. She has terrific speed, and acceleration you don’t typically see with North American hockey players. Hovi’s vision, closing ability, and creative play-making, make her a special player at both ends of the ice.

“I would say that I’ve always been pretty fast,” Hovi admitted. “I use to play soccer growing up, and tons of other sports, it was my strength. It was for sure in my blood already since I was born, so it’s in genetics. Now that I’m getting older, you have to maintain that speed, and work way more to actually have it, and not to lose it. I do some extra foot work on the ice, and work on my skating technique’s, speed lifting, and things like that.”

Growing up in Tampere, Finland, Hovi started playing hockey when she was four-years old. Her brother played, and she wanted to play as well. Women’s hockey wasn’t as established as it is now. Hovi first played on boys teams, and was able to switch to girls teams when she was a teenager.

Having played club hockey with Ilves, HPK, and KaiPa, and internationally with Finland. The 29 year-old knows all about the differences in speed, physicality, style of play, and tactics between a league like Canada West, and internationally.

“I feel like they’re all a little different,” Hovi said. “Our conference here in Canada, it’s really good, competitive. All the teams are really good. When you go out and play, you really don’t know what the result is going to be. When we go to the international level, playing with Team Finland, the game gets faster, and way more physical. There’s just less time to do anything. It’s definitely another level from playing here in Canada.”

It could be a busy 2017 – 2018 season for Venla Hovi. The Manitoba Bisons are a favourite to battle for the Canada West title, and Hovi could be representing Finland at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Hovi made her debut for her country in 2007. If she is named to Finland’s Olympic roster in December, she would head back for training camp in January, before flying to South Korea to compete at the Olympics in February.

Understandably, Hovi isn’t ready to pack her suitcase, and grab her passport. She’s taking everything in stride as it comes.

“Well, I’m not on the team yet, so I’m not jinxing it,” said a superstitious Hovi. “I don’t think I can tell you how excited I would be. I played in two (Olympics), but then you get to the first one when you’re young, and you don’t really know what to expect. It’s just amazing.”

Team Finland will be in for a battle with Canada, U.S.A., and Russia in Group A. Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, and South Korea make up Group B. Finland will be trying to improve on the bronze medal they won at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“Every team is tough at that level,” said Hovi. “You can’t really go out and play anybody thinking you’re going to win. Every team is tough, and obviously the North American teams are the toughest out of all. That’s who we’re going to challenge.”

Women’s hockey is growing with more popularity, sponsorship, and talent. The opportunity exists to play professionally in the CWHL, NWHL, or Europe. Gone are the days when you would only see top-level hockey every four years at the Olympics. Lopsided scores are no more, and the gap in talent and skill level is quickly closing.

“Women’s hockey historically is pretty young still,” revealed Hovi. “Men’s hockey went down the same path back in the day, a couple of teams were kind of ruling everything. It’s definitely, the gap is getting smaller. We beat Canada last year at the World Championship tournament. It’s going to happen more and more for sure in the future.”

Hovi has one more year of eligibility following this season with the Bisons. She isn’t sure what her future holds. Canada West, CWHL, NWHL, all remain possibilities. Hovi is going to keep her options open, see how this season goes.

“Honestly, my mind is kind of empty right now in terms of my future,” Hovi said. “I’ll go day by day, and try and enjoy the season. We’ll see where I end up.”

The Bisons very own ‘Finnish Flash’ loves playing hockey, and she will likely do so on the biggest stage an athlete can have. Manitoba and Team Finland will hope that she can help them win a gold medal come February and March.