Sanford netminder named Canada West Goaltender of the Year


Halle Oswald has reached a level in her hockey career that many would aspire to but few are able to reach.

Last month, the 23-year-old athlete from Sanford was honoured as the Canada West goaltender of the year and a first-team all-star. The numbers confirmed that designation.

In 2022-23, Oswald led the conference with six shutouts while posting an 18-5-1 record.

Her 1.19 goals-against average and 0.942 save percentage were both second in the conference.

After a superb regular season, the fourth-year member of the University of Alberta Pandas now holds top spot in the Canada West record book with a career goals-against average of 1.107.

Her .943 career save percentage ranks second all-time.

“I’ve definitely grown as a player since I’ve got here,” said Oswald, via phone Thursday. “The girls pushed me in practice all the time. We have a great goalie coach. I think it’s really just my competitive nature that I want to get better and better every day, and this year I came into a big role and a lot of tight battles.”

For all her success thus far, a national championship has eluded her.

The Pandas won Canada West but were eliminated in the national semifinals in 2018-19, her first season, and they had qualified for nationals in her second year before it was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire 2020-21 was shelved due to the pandemic.

Last month, Alberta’s hopes of a return to the big dance were snuffed out by a loss to the Mount Royal Cougars in the Canada West semifinals.

Mount Royal clinched the best-of-three series with a 2-1 win in Game 3, but Oswald gave up only four goals in the series.

“It was definitely not the result we hoped for,” she said. “It was a tight-fought series, kind of a defensive battle and so we have some unfinished business for sure. We’ll start building right away.”

Pandas head coach Howie Draper said the Pembina Valley Hawks grad has come a long way in four years, pointing to Oswald’s improved training methods and her acceptance of the demands of being a high-performance athlete.

“I think at the start of her career, she wasn’t as open to some of the pointers that our goalie coaches felt that she could use,” said Draper, named Canada West coach of the year last month. “But over time, we all mature and we all recognize that in order to to advance and take our game to another level we have to be open to input.

“And, and I think she really started to embrace that.”

The Pandas, with 17 first- and second-year players on the roster in 2022-23, have a lot to look forward to, with the entire roster expected to return — including Manitobans such as Abbey Bourdeaud’hui of La Salle and Winnipeggers Reagan Yewdall, Danica Namaka and Maia Ehmann — in fall.

Oswald is graduating this spring with a psychology degree but plans to return to school for one final push for a national crown. After that, another shot at a tryout with Hockey Canada and a pro career, possibly in Europe, are on her to-do list.

“We have all of our players returning and we had a relatively young group so I think things are quite optimistic,” said Draper. “I mean, we have to keep improving. Everybody’s getting better in our league it seems from year to year, so the job doesn’t get any easier advancing beyond Canada West and going to nationals, but I think it’s very promising.”

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Mike Sawatzky