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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Krzyzaniak skates into Sun's spotlight

Halli Krzyzaniak has been named the winner of the 2013 H.L. (Krug) Crawford award

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Halli Krzyzaniak has been named the winner of the 2013 H.L. (Krug) Crawford award

It’s pretty tough to top winning a world championship.

But for Neepawa’s Halli Krzyzaniak, that feat may not have even been the highlight of her year.

To be clear, the 2013 world women’s under-18 hockey championship in January was a major thrill for Krzyzaniak, as she helped Canada win gold for the second straight year and was named the tournament’s top defenceman. To top that off, she was invited to try out for the national under-22 development team in August and made the cut to join Canada’s 2014 Olympic hopefuls for a trio of exhibition games.

Now enjoying an excellent freshman season with the University of North Dakota’s women’s hockey team, Krzyzaniak is the recipient of the Brandon Sun’s 2013 H.L. (Krug) Crawford Memorial Award, recognizing sporting excellence in Westman.

"It’s definitely been crazy; I can’t even describe it," Krzyzaniak said of her year. "I mean, going to worlds, winning the second world championship, being named top defenceman, that was crazy. I can’t even describe how amazing that was to be able to contribute like that. And then this summer, being able to skate with some of my heroes growing up was definitely a great experience and it helped my growth a lot."

In hindsight, it was almost inevitable that Krzyzaniak would wind up making her mark on the blue-line. Her older brother, Kyle, played defence in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the Neepawa Natives, Dauphin Kings and Portage Terriers, and logged time in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Spokane Chiefs. Her younger sister, Abby, is playing Midget AAA hockey with the Yellowhead Chiefs as a bantam-aged player and will compete for Parkland in the Manitoba Winter Games in March.

"It runs in the family," Krzyzaniak said of the predisposition for defence.

"My dad has always been a skating coach and we were always the best backwards skaters, so naturally at a young age you kind of get put back there, and then it just kind of fit."

Krzyzaniak came into 2013 with plenty of momentum. She agreed to a full scholarship at UND and led Manitoba to its best-ever finish in the Canadian under-18 championship in November 2012, being named the tournament’s most valuable player and top defenceman despite her team’s loss to an Ontario squad in the final.

A second-year member of the national U18 team, she was cast in a leadership role by Team Canada two months later as an alternate captain for the worlds in Finland. Playing on a team that also included Ashleigh Brykaliuk of Brandon and Cassidy Carels of Bruxelles, Krzyzaniak scored two goals and added five assists to lead the gold-medal winning Canadians with seven points in the championship and was named to the tournament all-star team.

Krzyzaniak capped her winter season in February by scoring the only goal of the third-place game and being named the tournament’s top defenceman as her Pursuit of Excellence team, based out of Kelowna, B.C., won bronze at the inaugural Female World Sport School Challenge in Winnipeg. She then took her next step with the national program in August. As one of only 13 players to advance past the under-22 development team camp out of the 40 who took part — and the youngest skater to do so — she soon found herself on the ice with some legends of Canadian hockey, teaming up with the likes of Hayley Wickenheiser and Caroline Ouellette to help their squad win the Red-White intrasquad series.

"At first it was kind of like a dream," she said. "You’re kind of unsure what you’re supposed to be doing, how you fit in, and then you realize they’re just like you are. I mean, they’re obviously a bit older and a bit more experienced, but they’re still hockey players and you have to treat them the same as you would treat any other teammate. They were very welcoming and accepting of us."

Krzyzaniak hopes to be welcomed into the women’s national team program as a full-fledged member before long, with her eye on representing Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"Halli’s done a lot so far in her short career," said Mel Davidson, Hockey Canada’s general manager of national women’s team programs. "… Her goal would be to work towards playing on the senior team in the next four years, between the end of Sochi and Korea. That would definitely be a realistic goal, and something that I know she’s working towards."

But 2018 is still a long way away for Krzyzaniak. For now, she’s focused primarily on her first season at hockey-mad UND, a school with a storied men’s program that is still looking for its first women’s national title. They’re on the right track as the fourth-ranked NCAA Division I team has a 12-4-2 overall record. Krzyzaniak has played in all 18 games, with a goal and five assists, and her plus/minus of +12 is tied for ninth among NCAA freshmen and tied for 15th among all defencemen.

"I’m definitely super-happy," Krzyzaniak said. "This is the best first half UND has ever had as a program, and I really think that the team’s been gelling really well. And I’m just very happy that I can play a small part in that."

» rhenders@brandonsun.com

RUNNERS-UP

From a fabulous field of 16 finalists for the Brandon Sun’s 56th annual H.L. (Krug) Crawford Award, two runners-up stood out:

LISA BARCLAY

(Women’s Volleyball)

The 2009 Krug Crawford Award winner, Barclay’s big season was highlighted by being named a first-team all-Canadian and the most valuable player for the second straight season while leading the UBC Thunderbirds to a record-tying sixth straight CIS women’s volleyball title.

A 6-foot-2 left-side player out of Crocus Plains, Barclay is also a member of Canada’s senior women’s team and competed in the World University Games, Pan-Am Cup and the NORCECA championship.

The 21-year-old Brandonite leads the country in kills (185), kills per set (4.30) and points (216.5) this season.

SAM TUIVAI

(Men’s Volleyball)

The 24-year-old New Zealand native led the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team to its first Canada West conference title and a bronze medal at nationals in Quebec City where he was named a second-team CIS all-Canadian.

The 6-foot-4 left-side player led the conference with 4.34 kills per set and 4.89 points per set last season. Tuivai was named to the tournament all-star team at nationals and capped his 2012-13 campaign by being named BU’s male athlete of the year and team MVP.

This season, Tuivai is scoring a little less — averaging 3.54 kills per set — but his attack efficiency has improved from .222 to .246 for the Bobcats, who are ranked fifth in the country and have a 7-5 record at the Christmas break.

» Brandon Sun

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 2, 2014

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It’s pretty tough to top winning a world championship.

But for Neepawa’s Halli Krzyzaniak, that feat may not have even been the highlight of her year.

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It’s pretty tough to top winning a world championship.

But for Neepawa’s Halli Krzyzaniak, that feat may not have even been the highlight of her year.

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