Sitting down in the CITR 101.9 studio, veteran UBC women’s hockey players Mikayla Ogrodniczuk and Tory Micklash reflect on their decision to come to UBC and play for the Thunderbirds.
For Ogrodniczuk the choice was straight forward, admitting “for [her], it was a really easy choice because I actually grew up down the street.”
“I grew up watching the girls in blue and gold and that was kind of the biggest dream I had was to wear the Thunderbird [jersey] when I was older. When I had the chance to play here. I took it really fast.”
Micklash’s path to becoming a goalie was more or less direct, with multiple members of her family having also played the same position.
“My dad was a goalie and so was my grandpa,” she said, “so, I kind of just followed their footsteps.”
But her journey to UBC was not a matter of heading down the street like Ogrodniczuk. Instead she came from a much chillier backyard: East Saint Paul, Manitoba. “[I’m] not missing those cold Manitoba winters. [Vancouver is] just a really, really good environment. It’s a very cool city to experience and I’m definitely happy I made this choice.”
Both women are well into their UBC varsity careers, with Ogrodniczuk reflecting that “five years is a long time when you think about it.” In those five years, she noted that winning the Canada West title in her first year being one of the highlights of her hockey career so far.
“Personally, I’ve gotten the chance to go to two national championships as well as win two Can West titles, which has been really cool. We went on the longest win streak in program history at one point … we’ve had so many good times at the rink and outside of the rink as well.”
Stepping away from competition, Micklash also listed teammates and the friendships forged over her four years as some of the highlights.
“I don’t know if all the rink memories are allowed to be mentioned,” she said. “There’s a really good group of girls that we’re surrounded by every day so really good friendships have come of it and a lot of fun things to reminisce about.”
While Micklash discussed her friendships, she remained humble and didn’t mention her personal milestones at UBC. She broke the program record for wins and shutouts, as she faced a whopping a combined 121 shots through two rounds of Canada West playoffs against the University of Alberta Pandas and University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Veteran roles and this Season
This season, the T-Birds went 15–16–4 overall in Canada West. Going on a winning streak in the fall before hitting a slump throughout much of the second season, the Thunderbirds managed to make the playoffs.
They pulled two incredible overtime upsets against the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West quarterfinals. It was in the semifinals that the Thunderbirds’ dramatic season was put to a close end by the Pandas.
“I would say this is probably the most up and down season we’ve ever had so to go into playoffs and really start to find our groove and come out on top was exactly what we needed,” Micklash said in reference to the success found in the first round of the playoffs against the Huskies.
With years of combined experience between the two women, they were open about discussing what it means to step into the role as veteran. Both tackled it in a similar way, feeling that the best way to lead is by example.
“I just try to lead by example on the ice and just perform my best every day,” Micklash said.
The leadership values do not stop when the final buzzer goes off.
Ogrodniczuk is a developer of the BC Athletes Hub, an online mental health resource specifically for UBC athletes. The resource is the first of its kind in Canada that tries to support the mental health needs of student athletes, coaches and trainers.
“That came about after my first year, we had [lost] our teammate Laura Taylor,” she said about the origin of this resource. “So, I went looking to see what resources were available to student athletes who were struggling. And at that point in time, it was really confusing and difficult to find resources on campus.”
Modelled after the Athletes Connected program at the University of Michigan, UBC Athletes Hub works to increase awareness of mental health issues and create easy access for those who need them.
When asked about the feedback that she has received about the program Ogrodniczuk says that it has been very positive.
“The fact that she was even able to find the time or the energy or the mental capacity to put something together like that is speaks to her dedication, what a remarkable person she is,” Micklash said.
Along with UBC Athletes Hub, Ogrodniczuk made an impact last season off the ice.
Last year at playoff time, both the men and women’s hockey teams clinched a playoff spot. The women’s team clinched first and with higher ranking. The women's team was told they'd be swapping with the men's team to the earlier time slot. Frustrated, Ogrodniczuk tweeted:
The winds of change ripped in quickly following the tweet, with a new policy being put in place.
“When two teams are at home, it’s not automatically giving the men the better time slot … quite a few schools across the country ended up taking action right away and gave their women’s hockey team the preferred time slot,” Ogrodniczuk added.
This article is part of a new collaborative series with the CITR 101.9 Sports Collective, the full-length interview by Jake McGrail and Nico Roselli with Ogrodniczuk and Micklash can be heard at https://www.citr.ca/radio/thunderbird-eye/episodes/