With a fuller trophy case and a huge amount of confidence, Sydney Mercier is ready to take to the ice for her second season with the Dinos women’s hockey team. It’s a completely different scenario from the one the reigning U SPORTS and Canada West Rookie of the Year faced just two years ago.
Mercier’s debut season with the Dinos ended before it could even begin when she fell awkwardly along the boards during an exhibition game against Mount Royal University.
“One player skated across my forearm, which lacerated my arm down to the bone and cut the tendons in my arm,” recalls the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies student.
The injury led to next-day surgery and an absence from the team until January. Undeterred, Mercier wanted to make her debut with the team that January, but ultimately decided to wait until the start of the 2022-2023 season. Despite missing an entire year, Mercier says she put some pressure on herself to excel, as she had been performing well in exhibitions before her injury.
“I think my start was a little shaky as I tried to get my confidence back because when I went to battle for the puck, I was still a little on edge about the same thing happening again,” she explains. “But as the season went on my confidence came back and I was having fun again.”
Ultimately, Mercier would play in all 30 regular season and playoff games for the Dinos, tallying nine goals and 15 assists. Despite those strong numbers, Mercier admits she was still surprised to win the U SPORTS award.
This season, Mercier wants to keep her momentum going and keep her confidence as high as it was at the end of last year’s playoffs. She hopes the team, which finished fourth in Canada West and bowed out to the University of Saskatchewan in the quarter finals, can continue to progress.
“We have a good, young roster this year which I think can make it far,” she says.
The team will look to do this with some fresh faces behind the bench, as some of last year’s coaches received some exciting opportunities in the newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). Emily Clark and Blayre Turnbull, Canadian national team players and part-time assistant coaches with the Dinos last year, signed contracts to play with the PWHL teams in Ottawa and Toronto respectively.
“It’s really cool to see Blayre and Emily sign,” says Mercier. “It was super fun having them on the ice and bench to get their perspective and how they see things.”
Carla MacLeod, the Dinos head coach, was appointed as the first head coach for PWHL Ottawa, meaning associate coach Josh Gosling will step up into the top job for this season.
“With Carla, it was unexpected for us, but it makes a lot of sense,” says Mercier. “I’m super happy for her, but she’ll be missed for sure.”
As players, Mercier says the new league presents new paths to continue playing after university.
“Mostly we’d have to go overseas to Sweden or Switzerland to keep playing,” she says. “I think having the option to stay in Canada and pursue what we’ve always wanted to is huge for us.”