The final countdown


Fifth-year defenceman Stephanie Banilevic hopes for a strong finish in 2012

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

During the past five years, the University of Regina women’s hockey team has been able to count on Stephanie Banilevic to stay calm and anchor the defence, but that time is coming to an end.

Banilevic is one of just two players on the women’s hockey team currently in her final year of eligibility with the Cougars. While many players do not end up playing a full five years of CIS hockey, Banilevic’s passion for competition has kept her looking forward to every hockey season.

“What has kept me coming back year after year, are two main things,” Banilevic said. “The first I’d have to say is the love for the game; playing a CIS sport is a huge commitment and you need to be willing to put your whole heart into it. The second would be my teammates and all the great friends I have made; they are what keeps you going and makes everything worth it.”

Throughout her five years on the squad, Banilevic has admittedly made amazing memories that she will take pride in for years to come – so many memories, in fact, that choosing a favourite is nearly impossible.

“To name one would be way too hard, as I have so many great memories,” she said. “If I had to sum up one favourite memory it would have to be all the time spent with the girls and the lifelong memories that we have created just by being in the dressing room together.”

One memory Banilevic will be able to tell her kids about will be defending against one of the best female hockey players and captain of Canada’s Olympic gold medal team in 2010: Hayley Wickenheiser. With Wickenheiser now a member of the Calgary Dinos, Banilevic admits the task of defending the world-class player is a challenging one.

“As a defenceman, you always have to be aware of where she is on the ice, because she is obviously a very strong and competitive hockey player,” Banilevic said. “Hayley Wickenheiser is someone that every female hockey player idolized when they were growing up, so having the opportunity to compete against arguably the best female player in Canada is a pretty cool experience.”

While a championship title would be the ideal way to go out on her final season, Banilevic has one goal for this year before even thinking about a possible trophy: “Obviously, to make the playoffs.”

Although her career as a Cougar may soon be coming to an end, Banilevic will never be fully without hockey in her life.

“In 10 years, I would really like to be coaching my own team and continuing to give back to the program as a Cougar women’s hockey alumni,” she said. “From a career perspective, I would hope that I would be making an impact in the medical field as a registered nurse.

Banilevic and the Cougars will make the trip to Saskatoon to take on the Huskies on Friday and Sunday and will then wrap up 2011 with a pair of games against the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology on Dec. 30-31.

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