January 26, 2018 7:51 am

Patience pays off for Saskatchewan Huskies goalie

WATCH ABOVE: After spending two and a half seasons on the bench, patience paid off for Saskatchewan Huskies goalie Jessica Vance, who leads Canada West in shutouts.

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Huskies goaltender Jessica Vance is having a phenomenal debut season for the Saskatchewan Huskies.

The former Prince Albert Northern Bear leads Canada West with six shutouts, and boasts the best save percentage (0.921) in the conference.

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It makes it hard to believe that prior to joining the Huskies, she was on the bench at the University of Manitoba – for two years.

“I’ve never been in that situation before that, I mean with the Bears I was kind of the go-to goalie,” Vance said Thursday afternoon during at practice at Rutherford Rink.

“In triple-A, she was one of the top goaltenders of the league. For her to go from being a player that’s relied on, playing huge minutes, to sitting out for two years, that’s got to be hard on a person,” said Morgan Willoughby, who played with Vance for four years in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey league (SFMAAAHL).

Vance was missing home, and was third on the Bisons depth chart for goalies. The 20-year-old contacted Huskies head coach Steve Kook.

“We weren’t looking for a goaltender, but she’s just too good of a person, too good of a goaltender not to say, ‘come join us and we’ll figure out a spot for you,'” Kook said.

Vance spent her first year red-shirting with the Bisons. Then in her second season, she suited up for a single game, which cost her a year of eligibility. This meant Vance had to sit out a full year before she could dress for the Huskies.

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When she got her first start against the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds on Nov. 10, 2017, it was the first time she’d ever stepped onto the ice in a U Sports regular season game.

“It’s tough sitting out that long because obviously as much as you try to make a practice a game, it isn’t,” Vance said.

“That’s two and a half years of practicing but not playing in a competitive game. So for her to come in against the number one ranked team in their home barn, I can only assume that there was a good sense of anxiety on her part but she never showed it,” Kook said.

Not only did the Huskies sweep the UBC T-Birds that weekend, Vance registered a shutout in her first game, and only let in a single goal all weekend.

“That was surreal, I guess I’ve been waiting two years for that,” Vance explained.

This weekend, the Huskies reunite with the Thunderbirds at Rutherford Rink (Friday 7 p.m, Saturday 7 p.m. CT). UBC is ranked third in the U Sports coaches poll.

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Vance now has a few more games under her belt, but will still rely on some of the lessons she learned while patiently waiting for her chance in between the pipes.

“The biggest thing is that I realize that there are things that you can control, and can’t control. I think now, I focus on the things you can control, then the things you can’t control, will all, they seem to pan out!”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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