Tatiana Rafter joins growing number of Canadians with the Buffalo Beauts

One of the most talented players to have suited up for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, Tatiana Rafter continues her career as one of the increasing number of Canadian star players to join the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

Along with Mercyhurst alum Shelby Bram, the two were signed on the same day by the Buffalo Beauts, their fourth and fifth signings this off-season.

Although Rafter and Bram represented a great pair of Manitoba-raised hockey heroes that could have provided the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno with great strides in their Clarkson Cup ambitions. Instead, they join Laurier alum Dawn Skeats, fresh off a scoring title in the EWHL, as Canadian stars ready to propel the Beauts towards the inaugural Isobel Cup.

Under the tutelage of elite coach Graham Thomas, Rafter became a game changer for the Thunderbirds, ushering in a new era of unprecedented glory for the program. Of note, Rafter was a key contributor to the Thunderbirds qualifying for the 2013 Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships, part of the greatest single season turnaround in Canada West conference history.

Recognized with the first of her two Canada West Second Team All-Star nods, she would end a memorable 2013 as a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning roster in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade. She would finish the event as one of Canada’s leading scorers, logging 15 points.
Heading into the 2013-14 Canada West women’s hockey season, Rafter recorded 38 points on the strength of a conference-high 20 goals to grab the conference scoring title. Not only did her efforts contribute to UBC enjoying their first 20-win season in program history, it culminated with recognition as the recipient of the 2014 Canada West Player of the Year Award.

Among some of the notable players that she competed with at UBC were the likes of international sports stars such as Amanda Asay and Danielle Dube. A two-sport star, Asay was a member of the Canadian women’s baseball team that captured the silver medal in the inaugural women’s baseball event held at the 2015 Pan American Games. Dube was also a part of Canadian women’s sporting history, competing in the first-ever women’s ice hockey tournament at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games.

Joined on the Beauts by the likes of two-time Winter Games silver medalist Brianne McLaughlin, there will be no shortage of star players that Rafter will call new teammates. Having contributed to the greatest chapter in UBC hockey history, the chance to make history with the incipient NWHL is one that she could not resist. Graduating with 116 points, plus a Second Team Canada West All-Star nod in 2015, Rafter is ready to continue her high scoring ways with the Beauts, while giving back to the community with charitable work.

Canada’s hockey women make it three golds in a row at Winter Universiade

While the focus of women’s hockey is on the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Games, another great moment in women’s hockey and its growth took place in Kazakhstan. The 2013 Winter Universiade (also known as the World Winter University Games) hosted women’s hockey for the third time in its history. Once again, Canada set the standard, claiming the gold medal for the third consecutive time.

Proudly displaying the flag after defeating Russia by a 5-0 score in the gold medal game (Photo credit: Mary Beth Challanor)

Proudly displaying the flag after defeating Russia by a 5-0 score in the gold medal game (Photo credit: Mary Beth Challanor)


Since women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade started in 2009, Canada has not just emerged victorious, but has done so in a most dominant fashion. The 2013 gold medal game featured the Russian contingent being defeated by a 5-0 mark by Canada for the second time in the tournament.
As Canadian Interuniversity Sport provides the players for the Winter Universiade, the girls that have suited up comprise a who’s who of women’s hockey. Former senior national team members such as Ann-Sophie Bettez, Cathy Chartrand and Liz Knox have been part of the gold medal efforts. CIS national champions have also donned the Canadian jersey. Kim Deschenes, the captain of the defending champion Montreal Carabins has claimed gold in 2011 and 2013.
Many of the competitors for Canada have also extended their careers in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The likes of Alyssa Cecere and Vanessa (Vinny) Davidson, who have won the Clarkson Cup with the CWHL’s Montreal Stars have enjoyed Winter Universiade gold. In addition, Kelsey Webster, the current captain of the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno, not only won the gold in 2009, but played for former Canadian national team head coach Dan Church at York University.

Dating back to the inaugural women’s ice hockey tournament at the Winter Universiade in 2009, Canada’s performance represents a unique chapter in Canadian women’s hockey history. Though sometimes overshadowed by other programs in Hockey Canada, the facts are indisputable. Since 2009, Canada has participated in 21 games, going undefeated. Including all three tournaments, (2009, 2011 and 2013), the Canadian squad boasts an incredible cumulative score of 174-12.
The 2013 edition represented a new best for Canada. Outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 77-2, it is a remarkable improvement on their impressive performance from 2011 when Canadian opponents were outscored by an overwhelming 51-3 margin. Canada also outscored its rivals in 2009 by a convincing 46-7 tally.

Canada set the tone in their first game of the 2013 Winter Universiade. Competing against an inexperienced Spanish team on December 10, the record 21-0 win was part of three consecutive shutouts. On December 12, Russia was blanked by a 5-0 score, while Great Britain was at the losing end of a 13-0 blanking. While the archrival United States snapped the shutout streak in their December 15 tilt, it would prove to be the only goal scored in the game by the squad. The Canadian contingent pummeled the US by a 9-1 tally with Japan as their opponents in the semi-finals.

Former CWHL star Amanda Parkins contributed five points in the 15-0 shutout victory over Japan. Having earned the Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 from Ontario University Athletics, she held the hot hand as Canada prepared to defend its gold medal once again.

The gold medal featured more Canadian dominance as they overwhelmed Russian backstop Anna Prugova. While she played valiantly between the pipes, she was overwhelmed by the number of shots on net. The first frame resulted in Canada outshooting the Russians by a 17-3 margin, while the second stanza resulted in another 21 shots on net. Canadian goaltender Kelly Campbell was hardly tested.

Jenna Smith and Tatiana Rafter would lead all Canadian scorers in the gold medal triumph with three points. Of note, Smith accumulated two goals and one assist while Rafter contributed with a three-point effort. Nine different Canadian skaters would register at least one point while Campbell logged a tournament-best four shutouts.

While the accomplishments of Canada’s CIS heroes at the Winter Universiade may not gain the same level of attention as an IIHF World Championship or Winter Games victory, no one can dispute the record-setting pace upon which they have truly set the gold standard. What they have accomplished is testament to the talent that competes at the CIS level. Having helped carve a legacy in the history of Canadian women’s hockey, the Canadian women of the Winter Universiade are true heroes and role models for the next generation of CIS women’s hockey competitors.