Ni­cole Blanche fit­ting in with Huskies

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Dunville’s Ni­cole Blanche is at a pretty good point in her young hockey ca­reer.

The 18-year-old is a fresh­man for­ward is a mem­ber of the Saint Mary’s Univer­sity Huskies (10-3) of At­lantic Univer­sity Sport (AUS). The team is cur­rently in the top10 in the coun­try, and Blanche is part of the rea­son for this suc­cess, hav­ing played steady min­utes with the club.

“It ’s go­ing pretty good,” Blanche said of her first year in the highly-com­pet­i­tive AUS.

Up to last week, she had posted one goal and four as­sists in 13 games in help­ing the Huskies, out of Halifax, to the No. 2 rank­ing in the AUS.

The St. Fran­cis Xavier X-Women (11-2-1) sat atop the di­vi­sion.

The Huskies and the X-Women have split the two games against each other this sea­son. SMU took the lat­est meet­ing 3-0 on Nov. 30.

En­rolled in the school’s busi­ness pro­gram, Blanche has se­cured a reg­u­lar shift with SMU, which is an im­pres­sive feat for the young skater.

She has also re­ceived time on both the power play and the penalty kill.

One only has to look at her stellar plus-7 rat­ing to see she is a re­spon­si­ble player.

She comes to SMU af­ter spend­ing the last two years at the Warner Hockey School in Warner, Al­berta.

“It was a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Blanche. “It was pretty far away.”

De­spite a rough start to her ca­reer in the west, Blanche felt her ex­pe­ri­ences in that en­vi­ron­ment helped pre­pare for the rigours of univer­sity hockey.

“It def­i­nitely helped,” she said. “It helps me com­pete.”

Be­sides the on-ice help, Warner pre­pared Blanche for liv­ing away from home and with her team­mates.

“I lived in a res­i­dence with all of the play­ers,” she said.

Blanche had in­ter­est from sev­eral schools be­sides Saint Mary’s. The Univer­sity of Regina, along with the UBC, were in­trigued by the skill set Blanche had to of­fer.

How­ever, the prox­im­ity to home drew her to SMU.

She was also drawn to the team, since the Huskies have a good shot at the AUS ti­tle this sea­son, and Blanche felt her style of play would mesh with their sys­tem.

“It just seemed like a re­ally good fit,” she ex­plained.

Ad­just­ing to the play

Any time a player en­ters a new league and a higher level of play, there is an ad­just­ment pe­riod at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son. That was no dif­fer­ent for Blanche.

She said she had to be­come ac­cus­tomed to the phys­i­cal­ity of the AUS and the higher skills of play­ers at the univer­sity level.

Blanche said she started to “get it” af­ter the first three or four games.

“I’m def­i­nitely more con­fi­dent now, and not afraid to do the things I nor­mally do,” she said.

It is not just a hockey ad­just­ment that has to be made at this level, There is also be­ing a stu­dent ath­lete.

Blanche said the key to mak­ing that tran­si­tion is time man­age­ment.

“I’m get­ting more into a rou­tine now,” she said.

Dunville’s Ni­cole Blanche is shown here in ac tion with the Saint Mary’s Univesr­sity Huskies ear­lier this sea­son.

Ni­cole Blanche.

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