Goaltender Crystal Patterson was challenged by head coach Chandy Kaip to be better than a third-string player. Suffice it to say, she responded.
The second-year Calgary product posted one of the best Canada West seasons ever for the Pronghorns women's hockey team, helping the Horns to their best finish in franchise history and first playoff appearance in five seasons.
"I took that challenge and pretty much proved coach wrong that I was a third string goalie," says Patterson, who was named to the Canada West First All-Star Team and Horns Female Athlete of the Year. "I knew I had to get my fitness up and it was something I worked on and it turned out pretty well."
Patterson started all but one conference game this season, leading Canada West in minutes played (1401:22), shutouts (6) and total saves (607). She was also second in the conference in wins (14), third in save percentage (0.928) and fourth in goals-against-average (2.01).
In her second year with the Horns, Patterson came out of the Edge Hockey Academy in her hometown of Calgary. She says there was never a consideration to play for the University of Calgary Dinos.
"No, I never thought about it. I actually loved coming to Lethbridge because it is close to Calgary but it gives you your own independence and freedom," she says. "If you need to go home, it's just a two-hour drive. My parents are able to come down and watch me play pretty much every weekend too, and they come on a lot of our road trips as well, so it's great to have that support."
It's a consistent theme on the Horns, with five players from Calgary and a sixth who attended Edge Academy. Canada West Rookie of the Year, Sadie Lenstra, is another Calgary product, proving it is fertile ground for U of L recruiters.
Off the ice, Patterson is studying in the Faculty of Management.
"It's too early to tell what I want to do with my degree," she says. "My dad wants me to do something with the family trucking business but I'm not sure. I just may get a good background in business and see where it takes me."
Patterson will head back to Calgary once the spring semester ends, but part of her summer training will involve further work with Kaip as she takes her first turn at helping up and coming youngsters.
"Chandy just came to me with the opportunity, and it will be my first chance to work with kids so I'm really looking forward to it," says Patterson.
She understands how a future can be shaped by the influence of a mentor. She recalls an instance where National Hockey League goaltender Curtis Joseph made a lasting impression on her with just one small gesture.
"I got the chance to play between periods at a Flames' game and he was playing for the Detroit Red Wings then," recounts Patterson. "I remember he patted me on the pads and he's been my favourite ever since."
Of course, as a hockey-playing girl growing up in Calgary, current rival Hayley Wickenheiser was also a big factor.
"Hayley Wickenheiser was a big influence for all girls who played hockey in Calgary because she was always involved in camps and things like that," says Patterson. "You'd see her with her medals and she'd come out on the ice with you, so that's why it's so strange to be playing against her now. She was an idol and now she's our competition, I never thought I'd experience that."
After a season of monumental successes, both Patterson and the Horns will be expected to take the next step in 2012-13, but if we've learned anything about "the Monster" as she's been dubbed, it's that the five-foot-10 inch Patterson relishes a challenge.
"Chandy said to us last year that within our time here at the University, we'll be up there challenging for playoffs and playing with the best teams," she says. "It's pretty astounding that we were able to make playoffs in our second year, but I want to put a banner in our barn before I'm done here."
This story first appeared in the March 2012 issue of the Legend. For a look at the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.