Kendra Woodland: UNB REDS

Kendra Woodland: UNB REDS

A standard hockey puck—made of vulcanized rubber—may only be one-inch thick and three inches in diameter, weighing between five-and-a-half and six ounces, but it is a formidable foe.

Just ask Kendra Woodland, who has focused on keeping them from crossing the goal line for years.

“I love the challenge,” the fifth-year goaltender with the UNB REDS women’s varsity hockey program offers, describing it as a “battle with the puck.”

She says she has always embraced the “highs and lows” inherent with playing the position.

Woodland, whose first-team all-star performance last season helped lead the REDS to an Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship, started playing her beloved sport on a backyard rink. She was only a toddler when she took the ice for the first time with her older brothers—Shayne and Riley—when the family lived in Alberta.

“I fell in love right away,” she remembers of embracing the family tradition.

Woodland notes she has always looked up to her brothers, who both played major junior hockey.

“I couldn’t score goals,” she says, with a laugh, of her decision to become a goaltender, following in Riley’s footsteps, "so  I thought I could stop people from scoring.”

And the rest is history.

“Something just clicked,” Woodland recalls of the transition, which took place when she was 10 and in her first year in the atom classification. She also fondly remembers special times with her father, Ron, who helped cement her passion for the sport.

“I think I am old soul—I have always loved the retro side of the game,” Woodland says.

A former player, the elder Woodland and his daughter would head to public skates. Kendra notes she would don the lower part of her gear, so she could work on her skating ability.

Growing up, she played on boys’ teams throughout her minor hockey days; she wondered how that could affect her transition to women’s varsity at the university level. Although she played on teams mainly made up of boys, Woodland benefitted from her experience with all-female teams, including with two bronze-medal winners as a member of Team BC.

“That was an unbelievable experience,” she says of making her Canadian national team debut at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Women’s Hockey Championship in Dmitrov, Russia.

As for how a highly-regarded goaltender from the west coast—Kamloops, B.C.—ended up playing her university career in Fredericton, N.B., it certainly wasn’t a straight-line path. While in Grade 10, Woodland committed to a full-ride offer in North Dakota but, unfortunately, the program folded before she could lace up the blades south of the border.

“It was devastating,” she remembers.

Nevertheless, sticking with the adage that when one doors closes another one opens, Woodland, through a family friend, connected with UNB head coach Sarah Hilworth. She said joining a newly-established varsity program appealed to her.

“I absolutely fell in love,” Woodland says of how her recruiting trip to UNB sealed the deal. She adored the campus and rink; everything she saw and experienced. And, most importantly, the warm welcome she received not only from those people who would become her UNB family, but also the broader community.

“It was amazing,” she says.

Hilworth praised her veteran student-athlete.

“We knew that she was an elite hockey player coming in,” the UNB head coach says. Describing Woodland as an “outstanding human being,” Hilworth notes her “immense impact”—not only on the ice, but also off it and in the community.

“Kendra is an all-around student-athlete."

Although she has always been a “leader by example,” Hilworth notes Woodland has become “more vocal” this season.

As for her prowess between the pipes, the UNB mentor calls Woodland one of the top goalies in the country.

“She has an unbelievable ability to track pucks,” Hilworth says, describing her “elite eye” when on the ice.

She adds that Woodland leaves no stone unturned. “Kendra is incredibly detailed oriented.”

When asked about the key ingredients to her game, Woodland speaks to the importance of “being positive,” which includes not allowing a “bad” goal to linger.

“And my willingness to find a way to make the save,” she adds, offering that is something that “can’t be taught.”

Shooting for back-to-back AUS banners, the REDS have gotten off to a strong start. With a 14-1 record, they occupy first place in a highly competitive conference regular season.

Just like with last season’s championship run, stingy defense is a key calling card for UNB. So far, Woodland and Cassie McCallum—a sophomore from Rothesay, N.B.—have formed a dynamic duo between the pipes; Woodland has posted a 9-1 mark, with a 109 goals against average and .958 save percentage, while McCallum has put up a 5-1 record, with a 0.84 GAA and .953 save percentage.

“It’s been really great to see Cassie step into the role that she has so early in her university career. It’s been awesome to have her support while in the net, and also support her in her successes so far this season,” Woodland offers.

As for last season’s success, Woodland said it left her and her teammates “wanting more,” including an AUS championship repeat and a berth at nationals in March.

 “We got a taste of it,” she offers of the highs and lows involved in a championship season. Woodland says the REDS have the talent and “character people” to complete the repeat.

“It is going to be a challenge, but we are ready for it,” she adds.

Hilworth says Woodland has left an indelible on the UNB women’s hockey program.

“Kendra is a transformational leader and player,” she adds.

Along with her academic achievements, Woodland has excelled in UNB’s Bachelor of Recreation and Sports Studies program, where she is also minoring in media. Her goal is to have a career in broadcast journalism.

And, of course, Woodland hopes to pursue any professional opportunities available after her university career.

She described her time at UNB, both athletically and academically, as a “great fit.”

“I absolutely love it here.”

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