All Armstrong’s Kelsey Halvorson needed was a little time to get some perspective.
After three seasons with the UBC Thunderbirds women’s hockey team, the rigors of student-athlete life caught up with the Pleasant Valley Secondary grad. Halvorson, 22, took a year away from hockey to prioritize her goals and concentrate solely on her kinesiology studies.
“I had to refocus my academics and refocus what I wanted to do in terms of hockey,” said Halvorson, who even considered changing her area of study at one point.
“I didn’t know if I was there for the right reasons. It’s hard when you go (to university) straight out of high school. You’re 18 years old, so how are you supposed to know what you want to do?”
Eventually, Halvorson’s competitive nature kicked in and she found herself missing the game. She approached the T-Birds and found them more than willing to bring back an experienced blueliner with her skill set.
Before her hiatus, Halvorson had established herself as a defensive stalwart on the UBC back end, racking up 17 points (six goals and 11 assists) in 71 career games. She even spent a little time at forward in the last year.
Known more as an offensive-type player in earlier years, Halvorson has rounded out her game to become a more responsible player.
“It’s kind of changed a little bit; I wouldn’t say I’m super offensive, but I’m not really stay-at-home either,” said Halvorson, who averaged more than three points per game with the Vernon Vixens in the Armstrong women’s rec league last season.
“If I see the ice, I’ll take it. If not, I’ll make the heads-up play.”
Kim Coates was a fifth-year player with UBC when Halvorson joined the program in 2008-09, and was recently promoted to assistant coach. Halvorson credits Coates for being a mentor in her freshman season, and for making her feel welcome in the T-Bird nest.
Given Halvorson’s understanding of the required balance between academics and athletics, Coates believes she will make an ideal role model for the T-Birds’ up-and-coming players.
“One big thing about having Kelsey back in the lineup is her understanding of what it takes to play at this level,” said Coates.
“She knows what the competition’s like. She’s a solid defenceman, and she also makes a good first pass. She battles every day and she brings up the compete level and intensity at our practices.”
Much like Halvorson’s renewed mind set, there were some changes in the UBC women’s program while she was away. The foremost being a new coaching staff, headed by Graham Thomas, taking over from Jen Rawson, who resigned at the end last season.
“We’ve got a brand new coach so it’s just a whole new mentality. He’s working us hard,” said Halvorson. “We’ve been going non-stop, but it’s been good.”
Added Coates: “We’re definitely working hard at building the program. We brought in some good, talented kids that are bringing up the scoring and pushing everyone.”
Asked if she will be relegated back to rookie status after being away from the program, Halvorson smiled: “I did my time already.”
And just because Halvorson has been away from competitive hockey, don’t think she has been idle. Along with playing women’s competitive division soccer with Vernon’s Dr. Lee Dental this summer, she was also the top female finisher in the half marathon at the Kamloops Marathon in July.
She finished the 21.1-kilometre circuit in one hour, 46 minutes and nine seconds, finishing 10th in the division.
“I kind of jokingly mentioned it to my brother’s girlfriend and she registered and told me to,” she said.
UBC will open the 2012-13 Canada West regular season with two home games against the Regina Cougars Oct. 5 and 6 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.