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Every year, there’s an addition to a university roster that flies under the radar, but could potentially have immediate payoffs if the player is ready to play. I don’t know how these players aren’t mentioned more by the teams they join, but any NCAA player jumping back to Canada to compete for a Canadian university hockey team should get a little fanfare. We often use the NCAA as the pedestal on which we place hockey players who chose the education route, so having a handful this season in Canada West will be good. And that leads me back to the title question of “where did she come from” with respect to a player on the Manitoba Bisons roster that I didn’t recognize as I read over the boxscores for the games they had played against a couple of CSSHL teams this fall before the lockdown went back into effect in Manitoba.

That woman is pictured above, and her name is Vanessa Klimpke. Vanessa is an older player as she has a 1994 birthdate, so she has never really been on my radar when it comes to recruiting prospects. Again, I try to keep my ear to the ground when it comes to hearing who may be attending which school, but Vanessa was already haunting the dreams of goaltenders in Manitoba before I found my feet in the U SPORTS broadcasting world.

Vanessa’s hockey history isn’t well-known to most people in this province, I’d guess, but it seems like it should be as she might be one of the most prolific goal scorers to ever lace up the skates in both the Manitoba Junior Women’s Hockey League (MJWHL) and the Manitoba Female Hockey League (AAA U18 level), but she found her legs far away from these two leagues as a youngster.

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Klimpke is part of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, a community that has three identified land regions in Manitoba with the main land located about 80 kilometres south of Winnipeg, but she attended high school at Westwood Collegiate in Winnipeg’s west end where she was a standout hockey player for the Warriors high school team scoring 21 goals and 11 assists in 17 games in 2010-11.

She would play just four games for the Warriors in 2011-12, but still scored four goals and one assist in that time, but she wouldn’t return to the high squad after that season as she moved up to play AAA U18 level hockey with the Winnipeg Avros where she was a little busy. In her first MFHL season, Klimpke played alongside former Bisons such as Nicole Carswell, Erin Kucheravy, Alanna Sharman, and AManda Schubert for 16 games where she managed to finish second in goals with 15 and third in points with 24 despite playing the least number of games of any skater on the roster!

Vanessa would receive an opportunity to move on to the ACAC with the NAIT Ooks, and jumped right in with both feet as she scored six goals and eight assists in just eight games before a very dangerous incident took place in a January 7, 2013 game. As Vanessa attempted to corral a loose puck, she was blindsided by SAIT’s Mackenzie Duncan, resulting in a severe concussion that affected her schooling and, ultimately, led her to leave NAIT as she was unable to meet the classroom standards for playing hockey.

Klimpke would recover from her concussion, though, and return to the ice back in Manitoba as part of the MJWHL’s Northern Stars. While there are incomplete states for her 2014-15 season in the MJWHL where she scored 36 goals, Vanessa absolutely tore up the league in 2015-16. In 27 games, she scored 48 goals and 59 points to lead the league in both categories! Her 48 goals represented 41% of the 117 goals scored by the Stars that season, and there were only four games in which she didn’t light the lamp. The next closest goal scorer in that 2015-16 MWJHL season had 18 goals, so you can see how dynamic of a player Klimpke was for the Stars as she won her second consecutive MJWHL Player of the Year award in 2016.

Perhaps what scared off some university programs was her age as Vanessa Klimpke was an older player already in playing in the MWJHL. Her 84 goals in two seasons didn’t scare NCAA Division-III’s SUNY-Morrisville, though, and Vanessa jumped at the scholarship opportunity to play south of the border as she was joined by fellow Manitoban and Northern Stars teammate Renee Stevenson! Klimpke didn’t waste any time in making her name known in the NCAA Division-III circuit as she helped the Mustangs to a 20-6-1 record and a CHC championship in her first season! On top of that, Klimpke’s 24 goals and 36 points in 26 games earned her the scoring title and the goal-scoring title while being named the CHC Rookie of the Year honours, CHC Tournament Most Valuable Player honours in the playoffs, a CHC first team all-star, and to the all-rookie team! Vanessa also wrote her name into the NCAA Division-III record books with a five-goal game against Salem State on November 5, 2016. Not a bad first year at the new school, right?

Except it would be her only season with the Mustangs as an enticing offer came from Sweden to go play professional hockey. Karlskrona HK decided to up its international player content by recruiting a certain Manitoba forward to come and play in the Swedish Division 1 Women’s League. Klimpke’s season was a solid effort for the rookie as she posted 11 goals and three assists in just eight games as she finished the season tied for third on Karlskrona for both totals. Her best game was against Malmo on January 14, 2018 when she scored three times in a 5-3 Karlskrona win!

Since that 2018 season, Vanessa has come back to Manitoba where she enrolled at the University of Manitoba in Environmental Science with a focus on water management. Her efforts on the ice in previous seasons, though, is possibly what prompted Bisons head coach Jon Rempel to bring Vanessa aboard for this and future seasons with this year being an extended try-out for the 26 year-old Klimpke. If she can show Jon what she brought to the ice in Hockey Manitoba’s 100th Celebration game where she was named Player of the Game in helping the Hockey Manitoba 100th Celebration team down the Bisons Legends team by a 5-1 score, it’s likely that we’ll see Vanessa Klimpke in a Bisons jersey for as long as she wants to be in one.

I’m excited to see what Vanessa can do out there in the brown-and-gold, and I hope she finds the back of the net as often as she did earlier in her career so tha she haunts the dreams of Canada West goaltenders moving forward!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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