Lovell's return sparks Dinos to CIS title

Knee injury doesn't slow down Kamloops native in CIS tournament

MARK HUNTER / Kamloops Daily News
March 15, 2012 01:00 AM

Elana Lovell (12) and Stephanie Zvonkovic of the U of Calgary Dinos celebrate after a goal against the Alberta Pandas at the CIS women's hockey championship in Edmonton on Saturday. Lovell, a Kamloops product, helped the Dinos to the national championship.

At this time last week, Elana Lovell would have been happy to simply play a game of hockey with her Calgary Dinos teammates.

She certainly got a lot more than she had hoped for.

Lovell, a 22-year-old Kamloops native, had three goals in three games as the Dinos swept their way to the CIS championship, used to determine Canada's top university team. Calgary defeated the Montreal Carabins 5-1 in Sunday's CIS final in Edmonton.

Lovell spent the last third of the Canada West season in the stands, out since January with a torn MCL in her right knee. She missed eight regular-season games and the Canada West playoffs, and didn't get back into full-contact practices until a week before the six-team CIS championship began.

"Coming back from an injury, I was pumped just to be playing," Lovell said Wednesday night.

The first game - a 1-0 victory over the McGill Martlets - started a little shakily, Lovell admits. She managed to work her way up to her normal line and was plus-1 with two of her team's 23 shots on goal.

It got better from there, as she scored twice in the Dinos' 4-2 victory over the host Alberta Pandas. The victory sent Calgary into the final, where Lovell had a goal and assisted on Hayley Wickenheiser's eventual game-winner.

"I really had it in my mind that every time I was on the ice, I would get over the red-line and dump it and chase," Lovell said. "I just wanted to help out . . . I don't know what happened, but I went out and had a couple of Ginos." (To those not familiar with the language of hockey, Ginos are goals, named, one assumes, in honour of Evgeni (Gino) Malkin.)

She even scored the last goal of the tournament, despite her lack of practice.

"At the end of the weekend, every one of us was tired," Lovell said. "I was bagged, I hadn't played in (months) and my cardio wasn't good.

"But we were all anxious and nervous at the end - we knew (going in) we were either going to be winners, or we were going to be trying again next year.

"But we had a good effort."

It brought a spectacular end to Lovell's fourth season with the Dinos, the team she joined after helping the Kamloops Mystixs to the provincial AAA title in 2008.

Lovell has one season of CIS eligibility remaining, and also plans to complete some more schooling after that. She will have enough credits for an arts degree in the fall, and plans to join the two-year kinesiology program once that's done.

It has been a successful and winning postsecondary hockey career for Lovell, who helped the Dinos to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference title in 2008-09.

Calgary moved up to the CIS the following season, in which Lovell registered 12 points, seven of them goals, in 24 games.

She also played 24 games in 2010-11, scoring 10 goals and assisting on 11 others, and had picked up 18 points, 12 of them goals, in 16 games this season before her injury.

And for the past two seasons, she has had the opportunity to play alongside Wickenheiser, Canada's greatest women's hockey player. Wickenheiser, a three-time Olympic gold-medallist, joined the Dinos before the 2010-11 season.

"We heard a rumour that summer that she was coming here, and we were like, 'Yeah, yeah,' " Lovell said. "When I walked into that first tryout and she was there, it was just jaw-dropping."

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