Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Stars’ Kliewer relishes Team Sask. silver at nationals

Netminder returns to Saskatoon with extra jump

Arden Kliewer turns away a shot in the Saskatoon Stars goal.
    The highlights seem to be coming fast to Saskatoon Stars netminder Arden Kliewer.
    Playing in her final season of eligibility in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, Kliewer committed to join the University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team in the U Sports ranks near the middle of October.
    On Nov. 16, she became just the second netminder to record 40 or more career SFMAAAHL regular season wins. Kliewer made 20 stops to back the Stars to a 2-0 victory over the Weyburn Richardson Pioneer Gold Wings at Merlis Belsher Place.
    The 17-year-old’s biggest high likely came before that milestone 40th victory.
    Kliewer helped Team Saskatchewan win its first medal ever at the National Women’s under-18 Championship, which was held in Winkler and Morden, Man.
    In a semifinal contest that was held in Morden, on Nov. 8, Kliewer made 25 saves to back Saskatchewan to a 3-1 victory over Ontario Blue. That win allowed Saskatchewan to advance to the gold medal game for the first time in the history of that event.
Arden Kliewer has 41 career SFMAAAHL regular season wins.
    Playing in the gold medal final one day later in Winkler in front of a national television audience on TSN, Kliewer had a sensational game turning away 32-of-34 shots sent her way against Ontario Red. Ontario Red still managed to prevail with a 3-1 victory that included a goal into an empty net.
Saskatchewan’s silver medal finish was still a big memory for Kliewer as well as playing in that championship final.
    “It was pretty big,” said Kliewer. “It felt watermelon size.
    “I was kind of feeling it that whole week, and I just carried on and tried to do what I could to keep my team in it.”
    Kliewer admitted that championship final might have been one of the best games she’s ever played.
    “I probably say it was,” said Kliewer, who stands 5-foot-8. “I think I stayed pretty consistent throughout the whole week.”
Arden Kliewer has played in lots of big games with the Stars.
    Kliewer said there was a huge pride from the players on the Saskatchewan side about what they were able to accomplish. Due to the fact Saskatchewan had never won a medal at the National Women’s under-18 Championship, Kliewer said no one outside of her team expected her squad to be a factor at that event.
    “The expectations just were for us were to everyone to buy into what the coaches were telling us,” said Kliewer. “We might not have been the most skilled players out there, but we bought in to what the coaches told us.
    “Going in there, nobody had expectations for Team Sask. It was all just personal expectations for us. We just wanted to come back with a medal, and that is what we did.”
    When Saskatchewan won its semifinal game, Kliewer said it was hard to explain the emotional high she and her teammates had knowing they would play in the gold medal game.
    “Obviously, it was an unreal experience,” said Kliewer. “I don’t even have words to describe it.
Arden Kliewer is the leader on a younger Stars team this season.
    “It was just insane like after we won that semifinal game knowing that, hey, we were coming home with a medal no matter what. It was a really good feeling.”
    Kliewer is no stranger to big games. She helped the Stars win the SFMAAAHL title in each of the past two seasons and qualify for the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament.
    The Stars made the championship game of the 2018 Esso Cup falling 2-1 to the Alberta-based St. Albert Slash.
    This season, Kliewer is protecting the Stars as they go through a rebuild. The Stars returned only nine players from last year’s team and graduated the bulk of their best players. 
    They are being guided by a new coaching staff. Robin Ulrich took over as head coach from Greg Slobodzian, and Kori Herner and Jason Schneider are the new assistant coaches. Schneider is actually a returning assistant coach having been with the Stars for four seasons from 2014 to 2018.
Arden Kliewer stood out for Team Saskatchewan.
    “It has just been a little bit different for myself just the role that I am in,” said Kliewer, who is in her fourth full season in the SFMAAAHL. “I’m in a little bit more of a leadership role this year versus last year.
    “It has just been about kind of helping those new girls understand this league and know what it takes to play in this league.”
    Ulrich, who was the interim head coach for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team in 2016-17, said Kliewer’s importance to the Stars couldn’t be understated.
    “She (Kliewer) is just a great leader for our team,” said Ulrich. “It is one of the cases where we kind of told her if we could do the Roberto Luongo thing and give her a letter we would for sure.
    “It is great having somebody with that kind strong back in goal that you know she is going to give you a good consistent effort every single night. I think ever since she came back from U18s it has just been at another level. That is huge for us as a program.”
Arden Kliewer (#30) has helped steady a younger Stars defence.
    Ulrich was pleased to see Kliewer have an outstanding showing at the National Women’s under-18 Championship with Team Saskatchewan.
    “You love to see when your kids get exposed on the national stage like that and to have Sask. have the tournament they had and part of that was due to her play that is just exciting,” said Ulrich. “It makes you super proud, and you’re just excited for her and the opportunity and showing her ability at the national level on the biggest stage is huge.”
    During her SFMAAAHL career, Kliewer has posted a 41-10 record, a 1.77 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and 11 shutouts in regular season play. Only current U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s team netminder Jessica Vance has more career regular season wins than Kliewer.
    Vance picked up 48 career victories playing for her hometown Prince Albert Northern Bears from 2010 to 2015.
    So far this season with the Stars, Kliewer has posted a 3-6 record, a 2.78 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and one shutout. 
Arden Kliewer gives a rebuilding Stars team a chance to win every night.
    The Stars have built 5-7-2 regular season mark to sit fourth in the SFMAAAHL after going 4-2 in the month of November.
    They received a huge confidence boost win last Saturday, when Kliewer made 33 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats at Merlis Belsher Place. The Wildcats have jumped out to a 9-1 start and sit second in the SFMAAAHL.
    “I think it helps us a lot for sure,” said Kliewer. “(It) definitely does give us quite a bit more confidence.”
    The Stars resume regular season play on Dec. 14, when they host the Bears at 2:15 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.
    When the 2019-20 campaign concludes, Kliewer is happy she will be able to keep playing in the U Sports ranks with the Cougars.
Netminder Arden Kliewer and the Stars celebrate their win last Saturday.
    “I’m super excited to have that opportunity,” said Kliewer. “I’m a little bit nervous but definitely excited to be able to go play there.”

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