Graduating Seniors Q&A: Hughson, Jack, Sansregret, Schuttler and Verbicky set leadership example

Graduating Seniors Q&A: Hughson, Jack, Sansregret, Schuttler and Verbicky set leadership example

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Leaders and mentors, the group of MacEwan women's hockey graduating seniors will be remembered as key players in the growth of a program in its infancy in the Canada West conference.

After joining U SPORTS in 2021 fresh off one of those most dominant runs in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference history with four-straight championships*, the Griffins have been growing a culture that will serve as the foundation for success.

Graduating seniors Sydney Hughson, Jesse Jack, Sage Sansregret, Makenna Schuttler and Mila Verbicky will be celebrated in a pre-game ceremony prior to their final regular season home game on Saturday as they host Manitoba Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m., both Downtown Community Arena, Canada West TV).


"Four of those five are in our leadership group," said Griffins head coach Chris Leeming. "At the beginning of the year, they were acknowledged by their peers, and it aligned with what our coaching staff was looking for from our leadership group. 

"I've seen a ton of growth in all of them. Just as older, mature players, they've done a good job of setting the example for where we want this program to go in the future. I'm really proud of all the growth they've experienced, and it's been really cool to watch that and have an opportunity to work with them."

(*MacEwan won three ACAC titles in a row and were on their way to a fourth – up 2-0 in a best-of-five series on NAIT before the 2019-20 season was cancelled due to the pandemic)

Enjoy a Q&A with each of the Griffins women's hockey seniors:


Chris Leeming's coach's quote:

"I think she's set a standard for this program in her time here on the ice, off the ice, in the gym, academically and community engagement-wise. That's been great for her to be a role model for the next generation of Griffins here. In the time I've known her, she's been one if, if not the leaders in community service hours for our team. She's been an Academic All Canadian all five years and you never questions her work ethic and the kind of support that she's going to provide her teammates and coaches. It's been pretty cool to be able to work with somebody like that.

"When she's on the ice, she helps our D corps have a little bit of confidence and settles things down in the D zone. She's got some poise with the puck, and she always competes hard. She's been a solid piece for both of our special teams units on the powerplay and the penalty kill. She just leads by example with her work ethic."

 Sydney Hughson has paired leadership on and off the ice with a strong two-way game as the leader of MacEwan's defensive corps (Joel Kingston photo).

Q&A with Sydney Hughson

Graduating with …

Major in Psychology with a Minor in Sociology in the Bachelor of Arts program.

Do you have a career goal in mind?

I eventually want to be a Child Psychologist. I'm going to take a year off and move back home to go work, and I actually want to travel to Africa for a few months in the fall – go work at some orphanages. When I come back, I'm planning on applying for my Masters, and getting my licensing to become a registered child psychologist.

You've been very passionate about working in the community and leading those initiatives with the Griffins. How much has that prepared you for the stuff you're wanting to do in life, too?

I grew up in a small town, so I always knew that was something I wanted to do moving into the city was to constantly give back. I knew that one day, I would eventually end up (somewhere) where I would want to continue to make a difference. I think it's just who I am that I care and want to make an impact in everyone's lives, which has led to my career wanting to be a child psychologist. I think growing up, it's so important for us to focus on our kids growing up, so they have positive role models and can give back to the community, as well.

Do you have any plans to continue playing hockey?

I don't think so. I still have a year of eligibility, but I'm really passionate about my career, so I want to get that going. I think hockey will always be a big part of my life. I think I'll get involved in coaching soon. I do hockey camps in the summer and then hopefully one day I'll coach my kids. I'll definitely always be involved with the game.

When you look back on your time with the Griffins, what are some of your favourite memories?

I would say my first season is one I'll never forget. We went on that winning streak in ACAC and then the playoff environment was just incredible. It's still so bittersweet looking back knowing we were one game away from the championship because it was just such a fun year. We deserved to get recognized for it. Other than that, the road trips were always my favourite and just hanging out with the girls in the dressing room before and after practice.

I believe you were an Academic All Canadian every year. What has that meant to you to be a leader in the classroom?

It's pretty special. I dedicate a lot to my studies because I care to learn and grow the material. I don't think grades are indicative to everyone's strong suits when it comes to smarts in the classroom, but I put a lot of work into it and balance it with hockey, so it's nice to get credit and recognition after all these years.

You were named captain this year. What did that honour mean to you and how has it helped you grow as a person?

It was a super big honour for me. I've been with MacEwan my whole time here and I've been in the leadership group for a few years now. It was such an honour to get captaincy this year. I learned a lot from this team and the other leaderships in the group. It's been an incredible experience. Obviously, it's been challenging with the year we've been having, but I would say I couldn't have done it without the support around me. It's made me a better person as I head into the next chapter of my life.

What do you think is your legacy with the Griffins? What will you be remembered for?

I would say that I was just a dependable and personable player. No matter what the situation was I always put the team first and wanted the girls to feel like they could count on me if they needed anything whether it was hockey or school-related or not. I showed up every day to work hard and create a positive environment to make those around me better. I think the legacy I leave behind is always striving for more, always striving to push yourself and those around you. My goal coming to MacEwan was to try to make it a better place than when I came. I've been so grateful for the connections I've made here and I'm excited to see where the program continues to grow.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your time with the Griffins?

I would just say, soak it all in. The time flies and it's a unique experience you don't want to take for granted. It's a grind and it involves a lot of sacrifice, but it makes you stronger and the experience is pretty incredible that not a lot of people get. Just embrace the opportunity and always find ways to give back to the program and those around you. The support system at MacEwan has been unreal and I'm extremely grateful to everyone who has been involved with my time at MacEwan.


Chris Leeming's coach's quote:

"She came in as a sixth-year rookie, essentially. That's not easy, but she's found a way to obviously make an impact. I know chatting with her before she came, just wanting her to find a simplified role to build some confidence. She wasn't going to accept that. She did everything she could to prove me wrong in a good way. She set some program records here, which is a testament to her work ethic. She built a lot of connections and relationships with her teammates in the six-seven months we've been here. That will start a chain reaction in a positive way for future years. One of her goals is to leave a positive impact on the people she works with.

"On the ice, Jesse's played in every situation for us. She's played a role on the powerplay and has scored a handful of goals there, and she kind of our third (forward) on the penalty kill, so she contributes at the defensive side of things, as well. She's got great speed, she can forecheck well, transport pucks 200 feet of the ice, she blocks shots – all those intangible pieces that you like to see out of a 200-foot player."

 Jesse Jack broke program records for the most goals and points by a Griffin in a Canada West season in 2023-24 (Joel Kingston photo).

Q&A with Jesse Jack:

Graduating with …

I have one year left in my degree, but I'll be graduating with a Bachelor Arts and a Major in Psychology.

Do you have a career goal in mind?

Yeah, I'd like to pursue a Masters in Sports Psychology and hopefully work with athletes at the collegiate level when that's all done.

Do you have plans to continue playing hockey?

I'm kind of looking at the option of going to play over in Sweden for a year. 

Do you have anything specific lined up?

I'm working with an agent right now and there's a couple teams I've looked into right outside of Stockholm.

You've had a unique post-secondary path because you were with Olds College for four season and came here for one year. How do you take stock in the whole journey?

It's been super awesome. I loved my time at Olds. It was definitely a hard spot to leave but coming here to get to play at this level, meet a whole group of people and get to be a part of a team is definitely a unique, but very special experience.

What are some of your favourite memories that stand out over your year with the Griffins?

The biggest one is just getting to know all the girls on the team. You spend so much time with them, so you get to know everyone on a pretty personal level. Just bus rides, being in the dressing room and all the stuff off the ice is a ton of fun. Also, on the ice, we battled a lot of adversity this year, so to watch so many overcome that and grow and has been special.

You broke two records earlier this year – and they're still ongoing with most points and goals by a Griffin in a Canada West season. What did it mean to you to set those marks?

It was pretty special because coming in, I wasn't really sure where I would fit in at the U SPORTS level or where I'd fit it on the team. So, to have a bit of personal success in my last year was super special. But it comes from being on a good team, playing with good teammates. I've noticed that practising against better players four times a week, rather than just three at my old school, I've improved so much this year. It's just a fun addition to my last year, for sure, and it's something I'm sure will be broken in the coming years. That's what records are for – they're meant to be broken – so I'm excited to see who breaks it next.

What do you think your legacy is with the Griffins? What will you be remembered for?

I hope that I was a good teammate and tried to support my teammates, be a leader and help the program grow. That's one of the things I'm most proud of with my time at Olds was adding value to that program and being able to make a positive impact on the people I was around there. I hope I was able to do that here as the oldest player and member of the leadership group. I think that's huge in programs going forward. The younger players up and coming – learning what it is to be a good leader and building that legacy – because this program was new to U SPORTS and there's some growing to do.

Anything else you'd like to say about your time with the Griffins?

Just that I'm super grateful for all the wonderful people who welcomed me with open arms and made this place feel like home even though I was only here for a year. It made my last year of (university) hockey super fun and really, really special, so I'm super grateful for that and for all my teammates who've made this year so much fun.


Chris Leeming's coach's quote:

"She obviously was in a tough spot this year. I had a similar situation where I had to quit playing hockey because of an injury that was out of my control, so we've had a number of conversations about that. Just seeing her grow and the maturity that she's had to go through, not by her choice, she embraced that. She has taken on a coaching role with the U18AAA Junior Oilers and dove into that coaching world, so it's cool to see the growth there when things didn't work out with her competitive hockey career.

"She was just a solid up-and-down-the-wall player, playing a simple game for us. Since she hasn't been able to play, she been an extra eye in the sky for us at games and giving us some feedback as she sees the game from a different perspective now, which has been nice to have."

 An injury ended Sage Sansregret's playing career for MacEwan, but it's given her the chance to get into coaching with the Junior Oilers White and Team Alberta (Joel Kingston photo).

Q&A with Sage Sansregret:

Graduating with …

Bachelor of Science with Major in Psychology and Minor in Sociology

Do you have a career goal in mind?

Ideally, I would like to go into Forensic Psychology. After graduation, I have a job at the Métis Nation of Alberta working with the Family Reunification Unit, so I'd work with Indigenous families working to reunite them with either their lost loved ones they haven't seen for a while or some kids who are in and out of foster care.

Can you describe your passion in that area?

I've been working with the Métis Nation a couple of years now and I've seen all the work they've done with that. Kids pull at your heart strings a bit. Through coaching, I've learned that helping kids out is probably the biggest thing you could do to give back to someone.

Speaking of coaching, you haven't been playing this year, but you've been in a coaching role.

Yeah, so I'm the assistant coach with the Junior Oilers White (girls U18AAA) program in Edmonton. I'm also the assistant coach for Team Alberta for the National Aboriginal Championship in May in Grande Prairie.

What have you enjoyed about the coaching side of things?

It's a new challenge. I think it's so interesting to look at the game from a different perspective now and just keep learning about it. It's full of so many different dimensions and now I get to explore those a little bit more, which is super exciting.

Do you aspire to go further in coaching?

To be honest, it's kind of a wait and see. I've committed to another year with the Junior Oilers program, and we'll see where the wind takes me. But I've got a lot on my plate right now with getting different certifications going. Just one thing at a time for right now.

You haven't been able to play this season after suffering an injury. Can you share what happened?

I'm up to 14 fractures at the head of my humerus from chronic dislocations. So, I did a number. It kind of happened over a period of time. Truthfully, I didn't take care of myself that well. I'm definitely a stubborn personality, so if it hurts, it's kind of whatever. I think it was against U of R last season and I took a hit against the boards, and I just remember getting up and 'oh God, this really hurts.' I got some scans done and I got diagnosed with osteo-arthritis in my shoulder, which is where the pain was coming from. Those led to bone weakness and that caused the fractures.

How do you look at the end of your career here because obviously you'd like to be playing, but you found a way to contribute.

I think it's interesting to look at the end of things. I think now, I'm looking at my career as a step into what I'm doing now. I'm not trying to look at it as the end of something; it's transitioning into something new and improved. So, I'm going to take what I've learned from my experiences – getting recruited, transferring – to help other female athletes in the game.

What are some of your favourite memories of your time as a Griffin?

Especially being a transfer (after the University of Lethbridge program folded) and the circumstances that we transferred in, I think the best was just the girls. They were fantastic. I had so much fun and all of the things that went on behind the scenes was my favourite part, for sure. You can't replace the dressing room banter that goes on and that's one thing I'll miss, for sure.

What do you think people will remember you for with the Griffins?

This is a tough one. I hope people remember me as somebody who had some difficult circumstances but managed to battle through. If anything, that's what I want them to remember me by – just being the one to push through and make a good situation out of a bad one.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about your time with the Griffins?

I just had a lot of fun. The one thing I'd like add to hype myself up a little bit (laughs), I'm the youngest ever to be accepted into the High Performance I Hockey Canada coaching course. It's actually a year-long course. I completed the in-person part of it in Red Deer last summer. For the last couple of months, we've been working on an entire coaching plan for a team that's set up for a year as part of the program. It's been fun. Just going through it and seeing what I can learn and what I can grow from.


Chris Leeming's coach's quote:

"As part of the feedback she got from the team after being selected to our leadership group is she's just so kind-hearted. When anyone comes in, she's just so welcoming and wants to make everyone feel accepted. She's done a great job connecting with her teammates and building relationships for the betterment of the team. When you can build connections with your teammates, that's going to determine a little bit more of your output on the ice because you're going to be going to battle for one another."

"I think with Schutts, on ice, she definitely made an impact for our team with the level of compete and speed she brings. When she gets her feet moving, she forechecks with tenacity and she can separate. It creates offensive opportunities for us. And she's been phenomenal on the penalty kill for us this year."

 Makenna Schuttler set the program record for the most points in a Canada West game by a Griffins player with three against Trinity Western earlier this season (Joel Kingston photo).

Q&A with Makenna Schuttler:

Graduating with …

Bachelor of Commerce with Major in Accounting and Minor in Finance

Do you have a career goal in mind?

Yeah. I'll be starting my accounting career with MNP Calgary in the fall as a CPA Articling Accountant, which I'm very excited about.

Do you have plans to play hockey after the Griffins?

I'm not too sure. I don't think it would be at this competitive level, but I could see myself getting involved in another league. I could see myself getting into coaching, too, down the road.

Obviously, beyond being an athlete here, academics have been a big focus for you with Academic All Canadians in four of your years here. What has the leadership in the classroom meant to you?

I was just big on creating a balance between hockey, personal life, and school. I think it can be a lot to balance, but once you find a good balance in all three, I think it's the best experience. Coming into university, I knew I had my plan of accounting, so just sticking to that and really finding that balance so I could excel in all areas is important to me. Just helping girls finding that balance, as well, is important to me, as well.

When you look back on your time with the Griffins, what are some of your favourite memories?

Lots of great memories over the years, for sure, but there are a few that stand out to me. Our team always does a potluck at the beginning of every year. It just brings the group together for one of the first times in a different setting than the rink. You really start to get to know each other and start creating friendships. Those are always a favourite of mine every year. And I can't forget our Crazy Eights (games) on bus trips. They get pretty competitive and always create lots of laughs.

Earlier this season, you set the program record for the most points in a Canada West game with three. What did it mean to you to do that?

That was an exciting game. Something that stands out to me from that game was just the support of my teammates. It was exciting for me to do, but I think my teammates were more excited for me. I remember their energy and they just kept cheering me on. Their support from that game was amazing – something I'll never forget.

What do you think your legacy with the Griffins was? What will you be remembered for?

It was always important for me to create a fun and welcoming environment here every year and just be a kind and personable teammate. So, I just hope I'm remembered in that sense. I always want to add value to people's experiences here, so I hope I was able to do that.

Anything else you'd like to say about your time with the Griffins?

I'm just super grateful for this opportunity. It's given me so much over the years and created so many great memories. It's given me friendships that I'll have for life. I'm really sad it's coming to an end, but I'm just very thankful.


Chris Leeming's coach's quote:

"In alignment with what she brings on the ice, she's a great dressing room player. She brings a lot of energy; she has a quirky personality and a lot of character. She can lighten the mood when it needs to be lightened. She also has a voice within the room and role models when you need to go to work. She's been a great asset in terms of her leadership role for the group.

"She's just a great energy player for us. She's been the other side of our top penalty kill unit with Schutts. She's been consistent and reliable. She's able to create some offence at times. She's played some powerplay for us this year, too. She does a lot of good things in the D zone that makes her sound defensively and allows us to play in the other end of the ice."

 Mila Verbicky's contributions as an energy player on and off the ice will be missed as she graduates from the program (Joel Kingston photo).

Q&A with Mila Verbicky:

Graduating with …

Bachelor of Science with a Psych major and minor in Sociology

Do you have a career goal in mind?

After this degree, I'm planning on applying to physiotherapy school to hopefully be a Physiotherapist.

I know you said in the past you've worked as a personal trainer, as well. Are you still doing that?

I'm planning on working the next year before applying to physiotherapy school as a strength and conditioning coach to get some more experience and money to pay for that schooling also.

Do you have any plans to continue playing hockey after MacEwan?

I'm not sure right now. I might just play for fun because I've had a lot of shoulder injuries, so I might have to get surgery before I can think about doing anything serious. Right now, I just want to focus on career and whatnot.

When you look back on your time with the Griffins, what are some of your favourite memories?

I would probably say just all the fun trips that we've had, and the time spent together on the bus, just (hanging out) with everyone, basically. Maybe one for hockey, I think my favourite memory was when we beat UBC because I'm from B.C. and those are all my friends and they were top of the league that year, as well. That was really fun and cool.

Do you remember your first goal?

Yeah I do. I think it was actually at Trinity Western. I dove at the net and somehow my stick hit the puck that was getting covered, and it squeaked in. I was in a giant dogpile and I somehow emerged with a goal.

How do you think you will be remembered for your time with the Griffins?

I would say I'd be remembered as the person that gave everyone energy, hyped everyone up, pushed everyone hard and kept everyone smiling, even when we were losing sometimes.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your time with the Griffins?

I would probably just want to say that even though we never made a playoff round while I was here, that didn't matter as much to me. The friendships that I've made while being here mean probably the most to me, more than anything.