This is the year. That saying and hope has for the previous four seasons went unfulfilled for UBC's Kaitlin Imai and her teammates.
The diminutive forward, an offensive dynamo with the Thunderbirds' women's hockey team, however, never gave up hope.
Bruised and battle-scarred from last year's 1-23 mark, yes. But Imai and her teammates who have toiled so long and kept the faith are now being rewarded, and then some.
The T-birds enter the playoffs this weekend not only with momentum and home-ice advantage against the University of Manitoba Bisons, but having also carved out the club's first-ever winning record at 20-8-4. It's an impressive turnaround that has surprised even the players.
"As a fifth-year vet it means so much to be a part of such success this year," said Imai.
"Coming off such an unfortunate one-win season last year, I hadn't even thought about the potential of hosting a playoff series at home."
The playoff spot, third overall in Canada West, was clinched two weeks ago on UBC's Seniors Night, when all the graduating veterans and their families were feted with flowers and tributes - and the emotions, Imai admits, were raw.
"What an experience," she reflected. "All week leading up to Seniors Night I tried not to think about the fact that it would be my last regular season game at UBC. Standing with my fellow fifth-year players and seeing my parents walk out onto the ice to honour me made those emotions I had stored away all week come rushing back."
How fitting that it came down to one of the team's leaders to lock up the playoff berth in dramatic fashion. Tied 2-2 with Manitoba after regulation and overtime, Imai did something she'd never done before - but now will never forget.
"In all five years here I have never been a shooter in a shootout. Coach looked up at us and said, 'OK, who's feeling hot?' I raised my hand. Immediately I thought 'Oh no - what did I just do?'
"However, as my turn to shoot approached I knew exactly what I was going to do and was confident on the shot I'd be taking."
The 22-year-old beat the Bison netminder with a shot to the glove side, sealing the win.
At five-feet-three, Imai makes up with heart what she lacks in size, head coach Graham Thomas said.
"As a leader she's a big part of our turn around," said Thomas, in his first year behind the UBC bench. "Along with the other fifth-year players and captains, Kaitlin is kind of the heart-and-soul type of player. She really cares about the program."
During her first two years, the former Team B.C. under-18 member made the adjustment patiently as the club posted identical 8-16 records. Her only taste of CIS playoffs came in her rookie season, but proved to be a quick two-and-done sweep.
To start 2012-13, the T-birds showed plenty of promise, if not some bad luck, in going 7-7-3. However, something clicked after the Christmas break, resulting in 10-1-1 run as they head into this weekend's playoffs.
She has contributed a career-high 10 goals and eight assists over 28 games, besting her seven goals and 10 assists set in her third season.
Imai's beginning in the sport came as a 10-year-old, after a handful of years in ringette. To have such success in her final year of university is a fantastic closing chapter.
"Hockey is a huge part of my identity," she said. "In Grade 7 I chose to really pursue hockey and now hockey is all I know. My parents deserve the most recognition for the success I have seen in my hockey career. I can't even being to explain the role they took on in order to provide me with the opportunity to play hockey at such a high level."
Imai and her teammates will push it to a higher level this weekend when they host the Bisons for a best-of-three series (Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m. if necessary - all games at Father David Bauer Arena at UBC).
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