Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Blades stun Royals with comeback OT win

Fasko-Rudas gets natural Hatty, Wouters extra time winner

Chase Wouters, right, celebrates scoring the OT winner for the Blades.
    A newcomer and the captain put on their superhero capes to save the Saskatoon Blades.
    Training the visiting Victoria Royals 2-0 early in the third period of a WHL regular season game on Tuesday night, Blades received a natural hat trick from Slovakian import right-winger Martin Fasko-Rudas to jump ahead 3-2.
    Fasko-Rudas was acquired a short time ago by the Blades in a deal with the Swift Current Broncos right before the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10.
    After the surge of goals from Fasko-Rudas, the Royals battled back to force overtime with former Blades right-winger Gary Haden netting the equalizer to force a 3-3 tie with 7:43 remaining in the third period.
Chase Wouters has three OT winners for the Blades this season.
    Just 36 seconds into overtime, Blades captain Chase Wouters received a pass from right-winger Kyle Crnkovic in front of the Victoria goal. Wouters roofed a shot to the top right corner of the Royals goal to give the Blades a 4-3 victory in front of 3,020 spectators at the SaskTel Centre.
    The marker was Wouters third overtime winner and fifth game-winner of the campaign.
    “It was pretty cool,” said Wouters, who had an assist to go with his goal. “It was the first one I’ve gotten on home ice besides that playoff one there.
    “It was really a cool experience for sure.”
    Wouters’ playoff overtime winner came in March of last year, when the Blades downed the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-2 in Game 1 of a best-of-seven first round series at the SaskTel Centre. The Blades would go on to sweep that series 4-0.
    Since that post-season overtime winner, Wouters has made a habit of scoring goals in overtime.
Martin Fasko-Rudas had a natural hat trick for the Blades on Tuesday.
    Blades head coach Mitch Love was pleased to see Wouters get his latest overtime winner. While Wouters had goals in four of his last six games, he was held scoreless in the Blades previous two outings, and Love said his captain had strong efforts but wasn’t rewarded.
    The bench boss decided to start Wouters in overtime due to another attribute and hoped a goal would result.
    “Honestly when Chase (Wouters) gets out there in overtime, it is usually to win that first faceoff, because the puck possession is so important,” said Love. “He is usually pretty good at it.
    “For him to get rewarded there, I know he has been a little bit snakebitten of late offensively. That was a big goal for him. Hopefully, that will rally him up here to kind of stay hot.”
Gary Haden had the third period equalizer for the Royals.
    The teams played through a scoreless opening period, where the Royals held a slim 10-9 edge in shots on goal. Both teams did have their chances in the first 20 minutes.
    Early in the frame, Blades rookie right-winger Colton Dach had a golden chance to score from the left slot, but he fired a shot over top of the net.
    Late in the frame, Royals star centre Brayden Tracey tried to score on a wraparound, but he was denied by Blades rookie netminder Koen MacInnes.
    The visitors broke through at the 5:14 mark of the second period, when Royals captain Phillip Schultz scored gritty goal in front of the Saskatoon net to give his side a 1-0 lead.
    The Blades had a glorious chance to even things up late in the second, but rookie 16-year-old centre Jayden Wiens was stoned close in.
    The Royals expanded their edge to 2-0 with a power-play goal coming off the stick of import right-winger Keanu Derungs. 
Captain Phillip Schultz scored in the second period for the Royals.
    Derungs took a backdoor pass at the right side of the Blades goal from linemate Brandon Cutler.
    Just when things looked down, Fasko-Rudas gave the Blades a spark.
    The 19-year-old fired home a natural hat trick in a span of two minutes and 20 seconds with the finally tally of the surge coming at the 8:33 mark of the third. The surge helped the Blades jump ahead on the scoreboard 3-2.
    At the 6:13 mark of third, he sniped home an even-strength goal from the left slot. At the 7:45 mark, Fasko-Rudas tallied his second marker on a two-man advantage converting a backdoor pass at the left side of the Victoria goal that came from defenceman Scott Walford.
    At the 8:33 mark of the third, the Slovakian netted his third goal on the remaining one-man advantage to give the Blades a one-goal edge after taking a smart in close pass from Crnkovic.
Martin Fasko-Rudas (#17) fires home his hat trick goal.
    Fasko-Rudas said he couldn’t ever remember a moment when goals went into the net that fast for him.
    “It happened to me first time,” said Fasko-Rudas. “I have to thank my teammates for great passes and great help.
    “I’m really happy for those goals.”
    Wouters almost couldn’t believe how fast the goals went into the net for Fasko-Rudas.
    “It was really exciting,” said Wouters, who leads the WHL with 625 faceoff wins. “He turned it on there for us.
    “Those were some big goals in the game for sure. It was good.”
    After Fasko-Rudas put the Blades in the lead, that set the stage for Haden to score for the Royals and force overtime and for Wouters to win it in the extra session.
    Fasko-Rudas was pumped to see his club bounce back after the Royals tied the game.
Kyle Crnkovic had three assists in the Blades win on Tuesday.
    “It was a hell of a job from the team and from the guys,” said Fasko-Rudas. “It was great that we didn’t quit, and we came back.”
    MacInnes stopped 28 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Blades (24-19-2-2). Crnkovic finished with three assists in the win.
    Adam Evanoff turned away 28 shots to take the extra time setback goal for the Royals (25-17-4).
    Love said Tuesday’s game was a big character win for his club as the Blades elected to scratch their leading scorer in centre Tristen Robins moments before warm-ups due to illness.
    “It was pretty gutsy,” said Love. “We looked pretty fatigued through 40 minutes.
    “Our execution offensively wasn’t quite there. Credit to the guys, they really stuck with it. We knew we had to really press in the third to try and generate any sort of offence against a very good defensive team.
The Blades mob Chase Wouters after his OT winner on Tuesday.
    “We generated some power plays, and that was going well for us tonight. It is a gutsy win for us.”
    The Blades are back in action on Friday when they travel to Moose Jaw to face the Warriors (7 p.m., Mosaic Place). Love expects Robins will be ready to go for that contest.
    The Royals return to action on Wednesday when they venture to Prince Albert to face the Raiders (7 p.m., Art Hauser Centre).

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 25 January 2020

Tigers remain kings of the tiebreaking shootout

Raiders fall in fast-paced heartbreaker

The Tigers mob Brett Kemp (#21) after his shootout winning goal.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – It was a game where both sides deserved to win.
    On Saturday night, 2,577 spectators at the Art Hauser Centre saw the WHL at its best as the defending WHL champion and host Raiders went toe-to-toe with the Medicine Hat Tigers in a high paced back-and-fourth affair, where both teams transitioned quickly up and down the ice.
    The two sides exited regulation and a five minute three-versus-three overtime session locked in a 3-3 tie, which forced them to go to a tiebreaking shootout.
    In the shootout, captain James Hamblin and star right-winger Brett Kemp scored for the Tigers to give them a 2-1 victory in the tiebreaking session and a 4-3 overall victory in the game.
Brett Kemp scored the shootout winning goal for the Tigers.
    Raiders star centre Ozzy Wiesblatt, who had two assists in regulation, scored the Raiders goal in the shootout.
    The Tigers improved to a WHL best 5-1 in shootouts this season and upped their regular season record to 30-14-1-1. The Raiders fell to 1-4 in shootouts and saw their regular season record move to 24-14-5-4.
    Kemp was the final player to take shot in the shootout, and Tigers offensive defenceman Daniel Baker said his club was thankful Kemp’s shot found the back of the net.
    “It was just relief,” said Baker. “You don’t like it to come down to one shot.
    “Mads (Sogaard) has made some big saves for us and Jimmy (James Hamblin) and Kemper netted some big goals, so it was good.”
Ozzy Wiesblatt had a pair of assists for the Raiders on Saturday.
    With Prince Albert having downed the WHL Eastern Conference leading Edmonton Oil Kings 3-2 at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday night, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid was fine with how things played out for his club.
    “It was a good weekend,” said Habscheid. “We accomplished a lot of things.
    “We got our identity back. We got our foundation in place. They beat us in the skills contest tonight, so it is all good.”
    The Tigers opened the scoring 52 seconds into Saturday’s tilt as right-winger Corson Hopwo zipped down the right side of the Raiders zone and slipped in a close in shot past Raiders netminder Max Paddock. Hopwo scored on the Tigers first shot of the game.
Daniel Baker had a goal and an assist for the Tigers on Saturday.
    Just over two minutes later, the Raiders returned the favour scoring on their first shot of the game with left-winger Matthew Culling netting his sixth of the season.
    Culling had an assist to go along with his goal in a real spirited effort on Saturday.
    “He does a lot of the hard work,” said Habscheid. “He goes to the net.
    “He forechecks. He can kill penalties and play power play. He just plays the right way.”
    Before the opening frame ended, the Raiders jumped ahead 2-1 when defenceman Landon Kosior fired home a point shot through a screen on the power play.
    Kosior scored on the second part of a power play that was created when Kemp was given a double minor penalty for high sticking. 
Matthew Culling had a goal and an assist for the Raiders on Saturday.
    Kemp’s penalty will automatically be reviewed by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
    The two clubs continued to blitz up and down the ice in the second, but the only goal came when Baker fired home a point shot through a screen to even the score at 2-2 with 2:37 remaining in the frame.
    Baker, who had an assist to go with his goal on Saturday, is having a breakout season as an 18-year-old sophomore. In 45 regular season games with the Tigers, the Edmonton, Alta., product has 11 goals, 22 assists and a plus-32 rating in the plus-minus department.
    As a rookie last season, Baker had two goals and 15 assists appearing in all of the Tigers 68 regular season games.
    “He (Baker) has been big,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins. “He has certainly put up bigger numbers than last year.
Kyle McNabb had two assists for the Tigers on Saturday.
    “I think he is a guy that he always seems to find his spot to jump in the rush or do whatever. Our whole defence is good. I thought all the guys played hard.”
    Baker said he has found a higher comfort level on the ice playing through his second full season in the major junior ranks.
    “It has been really good so far,” said Baker. “The puck is going in the back of the net.
    “Our forwards do a good job of getting to the net, so it has been good.”
    Just 1:58 into the third, the Tigers jumped back out in front 3-2. Entering the Raiders zone with speed on a rush, Tigers right-winger Kyle McNabb fed a pass across the front of the Prince Albert goal to linemate Nick McCarry, who knocked home his eighth goal of the season to give the visitors the lead.
    The assist was McNabb’s second helper of the contest.
Kaiden Guhle scored the third period equalizer for the Raiders.
    The Raiders didn’t goal away. With 7:34 remaining in the third period, Raiders offensive defenceman Kaiden Guhle wired home his eighth goal of the season to force a 3-3 tie and overtime.
    Guhle potted the equalizer about four minutes after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Tigers right-winger Lukas Svejkovsky. Svejkovsky received a minor penalty for that hit.
    Habscheid thought Svejkovsky’s hit could have resulted in a stiffer penalty but noted the officials only get to see a play once in making a judgment call.
    “That was a dirty hit,” said Habscheid. “I hope the league looks at that.
    “That was just a bad hit. We don’t want that type of hit in this game. I think that if they looked at it on replay they might have called it differently.
    “They don’t get that opportunity.”
    Guhle’s equalizer ultimately set the stage for the Tigers to take the contest in the tiebreaking shootout.
Mads Sogaard makes a third period stop in goal for the Tigers.
    Mads Sogaard made 19 saves over 65 minutes in goal for the Tigers and turned away two of three shooters in the shootout. Paddock turned away 30 shots over 65 minutes in goal for the Raiders and one of three shooters in the shootout.
    Desjardins said Saturday’s contest was a tossup, where his side just happened to come out on the better end of the scoreboard.
    “I thought it was a good game,” said Desjardins. “I thought it was a playoff type game.
    “I thought both teams played hard. Obviously if you go into a shootout, the game could have gone either way.”
    While the Tigers are known for their fast-paced style of going up and down the ice, Desjardins said the Raiders are strong at playing that way too.
The Tigers celebrate their win on Saturday night.
    “They are a good team,” said Desjardins. “They can play that way as well.
    “They have some high end guys that like to skate and like to play a transition game. I think whenever you look at their game you think of them as a transition team, a speed team. I think it was probably equally suited for both teams.”
    The Tigers are back in action on Tuesday when they host the Swift Current Broncos (7 p.m. Alberta time, Canalta Centre).
    The Raiders return to play on Wednesday when they host the Victoria Royals (7 p.m., Art Hauser Centre).

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 24 January 2020

Blades best Tigers 6-5 in 1980s style rivalry tilt

The Blades and Tigers scrum it up at the end of Friday’s game.
    It felt like old times at the Saskatoon Arena in the late 1980s.
    Back in that era of the WHL, the Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers had quite the heated rivalry. A lot of the heated tensions were due to the fact the two sides met in league semifinal playoff series in 1987 and 1988.
    Those series were ultimately won by the Tigers, who advanced on to win the WHL title and the Memorial Cup title as CHL champions in both of those years.
    Medicine Hat claimed the 1987 series in seven games, when the Blades still played in the Saskatoon Arena, and the Tigers swept the 1988 series, when “the Bridge City Bunch” made their first post-season run playing out of the SaskTel Centre.
    On Friday night at the SaskTel Centre, the Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers engaged in a WHL regular season clash that would have been worthy of the battles from that era.
    There were huge momentum swings, lots of goals, timely saves by goalies, one spirited fight and huge scrum at the end of the contest. It was a game that was all over the map.
Tigers C Ryan Chyzowski, left, fights Blades C Jayden Wiens.
    When the dust settled, the Blades skated away with a 6-5 victory before 3,156 spectators. The fans got their money’s worth and gave the Blades a fairly loud salute at night’s end.
    The unpredictability of the night started in the first period. The Blades carried the play in the opening frame outshooting the Tigers 17-7, but the Tigers came away holding a 1-0 lead.
    Tigers captain James Hamblin tucked home the game’s opening goal on a breakaway in the first.
    Medicine Hat escaped the first holding the end on the scoreboard thanks to the play of netminder Garin Bjorklund. He turned away Blades defenceman Nolan Kneen on a partial breakaway and robbed Saskatoon centre Tristen Robins with a glove stop in the opening 20 minutes.
The Blades and Tigers engaged in a few exchanges on Friday.
    Just 35 seconds into the second, Tigers defenceman Daniel Baker jetted in down the right wing and roofed home his 10th goal of the season to put the visitors up 2-0.
    At the 11:37 mark of the second, centre Baxter Anderson scored to put the Tigers up 3-0, and it seemed that the visitors were going to cruise from there.
    From that moment, it was time to cue the comeback for the Blades thanks mainly from an offensive explosion coming from their forward line of left-winger Kyle Crnkovic, Robins, and right-winger Martin Fasko- Rudas. They combined for four goals and seven assists.
    Crnkovic posted a goal and four assists. Robins had his first career WHL hat trick. Fasko-Rudas had three helpers.
    Just 70 seconds after Anderson’s goal, Robins netted his first of the contest to cut the Tigers lead to 3-1. 
Tristen Robins had a hat trick for the Blades on Friday.
    Crnkovic potted his 12th of the season just a little over three minutes later to further trim the Tigers advantage to 3-2.
    With 1:22 remaining in the second, the Blades benefited from a positive type bounce you would see in an old building like the now demolished Saskatoon Arena.
    The puck was in the Tigers zone with the Blades working the power play. The Tigers tried to clear the puck around the glass, but the puck hit a stanchion and deflected to the front of the Medicine Hat goal to Blades captain Chase Wouters.
    Wouters promptly fired the gift into the Medicine Hat net to even things up at 3-3. The tally was Wouters 20th goal of the season marking the first time the 19-year-old hit that mark in his WHL career.
    The Blades kept rolling going up 5-3 at the 1:55 mark of the third with goals coming from feisty left-winger Riley McKay and Robins netting his second of the contest.
Kyle Crnkovic had a goal and four assists for the Blades on Friday.
    Bjorklund was pulled from the Medicine Hat goal at that point turning away 26-of-31 shots he faced. Mads Sogaard turned away four-of-five shots playing the rest of the way in relief.
    Shortly after the Blades went up by two goals, Saskatoon centre Jayden Wiens, who stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 139 pounds, engaged Tigers centre Ryan Chyzowski, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 170 pounds, in a spirited fight.
    Wiens ended getting the take down for the win in front of a huge ovation from the Saskatoon faithful.
    With the crowd still buzzing from the fight, the Tigers scored seven seconds after the resumption of play with left-winger Corson Hopwo getting his 10 goal of the season. That tally cut the Blades advantage to 5-4.
    Robins completed his hat trick a little over two minutes later to give the Blades a 6-4 advantage.
    Shortly after Robins third tally, the Tigers went on a power play, and Blades netminder Koen MacInnes had to turn away seven shots to ensure the hosts got the two-minute kill.
James Hamblin had the Tigers first goal on Friday.
    MacInnes made a huge sprawling kick save on the kill to rob Tigers star left-winger Cole Sillinger of a sure goal.
    Still the Blades weren’t out of the woods. Tigers left-winger Nick McCarry scored with 4:54 remaining in the third to cut the Blades lead to 6-5.
    With about a minute remaining in the third, Tigers defenceman Eric Van Impe wired a shot off the crossbar of the Blades goal.
    The host side held the fort the rest of the way to preserve their third straight victory. After the final seconds of the game expired, both teams engaged in a big scrum around the Saskatoon goal.
MacInnes made 28 saves to allow the Blades to improve to 23-18-1-2.
    The Tigers fell to 29-14-1-1 with a second straight loss.
The Blades enjoy their win on Friday night.
    The Blades are back at it on Saturday, when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings (7 p.m., SaskTel Centre).
    The Tigers return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Prince Albert to face the defending WHL champion Raiders (7 p.m., Art Hauser Centre).
    If anyone forgot how fun the WHL can be, a reminder about how exciting and unpredictable major junior hockey can be was delivered on Friday night when the Blades slipped past the Tigers.
    Hopefully work of the encounter will attract a few more bodies to come sit in the stands.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Sunday, 5 January 2020

Time for a short-term hiatus

I am not packing it in, just taking a break

I enjoy getting to events like Huskies hockey, but it is break time for me.
    It is break time for yours truly when it comes to writing this blog.
    The main reason for taking a break is because I have never taken a hiatus from writing this blog since starting it up on August 29, 2014. I usually try to have at most six off days between posts.
    Starting on Monday, my plan is to go 18 consecutive days without writing a post on this blog. You all will probably have a laugh for my return date.
    I plan to be back on here on Jan 24, when the Medicine Hat Tigers arrive in Saskatoon to face the host Blades in a WHL regular season contest. I figured that would be the best time to get back at it, when the Tigers are in “The Bridge City.”
    Of course, I have lots of links to the Tigers due to covering them as a beat writer for 10 seasons from 2004 to 2014 for the Medicine Hat News.
    My break is also a smart one in the veteran move department, because that means I get to avoid dealing with the WHL trade deadline.
    Believe it or not, I am not a big WHL trade deadline fan. That goes back to my time in the Hat.
I plan to post again when Cole Sillinger and the Tigers come to town.
    While I always felt like I did a good job covering items on the trade deadline front, I never liked saying farewell to players and watching them leave town on a personal front.
    The guys that came through the Tigers were all good, and you got to know them fairly well. It made the departures always feel tough.
    I actually started to formulate the plan for taking a break, when I was creating my “Top 10 cool things I saw in 2019” post.
    I figured there would never be a truly perfect time to take a break. With that said, my annual memories post was completed, so it felt the timing was more ideal once that was done.
    On the hockey front, that is a sport that seemingly has something happening all through the year. I figured it would be good to take a break now before all the playoff cycles started.
    I enjoyed being at the rinks all through December after I wrote my “I’m exhausted” post.
    I was happy covering the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey games at Merlis Belsher Place on Friday and Saturday.
Clashes between the Blades and Raiders are always a fun time.
    I makes it worthwhile to see the likes of Prince Albert Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid, Medicine Hat Tigers head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins, Kamloops Blazers head coach Shaun Clouston, Saskatoon Blades associate coach Ryan Marsh and Huskies men’s hockey team head coach Dave Adolph at the rinks.
    I was pumped to see Canada down Russia 4-3 at the world junior hockey championships in Ostrava in the Czech Republic to win the gold medal on television today. Blades head coach Mitch Love was an assistant coach for Canada.
    Love oversaw the Canadian power play, which went 14-of-34 for a 41.2 per cent success rate.
    More importantly, I know how much pressure there is for anyone associated with the Canadian team to win gold at that event, so I was happy to see Love would get to enjoy a big high.
Blades HC Mitch Love won a world juniors gold medal on Sunday.
    The break will allow me to get my feet wet on some new normals.
    On Friday, I agreed to become the communications coordinator for the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. I’ve already started to create some social media posts.
    The Gordie Howe Sports Complex is just a 10-minute drive from my residence, and I can even bike there in summer. My mind has been flooded with ideas of what I want to do, and it is getting cluttered.
    Needless to say, I want to get used to ins and outs there and get organized.
    When accepted the spot, I had a mixture of being nervous and being pumped, so I believe this means this will be a good thing.
    I am also trying to help out a couple of old friends in Dan Senick and Cam Hutchinson as they go full steam ahead with running The Davidson Leader weekly paper. I am not going to be able to help out as much as they originally hoped, but I will still try to be a contributor.
    I am working on a couple of articles for them over the next two days. I am planning to be at one of the U Sports women’s hockey games on either Friday or Saturday night, when the Huskies host the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
I will be around the Gordie Howe Sports Complex a little more often.
    I am hoping to catch up with a player who is very popular in the area The Davidson Leader serves and has been a popular subject for page views on this blog. We will see how the week plays out first.
    I might still drop in on some WHL games just to scout them. I haven’t done that since the 2016-17 campaign, and it helps me see the game in a different light.
    I find it hard to just go to a WHL game just to watch it unless I am involved somehow.
    Away from sports, I might be able to take in things like a Tuesday night movie. I haven’t been able to do that for some time.
    The sports scene was busy today. Out in Edmonton, Alta., the Blades nearly rallied back past the host Oil Kings before falling 4-3. The Oil Kings lead the WHL standings with a 27-7-5-2 mark.
    Out in Winnipeg, Man., the defending WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders downed the host Ice 5-3. The Raiders had lost seven times in regulation and once in extra time in eight outings before Sunday’s win.
    The Raiders are 21-14-4-1 and the Blades are 18-17-1-2. Both should be in the post-season picture.
Add caption
    On the SFMAAAHL front, the Prince Albert Northern Bears took two of three games against the visiting Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats at the Art Hauser Centre over the last three days.
    The Bears won 5-4 and 3-2 respectively on Friday and Saturday. The Wildcats took Sunday’s clash 3-0.
    At Merlis, the Saskatoon Contacts fell 5-4 to the Tisdale Trojans in SMAAAHL action on Sunday.
    There seems to always be something happening.
    One of the tough things I find when it comes to covering the local, provincial and WHL sports scenes is you are always taking from Peter to pay Paul when decisions are made about what events you will work.
    As soon as you do one thing, you are leaving something else out. There are only so many hours in the day.
    In the current climate, it always feels like you are doing a disservice to someone.
I will return to the rinks and the SaskTel Centre press box before you know it.
    For now, I am not going to let any of those matters enter my mind. It is break time, but it is not pack it in time.
    You will still see me around, and I will be back on this blog. It isn’t going anywhere.
    Plus, I would miss seeing Saskatoon Blades play-by-play voice Les Lazaruk too much, if I wasn’t in the press box for Blades games.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 4 January 2020

Huskies exorcise Golden Bears hex with 5-0 win

Carson Stadnyk celebrates scoring a third period power play goal.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team did not want to go winless against their “forever rivals.”
    Entering play on Saturday, the University of Alberta Golden Bears, who are rated second in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, had won all four head-to-head encounters with the Huskies including one pre-season meeting and three regular season contests.
    The two sides met for the final time in the regular season on Saturday, and the Huskies pulled out a huge getting over the hump 5-0 victory before 1,369 spectators at Merlis Belsher Place. 
    The Huskies, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, took a 1-0 lead in the first and surged scoring four goals in the third in a span of three minutes and 52 seconds.
    The U of S victory came one night after the Golden Bears posted a 3-0 victory at Merlis.
The Huskies scramble to keep the puck out of their net.
    “Whenever we are playing them, there are a few more people in the crowd and obviously lots of family and friends,” said Shirley. “The rivalry has been there for however many years.
    “I know (Huskies head coach) Dave (Adolph) gets real amped and excited for these games and so do we. We came out flat yesterday, and we weren’t happy with how we played. Tonight, it was a lot better.
    “They still outshot us tonight, but we were right there. We played the right way, and it paid off for us.”
    Shirley and star netminder Taran Kozun delivered the biggest performances on the night for the Huskies. Shirley had a goal, three assists and a plus-two rating in the plus-minus department, and Kozun made 35 saves to pick up his second shutout of the campaign.
Taran Kozun makes one of his 35 saves on Saturday.
    Kozun received help too, as the Huskies skaters blocked a number of shots in front of him. Huskies second-year defenceman Gordie Ballhorn took a shot of his nose to contribute to the shot blocking effort.
    Shirley said Saturday’s win does give his club some added confidence.
    “Once you beat them once, you know you can do it again,” said Shirley. “You just have to do the right things and play the right way.
    “I think for us it was a big win and a big win for the confidence and moving forward for the rest of the second half here.”
    The Huskies broke through on the scoreboard at the 8:53 mark of the opening frame when right-winger Carson Stadnyk blew a mid-range shot past Golden Bears netminder Matt Berlin on the power play.
The Huskies celebrate a goal from Jeff Faith.
    U of A attempted to push back, but Kozun held his ground stopping 24 shots over the first 40 minutes of the contest. Kozun kept the Huskies in their 3-0 setback on Friday night making 46 saves in that outing.
    “You have to have good goaltending to win,” said Adolph. “Kozy (Kozun), he is so competitive.
    “Last night, he was good. I think he was even better tonight.”
    While Golden Bears tired to find the equalizer after the Huskies went ahead 1-0 on Saturday, the host side was still getting their chances to pull further ahead.
    The Huskies eventually blew things open starting at the 7:38 mark of the third period scoring four goals in a span of 3:52. 
Collin Shirley had a goal and three assists for the Huskies.
    The surge started when Stadnyk deflected home a shot from Shirley for a second power-play goal to give the Huskies a 2-0 edge.
    Just 18 seconds after that tally, Shirley got the puck along the icing line to the left side of the U of A goal, and he sent a backdoor pass over to right-winger Jeff Faith, who potted his second goal of the season to put the Huskies up 3-0.
    Shortly before the midway point of the frame, rookie centre Jared Dmytriw sprung Shirley on a breakaway. Shirley proceeded to rip a shot to the right corner of the U of A net to give the Huskies a 4-0 edge.
    With 8:30 remaining in the third, Huskies sophomore defenceman Shane Collins sprung fifth-year right-winger Levi Cable on a breakaway.
Levi Cable scored the Huskies fifth goal on Saturday.
    Cable wired home his fifth goal of the season to conclude the surge and round out the scoring and win for the Huskies.
    Kozun was pleased to see the offensive fireworks.
    “We haven’t scored against them very often the whole time the last two years,” said Kozun. “It is good to be able break down that wall and give the boys a lot of confidence going in the next time we have to play them.”
    Rookie netminder Matt Berlin turned away 17 shots to take the setback in goal for the Golden Bears.
    The Golden Bears fell to 15-3, but they still sit first in the Canada West Conference standings. The University of Calgary Dinos sit second with a 13-3-2 mark, the Huskies are third with a 12-4-2 record and the Mount Royal University Cougars occupy fourth with an 11-5-0-2 mark.
    The first and second place teams in Canada West earn byes to host best-of-three conference semifinal playoff series.
    “We want to still try and stay in the hunt for that second place spot,” said Adolph. “With Mount Royal losing last night and Calgary winning both this weekend, it is important that we give ourselves a foothold in terms of trying to control that spot.
The Huskies celebrate their win on Saturday.
    “Alberta is going to take a run at it, and I’m not too worried about that. I just think we have to focus on what we have. I still think we are one of the better teams in the country, and we have the ability to beat Alberta.”
    The encounters on Friday and Saturday with the Golden Bears were the Huskies first two games since returning from their Christmas break. Kozun thought it was good face the Golden Bears immediate after the break.
    “It is fun playing them in the first weekend back,” said Kozun. “You really get to set the tempo for the rest of the second half.
    “It is a quick month, and then it is pretty much playoff time. It is good to play them first and get them out of the way and get yourself used to how you have to play the whole second half.”
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday, when they travel to Lethbridge, Alta., to face the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns (5-12-1).

Pandas down Huskies 3-2, sweep series

Abby Shirley scored for the Huskies on Saturday.
    The U of Alberta Pandas women’s hockey team came up with the last big play to sweep a weekend series with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies.
    With the two sides locked in a 2-2 tie, Pandas star forward Autumn MacDougall scored her second of the night and the winner with 4:28 to play in the third to deliver U of A to a 3-2 victory on Saturday.
    The win allowed the Pandas to sweep a weekend series with the Huskies at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, Alta. U of A took the first contest of the two-game set 2-1 on Friday night.
    In Saturday’s back-and-forth affair, Abby Shirley scored for the Huskies to give them a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
    The Pandas battled back in the second going ahead 2-1 with Alex Poznikoff and MacDougall scoring for the host side.
    The Huskies evened things up at 2-2 before the second ended with Bailee Bourassa netting her eighth goal of the campaign.
    That set the stage for MacDougall to come through with the winner in the third to give the Pandas a seventh straight win.
    Camryn Drever made 17 stops to take the setback in goal for the Huskies (9-6-2-1). Kirsten Chamberlin turned away 24 shots to pick up the win in net for the Pandas (12-6).
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday, when they host the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns (7-8-1-2) at 7 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.

Raiders struggles continue, Ice for real

Brayden Watts scored for the Raiders on Saturday.
    As the Prince Albert Raiders continue to struggle, it looks like first place in the WHL’s East Division might become the domain for the surging Winnipeg Ice.
    On Saturday playing before 1,621 spectators at the Wayne Fleming Arena in Winnipeg, Man., the Ice jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Raiders thanks to a pair of goals coming from the stick of Owen Pederson.
    The Raiders, who are the defending WHL champions, pushed back, and the two sides entered the second intermission locked in a 3-3 tie.
    The host Ice scored three times in the third to seal a 6-3 victory in the WHL regular season clash.
    With the win, the Ice, who have won five straight, improve to 24-13-1 to remain first in the WHL’s East Division four points ahead of the Raiders, who fell to 20-14-4-1. The Ice have a game in hand on the Raiders.
    Prince Albert has gone winless in eight straight games dropping seven contests in regulation and one game in extra time.
    Ilya Ursu, Brayden Watts and Kaiden Guhle netted singles for the Raiders.
    Jackson Leppard scored twice for the Ice, while Connor McClennon and Isaac Johnson had singles. McClennon’s tally was his 20th goal of the season.
    Boston Bilous turned away 19 shots to take the setback in goal for the Raiders. Liam Hughes stopped 25 shots to pick up the win in net for the Ice.
    The two sides will go at it again on Sunday in Winnipeg.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 3 January 2020

Blades’ alum Davidson slides into big role with Golden Bears

Dawson Davidson has settled into life with the Golden Bears.
    Dawson Davidson is getting to be himself with the University of Alberta Golden Bears men’s hockey team.
    Last season, the Moosomin, Sask., product had a dream overage season playing for the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. The offensive-defenceman appeared in all of the Blades 68 regular season games and led the team in scoring piling up 13 goals, 62 assists for 75 points to go with a plus-27 rating in the plus-minus department.
    Davidson was named a first team WHL Eastern Conference all-star and helped the Blades post the fourth best record in the league at 45-15-8. He helped the Blades advance to the second round of the playoffs, where they fell in six games to the eventual WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders.
    During that run, Davidson appeared in all 10 of the Blades post-season games collecting nine assists.
    A veteran of five WHL seasons including stops with the Kamloops Blazers and Regina Pats, Davidson elected to join the Bears in the U Sports ranks, who are the defending Canada West champions.
Dawson Davidson has 13 points in 16 games with the Golden Bears.
    In 16 regular season games with the Golden Bears, Davidson leads all of the U of A rearguards in scoring with two goals and 11 assists for 13 points to go with a plus-16 rating.
    He was held off the scoresheet on Friday night, when his Golden Bears blanked the host University of Saskatchewan Huskies 3-0 in a U Sports regular season clash played before 1,581 spectators at Merlis Belsher Place.
    Still, the 21-year-old Davidson is enjoying his time with his new team.
    “It has been good,” said Davidson, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 185 pounds. “It has been a little bit of an adjustment just playing against older guys.
    “Everyone is stronger out there. You don’t have 16 and 17-year-olds who are still younger and developing. Just adding school to it just adds that extra element.
Dawson Davidson has enjoyed getting back in the classroom.
    “It is great hockey, and we have a great club here. They made it pretty easy for me to jump right in and start to contribute.”
    When it came to deciding on playing for a U Sports program, Davidson said the fact the Golden Bears have won 16 U Sports national titles was a big draw. U of A fell in last year’s U Sports title game 4-2 to the University of New Brunswick Reds.
    “I wanted to go somewhere where I could get an opportunity to play pro and at the same time get good degree,” said Davidson. “I weighed out my options, and U of A to me was just the best place to get to where I wanted to be.
    “They have a great track record of having good teams. This year we have a pretty good team as well. I think that all weighed into my decision.”
    An arts major, Davidson has found the academic aspect of school to be enjoyable.
Dawson Davidson had a plus-16 rating in the plus-minus department.
    “It is an adjustment, but like anything, once you start getting into the groove it is not too bad,” said Davidson. “It is just that extra element.
    “It is kind of nice going to class with your buddies and kind of getting that school aspect of life that you don’t really get as much in the Western League. It has been an adjustment, but it hasn’t been too bad.”
    When the season started, Davidson wasn’t sure if he would be putting up points like he had in the past. He made it to one of the games between the Huskies and Golden Bears in last year’s best-of-three Canada West Championship series held at Merlis and was impressed with the level of play.
    The Bears took that series posting a 1-0 victory in a series-deciding Game 3.
    “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Davidson. “I came to Game 2 of the (Canada West) finals last year.
Tyler Soy scored twice for the Golden Bears on Friday.
    “That was the only U Sports game I had ever seen. I knew it was tough hockey, and it was older guys. I’ve always believed in myself.
    “I didn’t really put a projection of what I wanted to get. I just wanted to come play my game and help the team get wins. If points come, that is just a bonus.”
    As for Friday’s game itself, the Golden Bears, who are rated second in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, jumped ahead 1-0 with 5:49 remaining in the first period. Bears left-winger Trevor Cox sprung linemate Tyler Soy on a breakaway, and Soy slipped a shot past Huskies netminder Taran Kozun.
Taran Kozun made 49 saves in goal for the Huskies.
    Kozun did his best to keep the Huskies, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, in the game over the first 40 minutes stopping 33-of-34 shots sent his way. U of A came with tonnes of pressure in the second period holding a 21-7 edge in shots on goal.
    Two of his best saves included a glove stop that thwarted a laser blast from Golden Bears centre Chad Butcher and making a sprawling pad stop on a backdoor attempt Golden Bears left-winger Steven Owre.
    Despite Kozun’s best efforts, he couldn’t keep the Golden Bears at bay.
    Just 65 seconds into the third, Golden Bears left-winger Grayson Pawlenchuk cut across the front of the Huskies goal and fired a shot past a fallen Kozun.
    The visitors expanded their lead to 3-0 just 51 seconds later, when Soy picked up his second of the contest.
The Golden Bears celebrate their win on Friday.
    With the setback, the Huskies saw their eight game winning streak come to an end.
    Kozun made 46 stops in goal for the Huskies (11-4-2). Matt Berlin turned away 18 shots to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Golden Bears (15-2).
    The two sides go at it again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Merlis.
    Davidson has enjoyed the battles between the “forever rivals” in the Golden Bears and Huskies. He experienced two of the WHL’s greatest rivalries in Pats versus Moose Jaw Warriors and Blades versus Raiders.
    He said he gets excited for heated rivalry contests and Golden Bears versus Huskies has lived up to its reputation.
    “It is a great rivalry,” said Davidson. “Whenever you can play a team that you don’t like too much, the games get really heated as you saw tonight.
    “Those are the fun games. I expect U of S to regroup, and I think tomorrow is going to be a really great game.”

Red hot Pandas slip past Huskies 2-1

Kate Ball scored for the Huskies on Friday.
    The U of Alberta Pandas women’s hockey won their sixth straight game after withstanding a strong effort for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies.
    On Friday at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, the Pandas, who are rated 10th in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, downed the visiting Huskies 2-1 with all the game’s goals coming in the second period.
    Alex Gowie gave the Pandas a 1-0 lead, but rookie Kate Ball evened things up at 1-1 just under two minutes after Gowie’s tally.
    Madison Willan scored the winner for the Pandas just over two minutes after Ball’s marker.
Halle Oswald made 23 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Pandas (11-6). Jessica Vance turned away 19 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies (9-5-2-1).
    The two sides go at it again on Saturday in Edmonton.

Blades to host Dach bobblehead night

The Kirby Dach bobblehead doll.
    Kirby Dach may be gone to the NHL, but he will always be remembered by his WHL club the Saskatoon Blades.
    The Blades will be celebrating Dach’s career in the WHL holding a Kirby Dach bobblehead night when they host the Prince George Cougars on Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.
    The Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., product began his career with the Blades in the 2016-17 campaign appearing in 19 regular season games as 15-year-old midget AAA call up. In those games, Dach posted six goals, four assists and a plus-four rating in the plus-minus department.
    That was a sign of things to come.
    He remained with the Blades through the end of the 2018-19 campaign appearing in 133 career regular season games collecting 38 goals, 91 assists and a plus-eight rating.
    Helping the Blades post the WHL’s fourth best regular season record with a 45-15-8 mark last season, Dach assisted the Blades in advancing to the second round of the playoffs, where they fell in a six-game series to the eventual WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders.
    Over the Blades 10 post-season outings, Dach posted five goals, three assists and a minus-one rating.
    In last year’s NHL Entry Draft, Dach, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 198 pounds, was selected in the first round and third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. Dach made the Blackhawks as an 18-year-old rookie and has six goals, five assists and a minus-two rating in his first 36 NHL regular season games.
The side view of the Kirby Dach bobblehead doll.
    “Obviously, he is a pretty special player when he goes number three overall in the NHL (Entry) Draft and plays as an 18-year-old,” said Blades assistant general manager Steve Hildebrand, who has been with the team for 19 years. “As an organization, it is great to see him where he is and excelling and playing well.
    “We’re extremely happy for him.”
    Dach’s bobblehead night will mark the first time the Blades have held a bobblehead night since Feb. 18, 2015, when they held one for defenceman Nelson Nogier. Nogier was traded to the Red Deer Rebels in December of 2014, and the Blades honoured the rearguard when he returned to Saskatoon with central Alberta WHL squad.
    Nogier currently plays with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
    Dach came to the Blades as a highly touted prospect. The Saskatoon side selected him in the first round and second overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
    Hildebrand said Dach was also an all-star person off the ice.
    “He is a class act,” said Hildebrand. “He has been a class act since we knew him at 14-years-old.
    “I think those type of people they are fun to be around. They are good to be around. Those are the type of people we’ve wanted to build our organization around.”
    Dach’s bobblehead doll was made in the likeness of his goal celebration in Game 2 of the second round series against the Raiders in Prince Albert. After scoring a spectacular goal to give the Blades a 1-0 lead, Dach put his hand to his ear looking to hear the sellout crowd of 3,289 spectators at the 2,580 Art Hauser Centre, who had gone silent.
    The Blades built a 2-0 edge in that contest and led 2-1 going into the third period. The Raiders netted two goals in the third to pull out a 3-2 victory.
The Kinsmen Inner City Hockey League gets a cool donation.
    Hildebrand enjoyed the idea of the bobblehead doll the Blades marketing department came up with.
    “Honestly, I had nothing to do with it, but when (Blades director of business operations) Tyler (Wawryk) told me about it, I thought it was great,” said Hildebrand. “I think that is a great part about our rivalry with P.A.
    “They are a great organization as we are. I think that over the last few years it has kind of built up. That was I think one of those moments that we’ll look back on during that series as one of those moments and great goals that he scored.
    “I think they (the Dach bobblehead dolls) turned out really well.”
    During the press conference at Brandt Tractor Limited to announce the Dach bobblehead night, the local Brandt Tractor outlet donated $2,500 to the Kinsmen Inner City Hockey League.

Wouters delivers overtime win to Blades

Chase Wouters scored the OT winner for the Blades.
    Captain Chase Wouters came through as the overtime hero for the Saskatoon Blades on Friday night.
    Facing the Rebels in Red Deer to start a short two-game road swing, the Blades were locked in a 3-3 tie in a WHL regular season clash with the host side after regulation playing before 4,073 spectators at the Westerner Park Centrium.
    At the 3:35 mark of overtime, the Blades entered the offensive zone on a two-on-one break and right-winger Tristen Robins fed a perfect pass across the face of the Rebels goal to Wouters, who potted his 15th of the campaign for a 4-3 victory.
    Scott Walford, Nolan Kneen and Kyle Crnkovic netted singles for the Blades. Arshdeep Bains scored twice for the Rebels, while Josh Tarzwell had a single.
    Nolan Maier made 30 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Blades (18-16-1-2). Byron Fancy turned away 22 shots to take the setback in goal for the Rebels (13-19-1-3).
    The Blades conclude their short road swing on Sunday, when they travel to Edmonton to face the Oil Kings. The Oil Kings lead the overall WHL standings with a 26-7-5-2 mark.

Raiders fall 1-0 in Brandon

Raiders captain Zach Hayes was involved in a fight on Friday.
    The Prince Albert Raiders are going through one of those stretches where it seems like they can’t buy a win.
    On Friday, the Raiders fell 1-0 in a WHL regular season contest to the Wheat Kings before 3,363 spectators at Westoba Place in Brandon. With the setback, the Raiders have posted six regulation losses and one extra time setback in their last seven games.
    Wheat Kings defenceman Chad Nychuk scored the game’s lone goal at the 10:52 mark of the second period.
    Raiders captain Zach Hayes engaged Wheat Kings left-winger Ben McCartney in an early third period fight.
    Jiri Patera made 29 saves to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Wheat Kings (18-17-1-2). Boston Bilous turned away 20 shots to take the setback in net for the Raiders (20-13-4-1).
    Prince Albert was active on the trade front on Friday. The Raiders acquired 19-year-old goaltender Keegan Karki from the Everett Silvertips in exchange for a fourth round selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.
    Karki, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds, is playing in his first WHL season. He has appeared in 14 games with the Silvertips posting an 8-1-2 record, a 3.19 goals against average and a .897 save percentage.
    The Raiders return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the Ice, who lead the WHL’s East Division with a 23-13-1 record.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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