Sunday, 19 November 2017

Huskies take round two, blank Golden Bears 4-0

Josh Roach had a pair of goals and an assist for the Huskies.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey knocked the University of Alberta Golden Bears from the ranks of the undefeated.
    On Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, fifth-year winger Josh Roach scored a pair of goals and picked up an assist to power the Huskies to a 4-0 victory over the Golden Bears. The Golden Bears, who were rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, had won their first 11 games of the regular season before falling to 11-1 with their loss to the Huskies.
    The Huskies, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, improved to 9-2-1 to sit second in the Canada West Conference three points back of the Golden Bears.
    When the two teams met on Friday night at Rutherford, the Golden Bears skated away with a 6-1 victory.
    The Huskies showed they have ample ability to reset, when they took the ice and won Saturday’s game. They exited the first period with a 1-0 lead on a goal from centre Logan McVeigh.
    At the 3:28 mark of the second, Carson Stadnyk potted his second of the season to give the Huskies a 2-0 edge.
Jordon Cooke made 29 saves to pick up a shutout win for the Huskies.
    With 26 seconds remaining in the second, Roach scored his first of the contest to put the hosts up 3-0. He rounded out the game’s scoring with an empty-net tally with 40 seconds remaining in the third.
    Zach Sawchenko, who used to be the star goaltender of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, turned away 31-of-34 shots to suffer his first loss in eight starts in his rookie season with the Golden Bears. Jordon Cooke turned away 29 shots to pick up his ninth career U Sports regular season shutout in goal for the Huskies.
    Games between these two “Forever Rivals” are usually filled with extra-curricular activities after the whistle, but the two sides played fairly under control on Saturday combining for 34 minutes in penalties. The Golden Bears failed to score on six power-play chances, while the Huskies were unable to cash in on four power-play opportunities.
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday, when they travel to Calgary to take on the Mount Royal University Cougars (6-5-1).

Pandas’ Chamberlin slams door on Huskies

Emily Upgang had the Huskies lone goal on Saturday.
    Kirsten Chamberlin backed the University of Alberta Pandas women’s hockey team to a second straight victory over the U of Saskatchewan Huskies.
    On Saturday at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, Chamberlin made 32 saves to push the Pandas to a 3-1 victory over the Huskies. One night earlier, Chamberlin turned away 16 shots to allow the Pandas to earn a 2-1 win over the Huskies.
    In Saturday’s encounter, the Huskies dumped everything they could at Chamberlin and also came up dry on four power-play opportunities. The Pandas netminder ensured the defending U Sports champions were going to have every opportunity to escape with a win.
    The Pandas went ahead 1-0 in the first period on a power-play goal from Autumn MacDougall. Just 21 seconds into the second period, sophomore forward Emily Upgang potted her fifth of the season to force a 1-1 tie.
    Deanna Morin scored at the 13:08 mark of the second to put the Pandas up 2-1. Hannah Olenyk gave the Pandas a two-goal lead scoring at the 11:09 mark of the third period.
    The Huskies out shot the Pandas 26-13 over the second and third periods.
    Jessica Vance turned away 16 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies.
    The Pandas, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, have won three straight to improve to 8-2-2. The Huskies fell to 7-4-1.
    The Huskies return action this coming Friday when they host the Mount Royal University Cougars (3-9) at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.

Warriors third period surge sinks Blades

Libor Hajek had a goal and two assists for the Blades on Saturday.
    The Saskatoon Blades appeared to be in position to pull off another upset against the WHL leading Moose Jaw Warriors, but the Warriors star players had other ideas.
    On Saturday night at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw, the Blades held a 3-2 lead in the second period, but the Warriors netted the equalizer to force a 3-3 tie heading into the second intermission. The Warriors scored three straight times in the third period to post a 6-3 victory before 3,243 spectators.
    Tanner Jeannot had a hat trick, Brayden Burke had two goals and two assists and Jayden Halbgewachs had a goal and an assist to power the Warriors. Justin Almeida had four assists for the hosts.
    Czech import defenceman Libor Hajek paced the Blades with a goal and two assists. Michael Farren and Josh Paterson picked up singles for the visitors.
    Brody Willlms made 28 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Warriors (18-5). Ryan Kubic turned away 31-of-36 shots taking the setback in goal for the Blades (8-12-1). The Warriors, who are rated second in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top 10 rankings, scored their final goal into an empty net.
    Last Wednesday, the Blades beat the Warriors 5-4 in Saskatoon.
    The Blades and Warriors will go at it again on Tuesday in Moose Jaw.

Parker picks up 70th SFMAAAHL career goal with OT winner

Mackenna Parker scored her 70th career goal on Sunday.
    Mackenna Parker had another big performance to ensure the Saskatoon Stars remained undefeated.
On Sunday at the Co-operators Centre in Regina, Parker had a pair of assists and the overtime winner to deliver the Stars to a 5-4 victory over the Regina Rebels. The Stars improved to 11-0, while the Rebels fell to 5-3-1.
    Parker’s overtime winner was her 70th career goal in Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League regular season play. She became just the third player in league history to record 70 career goals in regular season play.
    Saskatoon product Alyssa Wiebe, who played two seasons for the Notre Dame Hounds from 2006 to 2008, had 74 career regulars season goals, and Olivia Howe, who played four seasons for the Hounds from 2008 to 2012, is the SFMAAAHL’s all-time leader in career regular season goals at 107.
    In the Stars win over the Rebels on Sunday, Grace Shirley had a pair of goals for Saskatoon, while Joelle Fiala and Anna Leschyshyn had singles.
    Brooklyn Stevely had a pair of goals for the Rebels, while Tavia Terry and Jenna Merk had singles.
Arden Kliewer made 23 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Stars. Sadie Hastings turned away 19 shots to take the setback in goal for the Rebels.
    Parker is closing in on another milestone. In 92 career regular season games, the 17-year-old centre has 70 goals and 66 assists to sit third on the SFMAAAHL’s career scoring list with 136 points.
    The Clavet, Sask., product is just six points behind Wiebe for second on the SFMAAAHL’s career scoring list. Wiebe recorded 74 goals and 68 assists for 142 points in 55 career regular season games for the Hounds.
    Wiebe went on to star for the now defunct University of North Dakota women’s hockey team. For the past two seasons, Wiebe took up football and became a star receiver with the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League.
    Howe is the SFMAAAHL’s all-time leading scorer in career regular season points recording 107 goals and 100 assists for 207 points in 106 career games with the Hounds.
    In 11 games this season Parker has 21 goals and 17 assists. Earlier in the campaign, she passed Lauren Zary as the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Stars.
    Zary played four seasons for the Stars from 2008 to 2012 collecting 44 goals and 82 assists for 126 points in 103 career regular season games. An alumna of the Brown University Bears and U of Saskatchewan women’s hockey teams, Zary is still the Stars leader in career regular season assists, and she sits third all-time in the SFMAAAHL’s list for career regular season assists.
    The Stars return to action on Saturday, when they host the Melville Prairie Fire (4-7) at 7:45 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.

Roughriders playoff run comes to a bittersweet end

Argonauts QB Ricky Ray (#15) sunk the Roughriders with a late TD drive.
    The underdog run for the Saskatchewan Roughriders through the 2017 season came up just short of Grey Cup berth.
    On Sunday at BMO Field in Toronto, Ont., the Roughriders appeared on the verge of pulling of a miraculous comeback in the East Final against the host Toronto Argonauts. The Roughriders entered the fourth quarter trailing the Argonauts 18-3 before rolling off 18 straight points.
    The surge was capped by 79 yard punt return touchdown by Christian Jones with 2:44 to play and a two-point conversion toss from quarterback Brandon Bridge to Naaman Roosevelt to give the Roughriders a 21-18 lead.
    Unfortunately for Roughriders fans, the Argonauts are led by one of the CFL’s all-time greats at the quarterback position in 38-year-old Ricky Ray. He proceeded to drive the Argonauts downfield on the ensuing series on a 10-play scoring drive that covered 68 yards.
    The drive included a critical 22-yard catch by running back James Wilder on a third-and-five gamble. It was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by short-yardage quarterback Cody Fajardo to give the Argonauts a 25-21 lead with 23 seconds to play, which held up as the game’s final outcome.
    In his CFL career, Ray quarterbacked the Edmonton Eskimos to Grey Cup championships in 2003 and 2005 and the Argonauts to a Grey Cup title in 2012. He is famous for coming though in big moments in big games. Sunday’s victory marked the 42nd time Ray has engineered a game winning fourth quarter drive in his CFL career.
    Ray completed 28-of-39 passes for 266 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the win for the Argonauts.
    Receiver Duron Carter had a solid night for the Roughriders hauling in six passes for 99 yards and one touchdown.
Duron Carter brought a lot of excitement to the Roughriders in 2017.
    The Argonauts, who are 10-9 overall, advance to the Grey Cup this coming Sunday in Ottawa to face the Calgary Stampeders, who are 14-4-1 overall. The Stampeders downed the Edmonton Eskimos 32-28 in the West Final in Calgary on Sunday. 
    The Roughriders wrap up the 2017 campaign with an 11-9 overall record, which included going 10-8 in the regular season. Before the season started, the Roughriders were predicted at best to just scrape into the CFL playoffs.
    They became an exciting team that contained a cast of characters that were fun to cheer for like Carter, defensive back Ed Gainey and Willie Jefferson. Everything positive that happened in the playoffs was a bonus. When the team came so close to making the Grey Cup, you start to realize how much you hoped to see them in that game on a fan front.
    Overall, the Roughriders had a good season, and they make a number of good memories in their first season at new Mosaic Stadium. It included Carter giving a touchdown ball to young cancer survivor Paige Hansen early in the campaign and the facility’s first Labour Day Classic win.
    Optimism has to be high for the Roughriders in 2018.

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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Hilltops season flew by into a fourth straight CJFL title

The Hilltops celebrate a Colin Stumborg touchdown.
    Two realizations hit when the Saskatoon Hilltops won their fourth straight Canadian Junior Football League title.
    First was the realization of euphoria with the team winning the Canadian Bowl with a 56-11 triumph over the host AKO Fratmen in Windsor, Ont.
    The second unexpected realization hits when you start asking yourself, “Wow, is the season really over?”
    It seemed like yesterday it was July 31 and the Hilltops were opening their main training camp at Ron Atchison Field. Since that opening day of training camp, the season just sped by.
    All of a sudden, it was Nov. 11, and the Hilltops were in Windsor, Ont., winning the Canadian Bowl for the seventh time in eight years. The Toppers also claimed their 20th CJFL title in team history. Even now, that game was held a week ago from today.
Tom Schnitzler hoists the Canadian Bowl.
   In a double edge situation with a positive twist, the fact the season flew by meant it was fun. There were downs that went along with the ups, but everyone looked forward to practice and game day no matter what was happening.
    Credit on this front has to go to the team’s leadership group. That group starts with the coaching staff led by head coach and offensive coordinator Tom Sargeant and defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie.
    The leadership group proceeds to expand to the team’s captains like quarterback Jordan Walls, running back Logan Fischer, receiver Sam Mike, offensive tackle Kirk Simonsen, middle linebacker Cameron Schnitzler, defensive lineman Tom Schnitzler, outside linebacker Cody Peters and safety James Vause.
Hilltops running back Logan Fischer tears downfield against the Thunder.
    That group helped all those involved with the team to stay in the moment. With the Hilltops trying to become the first team in the history of the CJFL to win four straight league championships, it could have been easy to emotionally hook everything up to that end result.
    The Hilltops never got into a position where the players started to think every touchdown would win the Canadian Bowl that day or conversely every missed tackle would cost you a national championship that day.
    If the team got hooked on to that line of thinking, the season could have ground down a team even as storied as the Hilltops.
    Instead, the team focused on the moment no matter where they were at in the campaign.
    In the annual alumni game in August, the players were trying to prove they were ready for bigger roles, but moments were reserved to renew links with alums that played a part of establishing the club’s venerable history.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant, right, is rocking and rolling on the sidelines.
    On Aug, 12, the Hilltops played their first game ever at Regina’s new state of the art Mosaic Stadium. The players and coaches will always remember stepping on to that field for the first time and hearing the noise from all the supporters that came down from Saskatoon echo in the facility.
    The Toppers won 37-20 that day over the host Regina Thunder. While the coaches and players knew there was still a lot to work on, everyone made sure to take time to thank the family and friends that lined the west side stands after the game to create some special moments.
    A 29-26 loss to the Thunder on Sept. 9 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field provided a grounded moment for the Hilltops. That setback would prove to be the only loss for the Saskatoon side, but it provided many lessons to the Hilltops regarding the challenges in facing a quality opponent.
Hilltops DL Riley Pickett gets one of his nine regular season sacks.
    Everything from one or two off play calls on the coaches’ side to being out executed on the players’ side for one or two plays can result in the scoreboard not coming out in your favour.
    Another big memory was the last regular season game on Oct. 7, where the Hilltops traveled to Edmonton to face the Huskies, who were undefeated at 7-0 at that time. That contest would decide first place in the Prairie Football Conference and there was curiosity on the Hilltops side to see what the Huskies were about.
    The Hilltops were pumped up to play that game and came away with a 38-28 victory in an encounter that was a battle.
    Two exciting playoff contests at SMF Field followed as the Hilltops slipped past the Winnipeg Rifles 28-21 in a PFC semifinal and downed the provincial rival Thunder 36-24 in the PFC Final. Defensive tackle Garth Knittig flew through the air for the game clinching touchdown with 96 seconds to play for Saskatoon. It is safe to say no one will forget that sight.
    On Oct. 29, the Hilltops played their final home game of the 2017 campaign at SMF Field and hammered the Nanaimo, B.C., based Vancouver Island Raiders 48-0 in a CJFL national semifinal.
DT Garth Knittig (#59) flies through the air for a Hilltops TD.
    That set the stage for Saskatoon’s historic win in the Canadian Bowl, where the Hilltops rounded out their 11-1 overall record for the campaign.
    During the journey, a lot of special memories were made for everyone that was involved with the team. You took time to savour each moment as the season progressed, but it still seemed that moment passed along before you knew it.
    The team has spent the past week enjoying the spoils from the Canadian Bowl win, which included being honoured before Wednesday’s Saskatoon Blades WHL game.
    Tonight, the “Hilltops Family” in the club and their supporters will gather one last time in 2017 for the club’s end of the year banquet at Radisson Hotel to enjoy the season that was. After tonight, life circumstances like family, school and work will begin to pull the 2017 edition of the Hilltops in all sorts of directions making harder and harder for future reunions to occur.
    The Hilltops enjoyed a lot of great moments in 2017. It is just too bad time in real life wasn’t able to go a just little slower just to enjoy them that much longer.

Slobodzian, Parker to play for Canada at under-18 worlds

Willow Slobodzian will play for Canada at the under-18 women’s worlds.
    It seems like Willow Slobodzian and Mackenna Parker are destined to do everything together.
    The two 17-year-old Clavet, Sask., products found out on Thursday they will play for Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 Women’s World Championship, which runs this coming January 6-13 in Dmitrov, Russia.
    Slobodzian, who is a smooth skating standout defender, and Parker, who is a smart and skilled centre, have spent most of the last decade playing together at various levels of minor hockey. Together, they helped the Saskatoon Stars win Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship in 2015 and 2016.
    This season, Slobodzian, who stands 5-foot-7, is playing her rookie season with the Cornell University Big Red Women’s Hockey team appearing seven overall games entering play Saturday. On Friday, she picked up her first career NCAA goal scoring on the power play in the Big Red’s 5-1 road victory over the Brown University Bears.
    Last season with the Stars, she was the team’s captain and posted six goals and 21 assists appearing in all of the team’s 28 regular season games.
Mackenna Parker will play for Canada’s under-18 women’s team.
    Parker, who stands 5-foot-5, is using up her final season of midget AAA eligibility with the Stars as their captain. She leads the SFMAAAHL in scoring with 19 goals and 14 assists in nine games.
    Now in her fourth season with the Stars, Parker is currently tied as the third all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL piling up 68 goals and 63 assists in 90 career regular season games for 131 points entering play Saturday.
    Brienna Gillanders, who played for the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats and Notre Dame Hounds from 2006 to 2010, is tied with Parker with 131 career SFMAAAHL regular season points.
    Parker is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Stars.
    Slobodzian and Parker will be joined on the Canadian team by a third Saskatchewan product in defender and Gull Lake Taylor Kirwan. Kirwan is the captain of the SFMAAAHL’s Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats this season, and she has six goals and eight assists in 11 regular season games.
    The Saskatchewan trio should help the Canadian side in a big way at the under-18 women’s worlds.
    For Slobodzian and Parker, it is great to see them continue their hockey journey together “side by side and stride for stride” as stated in a 2016 Hockey Canada article about the talented duo.

New committee gets sports gear to rural kids

Steve Hogle chairs the Saskatoon Equipment Drive Committee.
    The new Saskatoon Equipment Drive Committee created under the umbrella of Kidsport Saskatoon made a big first splash on Thursday.
    The new committee was established to collect, process and distribute new and gently used equipment to youth across Saskatchewan. Partnered with Sport Central in Edmonton, Alta., the Saskatoon Equipment Drive Committee received $400,000 worth of sports equipment at the Canadian Tire warehouse on 105th Street East on Thursday morning.
    The shipment included close to 6,000 pieces of equipment that were distributed to the Big Island Cree Nation, the Yellow Quill First Nation and Ranch Ehrlo in Regina.
    The Saskatoon Equipment Drive Committee is chaired by Saskatoon Blades president Steve Hogle. The committee also includes Saskatoon Police Service spokesperson and communications expert Kelsie Fraser. Both Hogle and Fraser have always been active in getting involved with community initiatives.
    Anyone seeking information about the Saskatoon Equipment Drive Committee can contact or check out the committee’s web page by clicking here.

Nogier plugs SPS K-9 calendar

    Nelson Nogier might be sidelined with a shoulder injury, but he is finding time on the recovery trail to be a pitchman for the Saskatoon Police Service’s K-9 Unit Calendar.
    The 21-year-old defenceman sent out a tweet on Wednesday encouraging everyone to pick up the calendar, which raises funds for the Saskatchewan SPCA Stryker K9 Care Fund. Nelson’s father, Patrick, used to be part of the Saskatoon Police Service’s K-9 unit. The Nogier family would keep Patrick’s retired K-9 unit partners as pets.
    Nelson is in the second year of his NHL entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets. On Sept. 29, he suffered a serious shoulder injury playing a pre-season game with the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, and is currently involved in a rehabilitation process that is expected to last four-to-six months from the time the injury occurred.
    The defensive defenceman, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 191 pounds, is a Saskatoon area product and is a graduate of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades and Red Deer Rebels. Last season, Nelson played 60 games with the Moose collecting two goals, 11 assists and was a minus-five in the plus-minus department.
    He finished off his first professional campaign play 10 games with the NHL’s Jets posting a minus-one rating. The Jets posted an 8-2 record in Nelson’s 10-game stretch with the team.

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Friday, 17 November 2017

Golden Bears take opening round with Huskies

The Huskies and Golden Bears scrum it up late in the third period on Friday.
    As crazy as this sounds, a 6-1 final in favour of the University of Alberta Golden Bears didn’t do justice for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.
    On Friday night at the Ancient Rutherford Rink, the forever rivals renewed acquaintances for the first time in the regular season during the 2017-18 U Sports campaign.
    The Golden Bears entered the contest rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, while the Huskies were rated third.
    The two teams could have easily been locked in a 1980s style shootout as opposed to the lopsided win the final result was.
    The Golden Bears made good on their chances, while the Huskies couldn’t finish on their golden scoring opportunities.
    There is a good chance Huskies head coach Dave Adolph, his staff and his players will review the game tape and wonder what might have been.
Dylan Bredo had a pair of goals and an assist for the Golden Bears.
    At the start of the first period, Huskies defenceman Tanner Lishchynsky and star centre Kohl Bauml both rang shots off the post of the Golden Bears net.
    After those chances came and went, Golden Bears fourth-year defenceman Dylan Bredo slipped home a point shot to put the visitors up 1-0 at the 11:32 mark of the opening frame.
    Bredo’s goal didn’t put the brakes on the Huskies push. A short time after U of A went ahead, the Huskies had another golden scoring chance, when right-winger Parker Thomas passed the puck from behind the U of A net to linemate Alex Forsberg in front of the goal.
    Forsberg appeared to have a shot pegged for the top left corner of the U of A net, but he was robbed by the glove hand of Golden Bears netminder Brendan Burke.
    Bredo proceeded to put the Golden Bears up 2-0, when he scored from the low left slot with 1:42 to play in the first period.
Jamie Crooks celebrates his hat trick goal.
    The Huskies answered that with a power-play goal with 23 seconds to play in the opening frame, when centre Logan McVeigh slipped a pass from behind the U of A net to linemate Michael Sofillas. Sofillas buried his fifth goal of the season to cut the U of A lead to 2-1.
    Just 47 seconds into the second, left-winger Taylor Cooper potted his third goal of the season to give the Golden Bears a 3-1 edge.
    The Huskies proceeded to get on the power-play twice, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. The opportunities included a misfire by McVeigh on a backdoor passing play.
    Right after the second of those to power-play chances expired, the Golden Bears got up ice in clunky fashion with numbers resulting in a goal from left-winger Jamie Crooks.
    After 40 minutes, the Huskies trailed 4-1, while the shots on goal were even at 22-22. U of S had four power-play chances after two periods resulting in one goal. U of A had two power-play chances over the opening 40 minutes but was unable to cash in on those opportunities.
    The first and second periods included the usual pushing and shoving and beaking after the whistle, and the Huskies did a great job of keeping their emotions in check during that span of time.
    The Huskies needed to score early in the third to get some traction, but Crooks potted his second of the game at the 4:15 mark to put the visitors up 5-1. After that, garbage time ensued, where tempers did flare up.
Josh Roach controls the puck at the point during a Huskies power play.
    Huskies star defenceman Jesse Forsberg got in scrum with Golden Bears centre Tyson Baillie with 10:53 to play, and the officials sent them off with minors for roughing and game misconducts.
    A short time later, Huskies fourth-year defenceman Jordan Fransoo received minors for tripping and checking from behind and a game misconduct during one sequence.
    The most dangerous altercation occurred with 2:15 to play, when Golden Bears right-winger Steven Owre hit Huskies defenceman Sam Ruopp knee-to-knee. Huskies feisty forward Jaimen Yakubowski went after Owre, and a scrum ensued.
    Owre received a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct. His infraction will be reviewed for a possible suspension for Saturday’s clash between these same two clubs at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.
    Yakubowski received a minor for roughing and a game misconduct, and Ruopp picked up a roughing minor.
U of S’s Kendall McFaull (#2) and U of A’s Jayden Hart battle for the puck.
    All the penalties did was allow Crooks to complete his hat trick with 33 seconds to play on a rare four-on-three power play.
    The officials should be given credit for kicking players out of the game, when the contest was basically decided on the scoreboard. While there were 73 minutes in penalties handed out in the third period, there could have potentially been a lot more dished out had the officials not handled things the way they did.
    Burke made 27 stops to pick up the win goal for the Golden Bears, who improved to 11-0 to remain first in the Canada West Conference. Jordon Cooke turned away 29 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies, who fell to 8-2-1 but still remained second in Canada West.
    The Huskies couldn’t be faulted for their effort on Friday. If they bear down on their golden scoring chances and clean up a couple of mishaps defensively, Saturday’s encounter can easily have a different storyline.

Dogs get a visit from a special Nova Scotian

Nova Scotia product Lindsay Horne, right, performs a ceremonial faceoff.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team a special and familiar visitor this weekend.
Coal Harbor, Nova Scotia, product Lindsay Horne traveled at his own expense this weekend to Saskatoon to see the Huskies in action. Horne is well-known to the Huskies.
    At the 2016 University Cup national championship tournament in Halifax, N.S., Horne was assigned as the Huskies volunteer host. Horne performed various assigned duties that included driving team staff members to various destinations, picking up baggage and delivering it and setting up facilities.
    Besides being the volunteer host, Horne became a fan of the team. He made tournament organizers aware of the squad’s tradition in the 2015-16 campaign of warming up in #24 jerseys to honour the late Cody Smuk, who was the Huskies gritty, hard-working forward that passed away of cancer in June of 2015.
    Horne, who is a full-time sales representative for Choisy Laboratories, organized his sons and their classmates to become a Huskies cheering section wearing #24 shirts at each game the Dogs played.
    When the Huskies returned to the University Cup in 2017 held in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Horne took time off work, drove to Fredericton and convinced the organizing committee to let him serve as the team’s volunteer host once again. Horne was named an “Honourary Huskie” by the Dogs for his efforts.
    Horne followed the Huskies U Sports game broadcasts online, but he had a desire to see a contest live in the Rutherford Rink and maybe assist in a rust clean up.
    He visited the U of S campus and the team’s practice on Thursday. Before Friday’s game, Horne dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff.
    There was one rust break in Friday’s game, where the puck hit the Rutherford Rink roof dropping rust to the ice surface, but Horne didn’t have to help with the cleanup.
    Horne will be in attendance when the Huskies face the U of Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Pandas end Huskies winning streak

Kori Herner scored for the Huskies on Friday.
    The defending U Sports national champion U of Alberta Pandas women’s hockey team brought the U of Saskatchewan Huskies four-game winning streak to an end.
    On Friday at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, the Pandas, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, downed the Huskies 3-1.
    The Pandas carried a big advantage in play outshooting the Huskies 20-6 over the first two periods. Thanks to the play of Huskies netminder Jessica Vance, the hosts were only able to build a 1-0 lead on a second period goal by Pandas captain Cayle Dillon.
    Fifth-year forward Ashley Morin extended the Pandas lead to 2-0 at the four-minute mark of the third.
    Just 29 seconds after that tally, fifth-year forward Kori Herner potted her second goal of the season for the Huskies to cut the Pandas edge to 2-1. Huskies sophomore checking forward Danielle Nogier picked up her first career U Sports regular season point with an assist on Herner’s goal.
    U of S played a strong third, but Pandas third-year forward Autumn MacDougall scored with 5:02 to play in the third to round out the scoring in U of A’s two-goal win.
    Vance made 23 stops to take the loss in goal for the Huskies (7-3-1). Kirsten Chamberlin turned away 16 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Pandas (7-2-2).
    The two teams go at it again on Saturday in Edmonton at the Clare Drake Arena.

Wheat Kings’ Thompson stones Blades

Cameron Hebig scored the Blades lone goal on Friday night.
    The Saskatoon Blades fired everything including the kitchen sink at Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Logan Thompson but were only able to get one goal past the overage veteran.
    Thompson made 42 saves to back the Wheat Kings to a 4-1 victory over the Blades before 6,242 spectator at the SaskTel Centre. The Blades pulled in their second largest crowd of the season due to the clash with Brandon being the annual game where the “blue and gold” honours First Nations.
    After the two teams played through a scoreless opening frame, the Wheat Kings jumped ahead 3-0 in the second period with singles coming from the sticks of Baron Thompson, Cole Reinhardt and Linden McCorrister.
    At the 7:58 mark of the third, star overage centre Cameron Hebig scored the Blades lone goal to cut the Wheat Kings lead to 3-1.
    Stelio Mattheos netted a single to restore Brandon’s three-goal lead at the 12:55 mark of the third.
Nolan Maier, who is a 16-year-old rookie making his second career WHL regular season start, turned away 21 shots to take setback in goal for the Blades.
    The Wheat Kings have won their last four straight to improve to 13-6-0-1. The Blades fell to 8-11-1.
    “The Bridge City Bunch” returns to action on Saturday, when they travel to Moose Jaw to face the WHL leading Warriors (17-5).

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to A big thanks goes out to Michael P.J. Kennedy at the U of Saskatchewan for the huge assist with the section on Huskies fan Lindsay Horne.
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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Blades knock off hot Warriors

Winning streak ends at six for short-handed Moose Jaw side

Evan Fiala (#47) celebrates his winning goal with his Blades teammates.
    Evan Fiala’s off-speed knuckleball shot sent the red hot Moose Jaw Warriors for a loop.
    On Wednesday night at the SaskTel Centre, the Saskatoon Blades captain directed an odd-ball shot that found its way past Warriors netminder Brody Willms with 72 seconds to play in the third period. Fiala’s goal, which was his first of the season, broke a 4-4 tie and delivered the Blades to a 5-4 victory.
    Saskatoon’s victory ended a six-game winning streak for the Warriors, who fell to 16-5 but still lead the WHL’s overall standings. Earlier in the day, the Warriors were rated second in the newly released CHL Top 10 rankings.
    Fiala already expects the Warriors to be looking forward to getting some payback on Saturday when the two clubs meet in Moose Jaw, but the overage defenceman was pleased with Wednesday’s outcome.
Evan Fiala’s goal helped the Blades earn their third home win this season.
    “It feels really good,” said Fiala, whose Blades improved to 8-10-1. “We know that they are missing some guys and Saturday is not going to be easy.
    “It definitely puts a feather in our cap.”
    The Warriors entered Wednesday’s clash with a lengthy injury list. Moose Jaw was without defencemen Josh Brook, Jett Woo, Dmitri Zaitsev and Matthew Benson due to upper body injuries. Brook and Woo are listed as out week-to-week, Zaitsev is day-to-day and Benson’s timetable to return is still to be determined.
    For the fourth straight game, the Warriors were without captain Brett Howden with an undisclosed injury. Howden was injured playing for the WHL team that took part in Game 1 of the CIBC Canada-Russia Series on Nov. 6 in Moose Jaw and came away with a 7-0 win.
Warriors goalie Brody Willms was unable to prevent this Blades goal.
    The Warriors also scratched associate player in defenceman Drae Gardiner, who was called up from the Calgary Buffaloes midget AAA program, and left-wingers Tyler Smithies and Brecon Wood.
    Besides the injuries, Moose Jaw entered Wednesday’s game having played the previous night in Swift Current and downing the host Broncos 7-4.
    Centre Logan Christensen was the Blades only scratch due to injury, and he is still expected to be out for about two-to-four weeks. Defenceman Seth Bafaro sat out the second game of a four-game league imposed suspension for taking a checking from behind major penalty and a game misconduct in a 6-4 home loss last Friday against the Swift Current Broncos.
Winger Caleb Fantillo celebrates his first period goal for the Blades.
    Forwards Tyler Lees and Dryden Michaud were Saskatoon’s other two scratches.
    Despite missing a number of key players, the Warriors held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period before Blades right-winger Caleb Fantillo deflected home a shot from linemate Cameron Hebig with 2:07 to play in the opening frame to force a 2-2 tie.
    The Blades jumped ahead 4-2 in the second, but the Warriors cut the gap to 4-3 heading into the second intermission.
    At the 8:39 mark of the third, Warriors 15-year-old defenceman Daemon Hunt converted a passing play from star forwards Noah Gregor and Jayden Halbgewachs to pot his first career WHL goal to force a 4-4 tie.
Justin Almeida (#8) breaks into the offensive zone for the Warriors.
    The Warriors selected Hunt in the first round and 15th overall in the WHL Bantam Draft held last May and called him up from the Brandon Wheat Kings midget AAA team.
Hunt’s goal set the stage for Fiala’s dramatic winner late in the third.
    “I think we were a little fortunate that they played last night and looked a little sluggish,” said Blades head coach Dean Brockman. “We’ll definitely take the two points and run with it.
    “I think we took far too many chances still in the third. When you are doing that, you are playing with fire, especially with the guys they have up front.”
Alec Zawatsky scored his first WHL goal on Wednesday.
    Brockman was thankful Fiala scoring the winning goal for the hosts after Moose Jaw erased Saskatoon’s 4-2 edge.
    “It was a bit of a relief,” said Brockman. “The two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey.
    “When you give that up, most of the time you lose those games. We found a way to get it done.”
    Alec Zawatsky, Braylon Shmyr and Gage Ramsay all had singles for Saskatoon. Zawatsky’s tally was his first career WHL goal. He had been with the Notre Dame Hounds in the junior A ranks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League earlier this season before joining the Blades.
    Gregor, Justin Almeida and Tanner Jeannot all had singles for the Warriors.
    Ryan Kubic turned away 34 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Blades. Willms stopped 46 shots to take the setback in net for the Warriors.
    Seconds after Fiala scored, the Warriors thought they scored the equalizer, when a scrum of players bumped into Kubic and the puck did go into the Saskatoon net. The goal was disallowed as the officials had blown the play dead after losing sight of the puck.
The Blades begin celebrating their win over the Warriors.
    Wednesday’s game marked only the third time the Blades have won at home this season in nine tries. While the crowd was sparse at 2,745, Fiala was happy his side could deliver a victory for the team’s supporters.
    “It is huge, and it is not only for us,” said Fiala. “It is for our fans too that come out every night.
    “We really want to give them a good game.”
    The Blades return to action on Friday, when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings (12-6-1) at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. The Warriors return to Moose Jaw to host the Calgary Hitmen (6-12-3) on Friday.

Hilltops in the house with Canadian Bowl

The Hilltops are honoured before Wednesday’s Blades game.
    The Saskatoon Hilltops were on hand at the SaskTel Centre on Wednesday night, and they brought the Canadian Bowl with them.
    The Hilltops were honoured for winning their fourth straight Canadian Junior Football League championship on Saturday in Windsor, Ont., when they bombed the host AKO Fratmen 56-11. Captains Jack Sloboda, James Vause, Tom Schnitzler, Cameron Schnitzler and quarterback Jordan Walls marched to centre ice to show off the Canadian Bowl.
    The Hilltops, who finished the 2017 campaign with an 11-1 overall, arrived on an invite from the Blades. A large contingent from the team watched Wednesday game in the section of seats behind the net of the west side of the SaskTel Centre.
    The victory over the AKO Fratmen marked the 20th time the Hilltops have won the CJFL title.

Vetter receives WHL Milestone Award

Referee Reagan Vetter was give the WHL Milestone Award.
    Saskatoon product and veteran WHL official Reagan Vetter was honoured during a pre-game ceremony before Wednesday’s game for his years of service to the league.
    The 40-year-old, who has been a school teacher for the last 11 years, was presented with the WHL Milestone Award by Kevin Muench, who is the WHL’s senior director of officiating.
    The WHL Milestone Award is given to WHL players, coaches, trainers, officials and WHL championship teams for their outstanding achievements.
    Vetter has worked 20 seasons in the WHL, which includes six campaigns as a linesman and 14 as a referee.
    He has skated in over 650 regular season games, 11 WHL conference championships and seven WHL Championship series. Vetter was part of the officiating crew that worked the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament that was held in Saskatoon.
    Vetter makes his home in Saskatoon with his wife, Kristine, and their daughters, Neven and Quinn.

Former Tigers captain Valk makes NHL debut

Curtis Valk in action for the Tigers in the 2013-14 season.
    Curtis Valk found his way to “the Show.”
    On Tuesday, the 24-year-old former captain of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers made his NHL regular season debut with the Florida Panthers. He saw three minutes and 25 seconds of ice time as the host Panthers downed the Dallas Stars 4-3 after a tiebreaking shootout before 10,928 spectators at the BB&T Centre in Sunrise, Florida.
    The skilled centre played in 270 career regular season games for the Tigers from 2009 to 2014 piling up 125 goals and 130 assists. The Medicine Hat product picked up another 22 goals and 19 assists in 49 career WHL playoff games.
    All through his hockey career, Valk heard naysayers comment that he was too small to play hockey at an elite level and eventually make it to the NHL. He stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 170 pounds and has proved the naysayers wrong.
    After graduating from the Tigers, Valk played his first three professional hockey seasons in the farm system of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. He signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Panthers before the start of this season.
    Before skating in his NHL debut, Valk appeared in 16 regular season games with the Springfield Thunderbirds, who are the Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate club. He collected six goals and nine assists in those 16 games with the Thunderbirds.

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Cooke wins 50th with Huskies

Kendall McFaull, left, gives congrats to Jordon Cooke on his 50th win.
    Jordon Cooke further cemented his status as one of the best goalies to ever play for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team with a unique accomplishment.
    On Saturday at the ancient Rutherford Rink, Cooke made 26 saves as his Huskies, who are rated fourth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, downed the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 5-2. With that effort, Cooke became the third goalie in the history of the Huskies men’s hockey team to win 50 career regular season games.
    The other two netminders who have pulled off that feat are Ryan Holfeld, who won 53 games playing for the Huskies from 2010 to 2015, and Jeff Harvey, who picked up 60 wins playing for the Huskies from 2005 to 2010.
    During his career with the Huskies, Cooke has been phenomenal. Currently during regular season play with the team, the Leduc, Alta., product has posted a 50-19-2 record, a 2.38 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and eight shutouts.
    The 24-year-old has been the U Sports goalie of the year and a U Sports first team all-Canadian in each of the past two seasons.
Jordon Cooke makes a glove stop for the Huskies.
    He was instrumental in helping the Huskies win the Canada West title in the 2015-16 campaign and make an appearance in the U Sports championship game – the University Cup – last season.
    Cooke was a prized recruit for the Huskies back at the start of the 2014-15 season have been named the Canadian Hockey League’s goaltender of the year back in the 2013-14 campaign while with the Kelowna Rockets.
    Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 185 pounds, Cooke was passed over in the NHL Entry Draft as those clubs are hooked on finding netminders who stand at least 6-foot-2.
    With that said, Cooke can flat out stop the puck making key bailout saves, and he should be in the professional ranks. Numerous pears that he played with and against in major junior and the university ranks believe Cooke should be playing in the professionally now.
    What can’t be denied is Cooke has made his mark with the Huskies. He is arguably the most recognizable player on an extremely talented Huskies men’s team.
    He is the type of player you want representing your team out in the community. Cooke is well-mannered, personable and approachable, and he has a pretty slick sense of humour too, which makes him a beauty.
    Cooke has held his own in the classroom too. Before the start of the season, he was named one of many recipients of the Huskie Athletics All-Academic Second Team award for having an average of at least 74.5 per cent on a minimum coarse load of 24 credit units last season.
Jordon Cooke, left, and Levi Cable chat during a stoppage in play.
    For players coming out of major junior hockey, they always face initial anxiety about the classroom work, when they join a university squad. A lot of times, those players will have been out of school for two or three years. Academic achievements are gratifying for those players.
    While Cooke had a solid night on Saturday, Michael Sofillas scored twice for the Huskies, while Kohl Bauml, Parker Thomas and Logan McVeigh all had singles helping the Huskies improve to 8-1-1.
    Manraj Hayer and Tyler Sandhu replied with singles for UBC. Saskatoon product Rylan Toth turned away 36-of-40 shots taking the setback in goal for the Thunderbirds (5-4-1).
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday when they host their forever rivals the U of Alberta Golden Bears (10-0) at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Vance still in prime form after layoff

Jessica Vance in her last game with the Bears on March 25, 2015.
    Jessica Vance showed a layoff of about two and a half years didn’t diminish any of her skills when it comes to play goal.
    On Saturday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver, B.C., Vance made her second consecutive start for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team. She made 17 stops to back the Huskies to a 2-1 victory over the host University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
    One night earlier, Vance made 33 saves to pick up a 2-0 shutout victory for the Huskies against the Thunderbirds in her U Sports regular season debut. UBC had been ranked first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings heading into the weekend.
    Before stepping in goal for the Huskies on the weekend, Vance’s last competitive hockey start came way back on March 25, 2015 for the Prince Albert Northern Bears in Game 3 of that year’s Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series. She made 20 saves in that game, but the Bears fell to the host Saskatoon Stars 2-0 at the Agriplace Arena and were swept out of that series 3-0.
    Playing for the Bears from 2010 to 2015, Vance became one of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s all-time greatest goalies posting a 48-36 record, a 2.27 goals against average, a .926 save percentage and 16 shutouts in 91 career regular season games. Her 48 wins, 16 shutouts and 91 games played are all SFMAAAHL career regular season records.
    After exhausting her midget AAA eligibility, Vance committed to play for the U of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team, but she was forced to sit out the 2015-16 campaign as a medical redshirt after suffering a major leg injury playing competitive softball in the summer of 2015.
    Vance dressed for one game as a backup goalie very early last season for the Bisons before electing to play closer to home. Due to dressing for that one game, she wasn’t eligible to play for the Huskies until Nov. 1 of this year.
Kayla Kirwan scored her first U Sports goal on Sunday.
    Against the Thunderbirds, Vance didn’t show any rust. The 20-year-old played up to her star reputation from the past stopping 50-of-51 shots over two games against a powerhouse Thunderbirds side.
    With those two wins, the Huskies improved to 7-2-1 to sit first in the Canada West Conference by a single point over the Bisons (7-3).
    U of S built that record playing three goalies who have all delivered strong performances in Vance, Jasey Book and Chloe Marshall. Huskies head coach Steve Kook has a good problem of having to make a tough decision of who starts, who dresses and who sits among the trio on any given night.
    In Saturday’s win, Emily Upgang had a goal and an assist for the Huskies, and the assist came from helping set up defender Kayla Kirwan’s first career U Sports regular season goal.
    Hannah Clayton-Carroll had the lone reply for UBC. Amelia Boughn made 26 saves to take the loss in goal for the Thunderbirds, who fell to 6-4.
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday, when they travel to Edmonton to take on the defending U Sports champion U of Alberta Pandas (6-2-2).

Thompson stones Blades

Jake Kustra scored for the Blades on Saturday.
    The Saskatoon Blades couldn’t overcome a hot goaltender against the Wheat Kings in Brandon on Saturday night.
    Overager Logan Thompson made 36 saves to allow the Wheat Kings to slip past the Blades 3-1 before 4,804 spectators at Westman Place.
    The two teams played through a scoreless opening frame. Baron Thompson scored the only goal of the second period to give the Wheat Kings a 1-0 lead.
    At the 13:45 mark of the third period, Stelio Mattheos potted his 11th goal of the season to give Brandon a 2-0 edge. Blades defenceman Jake Kustra got the visitors on the board with a short-handed goal with 1:15 to play in the third period.
    Saskatoon pressed for the equalizer, but Evan Weinger closed out the Wheat Kings victory with an empty-net goal right before the third period buzzer.
    Ryan Kubic turned away 21-of-23 shots taking the setback in goal for the Blades.
    The Wheat Kings improved to 11-6-1 with the win, while the Blades fell to 7-10-1.
    The Blades return to action Wednesday, when they host the Moose Jaw Warriors (7 p.m., SaskTel Centre).

Get ready for Roughriders hysteria to crank even higher

Quarterback Kevin Glenn led the Roughriders to a playoff win in Ottawa.
    Now that the Saskatchewan Roughriders have won the East semifinal, you can expect the excitement for the CFL club to hit an even higher fever pitch in the province that boasts the “Land of the Living Skies.”
    The excitement in warranted. After missing the CFL’s playoffs for two straight seasons, the Roughriders have exceeded expectations in the current campaign posting a 10-8 regular season record. It has been enjoyable to watch this team come together over the course of the season. Going into the playoffs, the Roughriders had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
    On Sunday before 24,107 spectators at TD Place in Ottawa, the Roughriders downed the host and defending Grey Cup champion Redblacks 31-20. Thanks to that win, Saskatchewan advances to the East Final this coming Sunday against the Argonauts in Toronto.
    In the win over the Redblacks, Roughriders ageless 38-year-old quarterback Kevin Glenn completed 18-of-28 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown to pace the visitors. Glenn carried the ball three times for 10 yards and scored one touchdown.
    Running back Marcus Thigpen carried the ball 15 times for 169 yards and scored on an electrifying 75-yard touchdown run.
    Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris did his best to try and keep his side’s post-season alive. He completed 37-of-60 passes for 457 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
    Listening to the radio call of Roughriders play-by-play voice Rod Pedersen was fun, when he described Thigpen’s 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Pedersen goes right out there being excited for the Roughriders, and the entertainment value of his call was priceless. As a fan, you come away thinking your team is number one, if you are a Roughriders backer like I am.
    At that moment, I was thinking too hard on a serious subject, and that touchdown call came at a perfect time to lighten the mood. I had a good chuckle.
    On the Roughriders front, the figures are crossed for this upcoming Sunday.
    The Edmonton Eskimos dumped the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg 39-32 in the West semifinal. The Eskimos advance to face the Stampeders in Calgary this coming Sunday in the West Final.

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