Friday, 12 September 2014

Expect the Hilltops to rebound

             It is definitely weird to see the Saskatoon Hilltops sitting at 1-2 in the Prairie Football Conference standings.
            The team has 16 Canadian Junior Football League titles to its credit, which is the most in the history in the CJFL. The rough start can be more attributed to scheduling than anything.
            During those first three games, the Hilltops had to face the defending CJFL champion Regina Thunder twice. Those two clubs met in last year’s PFC final.
            Usually, teams that met in the previous year’s conference final would battle in an early season game and then in a late season contest. With the two clubs having their two scheduled meetings so early, it did leave a possibility of having a sweep on one side, which would put the other in a bit of a hole.
            Saskatoon’s loss last Saturday to the Thunder at the newly renovated and reopened Saskatoon Minor Football Field was particularly disheartening. The hosts led 25-3 at one point and were up 25-6 going into the final two minutes of the game.
            Three Thunder touchdowns later and the visitors escaped with a 26-25 victory. While that rally is viewed on the Thunder side as an epic one, it is viewed as a collapse as far as the Hilltops are concerned.
            Under head coach Tom Sargeant, offensive coordinator Sheldon Ball and defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie, don’t expect Saskatoon to go into a tailspin. All three are experienced and talented coaches, and the Toppers are capable of finishing the regular season with five straight wins.
            They also realize the level of play in the PFC is high this year, so there is urgency to get a win Saturday in Edmonton against the Huskies. The Saskatoon coaches would prefer not to dig out of a possible 1-3 hole.
            With that said, no one would be surprised if the Hilltops were in the conference final again possibly taking on the Thunder.

Searching for stats a big pain

            “In Canada, there is hockey and then there is every other sport.”
            I have repeated that line a lot over the last half decade, and I have found it has never been truer than when I was searching for statistics regarding the CJFL and exhibition scores involving university sports over the last few weeks.
            Searching for the standings for the three conferences in the CJFL proved to be a lost cause on the league’s website.
            To find scores, the best course of action was to scour the websites of individual teams, which proved to be time consuming.
            When it came to finding exhibition scores for university teams, luck was no better on the Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the Canada West websites, and the story was the same for the men’s and women’s hockey leagues playing in those bodies.
            On Thursday, the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team opened an exhibition tournament in Regina, and I had to go to the U of Regina Cougars website to find out the Huskies downed the Cougars 7-5.
            It also occurred to me that I might be the only one interested in finding out that information.
            This lack of statistical content is a bad trap for any minor sport body to fall into. NHL and CFL teams are the few groups in Canada where media companies will dump resources in to cover them.
Most other sports coverage anywhere else in Canada has been cut down to skeleton crew. If any other sporting group wants coverage, they have to spoon feed local media or make things like standings or scores easy to track down.
I would suggest that all other minor sports groups in Canada look to investing in paid staffers to keep their sites updated with stats, stories and video, if they want to spread their brands. Relying on the overworked and overstressed reporters working for media companies in Canada to do this is pretty much hopeless in my view.

Can West champs hit the ice

            The U of S Huskies hockey teams have to be thankful the leaky pipe at the Rutherford Rink on campus only nixed two days of on ice sessions.
            For a little over a week, it has been business as usual in preparing for the season. The Saskatoon faithful will get their first chance to see the defending Canada West champion women’s team in action this weekend.
            The Huskies host the Red Deer College Queens from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.
            The core of the Huskies women’s team returns as captain Cami Wooster was the only player from last year’s squad to exhaust her eligibility.
            Key returnees will include last year’s CIS rookie of the year in Kaitlin Willoughby, feisty forward Marley Ervine, solid rearguard Brooke Mutch and standout goaltender Cassidy Hendricks.

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