Monday, 29 September 2014

Huskies gut one out

Jared Janotta (#21) loses a last second winning catch.
            It was a game where neither side was really happy with the end result.
            On Saturday at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies downed the University of Regina Rams 21-16 in a Canada West regular season game. The victorious Huskies improved to 3-1, but it was pretty obvious on the field their intensity level was lacking.
           While they won, they looked a lot more intense and a lot more polished offensively in their previous game falling 38-24 at home to the University of Calgary Dinos on Sept. 19. The Dinos have won the last six straight Canada West titles, and Dogs entered that contest as major underdogs.
            The Huskies came away from that tilt with the Dinos feeling good about the potential they could have. All of a sudden the match with the Rams, who fell to 1-3 on Saturday, was a trap game.

            The Rams led 13-11 at halftime and were on the better end of the scoreboard for most of the second half. It was their game for the taking.
            The Huskies went up 21-16 with 1:53 to play in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Drew Burko hit running back Shane Buchanan on a five-yard pass.
            After that score, the Rams had two possessions offensively. On the second possession, it looked like Rams first-year quarterback Noah Picton was going to have his first Joe Montana-like moment with the team.
            He drove his squad 80 yards downfield to the Huskies 17. Picton then threw what appeared was going to be a game-winning touchdown strike to Jared Janotta in the end zone. The ball bounced off Janotta’s hands and into the mitts of Huskies defensive back Keegan Arnyek for a game-saving interception.
            The Rams, who fell to 1-3, came away unhappy a victory which they should have had eluded their grasp. The Huskies weren’t satisfied, because the level of their play dropped from the loss to the Dinos.
            In order to have a good season, teams will have to pull out the odd victory in a game where the effort was lacklustre. The Huskies still found a way to win, so that has to ultimately be seen as a good sign for them.
            This coming Saturday, the Dogs return home to Griffiths Stadium to host the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds for a 7 p.m. start. The Vanier Cup will be on display at the pre-game from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., and fans can have their picture taken with the CIS championship trophy.
            In an interesting development on Monday, the Huskies found out they were tied for first in the Canada West Conference. The Dinos fell to 3-1, when their regular season opening win over the University of Alberta Golden Bears was ruled a 1-0 win by the Golden Bears due to the fact the Dinos used two academically ineligible players.
            U of C holds the tiebreaker in the standings due to their win over the Huskies. The Dinos originally won the overturned contest against the Golden Bears 71-3 on Sept. 5.


Goaltending, defence paved the way for Dogs

            Goaltending and defence are expected to be the strengths of the Huskies men’s hockey team, and that proved to be true in the first weekend of the Canada West regular season play.
            The Huskies blanked the University of Regina Cougars 2-0 at the ancient Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon on Friday and then downed the Cougars 4-2 on Saturday in Regina.
            In Friday’s win, fifth year netminder Ryan Holfeld stopped 34 shots for the shutout, and the law student made every save look easy even the difficult ones. Former Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the year Jordon Cooke turned away 31 shots in Saturday’s win.
            U of S graduated their top four leading scorers from a season ago in Derek Hulak, Kenton Dulle, Andrew Bailey and Brennan Bosch along with Ryan McDonald, who was part of a three-way tie for seventh in team scoring. All of them are outstanding individuals, who also all had strong WHL backgrounds. Their departure does leave a big hole.
            Some of the newcomers showed some interesting potential. In the 2-0 win, Rhyse Dieno, who piled up points with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, had a nice breakaway goal.
            Michael Sofillas, a former member of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, scored a goal in each win and was flying around the rink.
            The Huskies were also 4-for-9 on the power play on the weekend. If success continues in that area, it will further boost the Huskies’ offence.
            The Dogs return to action this coming Friday and Saturday hosting the Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. each night at the Rutherford Rink.
            The women’s hockey team opens their regular season schedule this weekend traveling to Vancouver to take on the Thunderbirds this Friday and Saturday.


NHL game kind of a dud

The Oilers and Blackhawks face off at the Credit Union Centre.

             NHL exhibition game. Meh.
            On Sunday, the building known until Wednesday as the Credit Union Centre played host to a pre-season NHL contest between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago skated away with a 5-0 victory and 10,760 spectators saw both side ice rosters were only about half their players spent time in the show last season.
            On Monday, the Oilers actually sent five players that appeared in Sunday’s loss to their American Hockey League affiliate the Oklahoma City Barons. With so many non-NHL players on the ice, it seemed like those in the building weren’t all that enthusiastic about what transpired. There was cheering, but there wasn’t as much cheering as you would expect.
            After checking the video, the quality of the Blackhawks’ goals looked better than they first seemed, as they scored on a number of tipped chances. Kris Versteeg’s tally was the best one as he scored after being sent in alone on goal on a pass from Bryan Bickell to put the Hawks up 5-0 late in the third.
            With that said, spectators paid between $59.50 to $112 per ticket including fees to attend Sunday’s match. In all honestly, those in attendance didn’t get their monies worth. In case you were wondering, attendance was announced in the building at 10,303 before being adjusted on the scoresheet at the end of the contest.

Hilltops roll off third straight win

             For those that made it to the Saskatoon Minor Football Field on Sunday, they saw an entertaining performance from the Saskatoon Hilltops.
            The Hilltops rolled off their third straight victory downing the Winnipeg Rifles 48-23. The hosts piled up 242 yards through the air and 150 yards on the ground.
            Unfortunately, only 808 spectators turned out for this contest. Attendance took a double hit, as the NHL exhibition game between the Oilers and Blackhawks was to start almost immediately after the Hilltops game ended. It was also overcast outside and the temperature was around 10 C, so that likely help keep people away as well.
            All of that was too bad, because the Hilltops are a fun team to watch.
            With the win, Saskatoon improved to 4-2 and tied the defending CJFL champion Regina Thunder for first in the Prairie Football Conference. The Thunder fell 20-13 at home to the Calgary Colts on Sunday.
            Regina holds the tiebreaker in the standings having swept the two head-to-head matches with Saskatoon.           

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