Monday, 5 January 2015

Canada golden again

            Canada rules! 
            What more needs to be said?
            You didn’t have to be glued to a social media feed to know that most people in Canada were watching the final of the world juniors on Monday night on television, and if you were real lucky, you were one of the lucky spectators at the game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
            In an all-time just plain great game, Canada downed Russia 5-4, but it was a different sort of classic.
            When someone thinks of Canada winning a critical world junior game or the championship game itself, there are usually visions of heroic past performances by Jordan Eberle and Jonathan Toews.
            In this one, Canada built what seemed to be a safe 5-1 lead in the second period, but the Russians stormed back with three straight goals before the second intermission rolled around to cut the lead to 5-4.
            What made this performance great was how Canada regrouped in the second intermission.
            Russia started the third on the power play and had capitalized on 2-of-3 power-play chances. The first order of business was to kill off the fourth Russian power play, which Canada did admirably.
            After the kill, the Canadian players closed out the third defensively to preserve the 5-4 win. Zachary Fucale made 11 saves in the third and 26 overall in the contest to backstop the victory.
            In the third, the Canadians were outshot 11-4, but it didn’t totally feel like the host side was in trouble. Canada calmly did its job shift after shift and preserved the win and a 7-0 tournament record.
            Max Domi, who is the son of long time former NHLer Tie Domi and basically grew up in Toronto, came through as a hometown hero. He set up Canada’s opening goal 23 seconds into the contest by Anthony Duclair, scored Canada’s fourth goal and assisted on Sam Reinhart’s deflection tally, which ultimately won the game.
            Nick Paul and 17-year-old phenom Connor McDavid tallied Canada’s other two goals. Defenceman Darnell Nurse was a beast on Canada’s back end, and he deserved being named the team’s player of the game for the contest.
            Captain Curtis Lazar didn’t register a point in the final, but the ultra-positive forward was instrumental all tournament long in helping Canada win its first gold medal since 2009 to end a six-year drought. Lazar also helped the Edmonton Oil Kings win the Memorial Cup last May, which also ended a six-year drought for the WHL as a league when it came to winning major junior hockey’s biggest prize.
            Right now for Canada, it is celebration time. There is always so much pride that goes along with a golden finish.

Huskies go up, go down

Defenceman Chad Suer of the Huskies.
            Being a little risky with the puck likely cost the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team a series sweep in their first regular season weekend back from the Christmas break.
            On Saturday at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Huskies erased a 3-2 deficit after two periods to roll off a 5-3 victory over the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. In trying to break out of their zone at time over the first 40 minutes, the Huskies were a bit too loose with the puck, which helped the visitors get some turnovers and get ahead.
            Early in the third, sophomore forward Josh Roach slipped home the equalizer for the Huskies to lock the score up at 3-3. With 3:57 to play in the third, the line of Roach, Michael Sofillas and Craig McCallum forced a turnover that resulted in McCallum’s winner.
            Matthew Spafford scored twice, while Zak Stebner had a single for the Huskies. Ryan Holfeld made 24 saves to earn the win in goal.
            Ryon Moser, David McMullen and Cason Machacek had singles for the Pronghorns, while Damien Ketlo turned away 35 of 39 shots suffering the loss in goal.
            The Huskies did a great job playing under control in the third period rally, but turnovers proved to be their undoing on Sunday at Rutherford, when the Pronghorns rebounded with a 5-2 victory.
            Lethbridge jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second, before forward Jesse Ross stopped the bleeding for the Huskies. Before the second ended, the Dogs had a glorious chance to cut the Pronghorns lead to one.
            Working on a two-man advantage, Huskies rookie forward Parker Thomas had a chance to tap in a pass from across the face the Pronghorns goal, but he misfired. That proved to be a key turning point.
            The visitors scored twice early in the third to go up 5-1, before McCallum netted the Huskies final goal. Jordon Cooke made 25 stops in goal.
            Warren Shymko made 39 stops to earn the win for the Pronghorns in net. Brandon Clowes had a hat trick, while Artsiom Kalashnikov and Cass Mappen had singles for the road side.
            The Huskies sit fourth in Canada West with a 9-10-1 record, while the Pronghorns are last in the eight-team loop at 4-16.
            While the split was disappointing, it was good to see defenceman Chad Suer return to the Huskies lineup after missing the first half of the season due to injury. The fourth-year veteran, who played five WHL seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Everett Silvertips, is a solid blue-liner on the ice and one steady team guys you need in the dressing room.
            It was way better seeing him on the ice than in the stands, even though he a fun person to sit with in the stands.
            The Huskies return to action this coming Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. both nights at Rutherford against the University of Calgary Dinos (13-7).
            The Huskies women’s hockey team hits the road this coming Friday and Saturday for their first action since the Christmas break traveling to Calgary to face the Dinos.

Stars shine at Mac’s

Sophia Shirley, right, of the Saskatoon Stars.
            The Saskatoon Stars midget AAA girls’ hockey team might be the coolest story on the Bridge City’s sports scene over the last 10 days.
            On New Year’s Day, the Stars won the female final of the prestigious Mac’s Midget Tournament downing the Calgary Fire 4-2 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. Sophia Shirley, who is a 15-year-old forward, had a hat trick for the Stars, while Kianna Dietz had a single. Karlee Fetch made 13 saves to earn the win in goal. Saskatoon was a perfect 6-0 at the Mac’s.
            After one day off, the Stars returned to Saskatoon and posted 3-1 and 3-0 victories respectively on Saturday and Sunday over the Battlefords Sharks at the Agriplace Arena. Saskatoon sits first overall in the Saskatchewan Female Midget Hockey league with a 16-1 record.
            The Stars also won the Mac’s title back in 2011, when they doubled up the Edmonton Thunder 4-2. In that contest, current University of Saskatchewan Huskies forward Lauren Zary had two goals and two assists for the Stars.

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