Sunday, 25 January 2015

Frustration mounts for Huskies

Kandace Cook (#21) tries to bury a shot for the Huskies.
   The frustration and disappointment spread out all around for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's hockey team.
   The defending Canada West champs saw their losing skid extend to six games dropping both games of a series last weekend against the University of Manitoba Bisons at the ancient Rutherford Rink. The setback that moved the slide to six proved to be the most disappointing, which saw the Bison pull out a 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday night.
   Following that loss, the Huskies' players tried their best to still appear upbeat, but the emotions of being sombre pretty much took over. Having sat first overall in the Canada West Conference going into the Christmas break, they were stunned and speechless to have fallen to 11-8-3 to sit fifth overall in the conference. It was obvious to tell the group as a whole isn't used to an extended losing stretch.
   On Friday, the Huskies had a few defensive zone breakdowns and fell 5-2 to the Bisons. Chelsey Sundby and Lauren Zary had singles for the Huskies, while Cassidy Hendricks turned away 22 of 26 shots taking the loss in goal.
   Alana Serhan had a hat trick for the Bisons, while Lauryn Keen and Kayleigh Wiens had singles. Rachel Dyck made 17 stops to pick up the win in goal.
   On Saturday night, the Huskies played their best game since returning from the break and led 2-1 after the first period thanks to a pair of goals by Zary, while Cassandra Taylor had the reply for the Bisons. The edge held up going into the second intermission.
   In the third, the Bisons went ahead 3-2 thanks to tallies by Serhan and Maggie Litchfield-Medd. Marley Ervine potted the equalizer for the Huskies to force a 3-3 tie and send the contest to overtime.
   Just 65 seconds into the extra session, Alanna Sharman scored the winner for the Bisons, who improved to 16-5-1 to sit second overall in Canada West. Dyck made 20 saves to pick up the win in goal for Manitoba.
Rookie Jerrica Waltz made her first career start in goal for the Huskies and made 29 stops taking the loss for her side.
Marley Ervine drives a shot on goal for the Huskies.
   In Saturday's match, both side basically manufactured their goals by driving hard to the net and potting gritty type tallies. The Bisons also blocked a huge number of Huskies shots, especially in the third, to add to the frustration for the host squad.
   The Huskies played technically better for longer stretches on Saturday than they had during any other of their outings during the skid. In the end, it wasn't enough to break back into the win column.
   U of S has been hurt by injuries in attempting to break their skid. On the weekend, the Huskies returned defender Hanna McGillivray, who missed three games due to a concussion. Forward Rachel Johnson is walking around Rutherford sporting a serious knee brace. She suffered that injury in the Huskies 1-0 home loss to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Jan. 16.
   Rookie forward Chelsea Wilson left the team due to family reasons having last played in the Huskies 5-2 road loss to the U of Calgary Dinos in Calgary on Jan. 10. Johnson had five goals and four assists in 19 games, while Wilson had a goal and seven assists in 18 games. In a Canada West Conference where goals have come at a premium, losing that offensive production is a blow to the Green and White.
   Had the Huskies split with each of their first three weekend series since the break, they would be in the thick of possibly challenging for first overall in the conference. The overtime loss to the Bisons allowed the Huskies to officially lock up a playoff berth, but they would need to win most of their final six games to have a chance to host an opening round playoff series.
   They now head on the road for five straight games. The first two of those contests will be this coming Friday and Saturday in Edmonton against the Canada West leading U of Alberta Pandas (16-6). The Pandas lead the Bisons by two points in the standings due to a 15-12 edge in regulation wins.
   The Huskies will head into those clashes with the Pandas as underdogs. In the glass half full analogy, the Dogs also have nothing to lose and everything to gain in those clashes.

Unfamiliar territory for Huskies men's hockey team

Josh Roach rushes up ice for the Huskies.
   The U of S Huskies men's hockey team ended up with a distinction they would have loved to have avoided.
   After dropping two games to the University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg on the weekend, the Huskies fell to 10-14-2. With two games to play in the regular season, the Huskies will finish with a losing record for the first time since the 1995-96 campaign, when they posted an 11-14-3 mark. The Huskies had gone 18 straight seasons without posting a losing record, which had to be commended for being impressive.
   Thanks to having a roster that contained 12 first year players, the Huskies were unable to extend that run to an 19th straight campaign.
   On Friday, the Huskies dropped a 2-1 decision to the Bisons in double overtime. Craig McCallum gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead early in the first period. In the closing seconds of the second period, the Bisons tied things up with goal from Jordan DePape.
   The game advanced through a four-on-four overtime session still tied 1-1. In the final seconds of a three-on-three overtime session, Taylor Dickin potted the winner for the Bisons.
   Ryan Holfeld made 44 stops taking the extra time loss in goal for the Huskies. Byron Springs made 30 saves picking up the win in goal for the Bisons.
   Manitoba drilled Saskatchewan 6-2 on Saturday night. Aaron Lewadniuk, Brett Dudar, Jory Coates, Jesse Paradis, Joel Schreyer and DePape netted singles for the Bisons. Springs made 27 stops to earn the win in goal helping the Bisons improve to 14-12.
   Josh Roach and Michael Sofillas had singles for the Huskies. Jordon Cooke turned away 11 of 15 shots taking the loss in goal. Holfeld turned away 11 of 13 shots in relief.
   The Huskies locked up a berth in the Canada West playoffs, when the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds blanked the U of Regina Cougars 1-0 on Saturday night in Vancouver. U of S is also locked into finishing sixth overall in the conference, which means the Huskies won't host a home playoff series this year. Playoff home games are normally a fixture at the Rutherford Rink.
   The Dogs host their final two home contests of the 2014-15 campaign this coming Thursday and Friday at Rutherford against the U of Alberta Golden Bears to close out the regular season for both clubs. Game time is 7 p.m. both nights. The Golden Bears have locked up first overall in Canada West currently sporting a 22-3-1 mark.
   Those games will also mark the 85th anniversary of the Huskies playing at the Rutherford Rink.

Dogs help battle cancer

The Play For The Cure table at the Rutherford Rink.
   The Huskies hockey teams are both involved in fundraising games to help battle cancer.
   The women's team held their seventh annual Play For The Cure game on Friday. This year the proceeds went to Choc 'la Cure in honour of Cody Smuk, who is an alumnus of the men's hockey team and is battling cancer. The women's team also wore jerseys donated by the family of second-year forward Kennedy Harris. They were worn in memory of Harris's grandmother, Yvette Marie Hyatt, who passed away of cancer.
   The jerseys were auctioned off through a silent auction, and a number of items were available through a raffle on a table set up in the concession area at the Rutherford Rink. The silent auction raised over $2,500.
   Smuk wasn't able to be at Friday's game, because he was in hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Smuk's parents, Marty and Darla, and fiancée, Stephanie Vause, were in attendance.
   This coming Thursday and Friday, the men's team will be raising funds for their former team member in their final home games of the season against the Golden Bears. Funds are being raised for "Marty's Men," which is the Relay for Life team for Smuk. His nickname is "Marty."
   Smuk helped the Huskies win silver at last year's University Cup national championship tournament. His cancer diagnosis came a couple of months later.

Blades on a roll

Nik Amundrud, left, and Josh Uhrich celebrate Uhrich's goal.
   The young Saskatoon Blades might be giving local WHL fans a glimpse of the future.
   On Sunday night, the Blades rolled off their fifth straight win blanking the Prince Albert Raiders 3-0 before 4,136 spectators at the Sasktel Centre. Currently the run is the longest winning streak the Bridge City Bunch has had during a rebuilding 2014-15 season.
   Goaltender Nik Amundrud made 24 saves to earn his second shutout of the season. Overage captain Brett Stovin potted his 19th of the season on a breakaway in the first period. Garrett Armour and Josh Uhrich added singles in the third.
   Nick McBride turned away 35 shots suffering the loss in goal for the Raiders (19-27-1).
   The Blades are going with a young roster for the rest of the season that contains just two overagers and four players in their 19-year-old seasons. They still sit second last in the entire WHL, but have improved to 14-29-2-1.
   Work ethic has not been a problem for the Blades this season, and head coach and general manager Bob Woods and rest of the team's coaches have to be happy to see some wins are finally happening as a result of the hard work.
   The Blades have also played an open and aggressive style of offensive game during the winning stretch, which has resulted in 23 goals being scored over those five victories. The success has been earned.
   For most of the season, opposing teams could believe they would be pushed by the Blades but would eventually get a character-building victory. With what the Blades have been able to accomplish, opposing teams can't just expect that victory will eventually come in a head-to-head encounter. Saskatoon has to be viewed as a worrisome opponent.
   The Blades will try to extend their winning streak on Wednesday, when they travel to Prince Albert to face the Raiders.

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