Sunday, 11 January 2015

Outmatched: Dinos too much for Huskies



Parker Thomas (#24) tries to set up offence for the Huskies.
            Could the unthinkable happen? Could the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team actually finish a regular season with a losing record?
            Unless the Dogs can roll off a big win streak over their last six games, it appears likely a losing record will happen. On the weekend, it became really apparent the Huskies are a bit of a distance away from being one of the top teams in the Canada West conference.
            The Huskies battled the University of Calgary Dinos at the ancient Rutherford Rink and fell 6-3 on Friday night and 5-2 on Saturday night. With the wins, the Dinos improved to 15-7 to sit alone in second place in the conference.
U of S fell to 9-12-1 and dropped to sixth overall in the conference. The Huskies sit five points up on the seventh place U of Regina Cougars (6-14-2) for the final playoff berth in the conference.
The last time the Huskies finished with a losing record in regular season play was way back in the 1995-96 campaign, when they posted an 11-14-3 record. Over the past six seasons, the Huskies have been an impressive 105-52-11, which includes winning a Canada West title in 2012 and a second place finish at last year’s University Cup.
Roster turnover has definitely caught up with the Dogs. They have 12 players in their first year of eligibility, with the bulk of those newcomers coming on the forward lines. The Dinos in contrast have five first year players.
Calgary also has more higher end former Western Hockey League players on its roster than Saskatchewan does.
With all that said, the Dinos only pulled out respective 2-0 and 2-1 victories early on in the season in Calgary. The notion that the Huskies could pull out two win in their home rink wasn’t unthinkable.
Friday’s tilt was back-and-forth. Craig McCallum scored 55 second into the third period to cut the Dinos two-goal lead to 4-3.
Shortly after that tally, Calgary put the contest away going up by the final of 6-3 scoring goals 28 seconds apart from each other. David Vandane had the first marker, while Colton Grant had the second marker.
Philip Tot, Alex Dzielski, Chris Collins and Brooks Myers had the other singles for the Dinos, while Kris Lazaruk made 35 saves to earn the win in goal.
Zak Stebner and Jesse Ross also netted singles for the Huskies, while Ryan Holfeld made 23 stops taking the loss in goal.
Dinos goalie Jacob DeSerres holds down the fort.
On Saturday, the Huskies played the Dinos close and trailed 3-2 heading into the final two minutes of the third. Dinos forward Ryan Harrison then potted an empty netter and added another tally in the final seconds to seal a 5-2 victory.
During that contest, the Dinos had the Huskies pinned in their own zone for extended periods of time.
Danny Gayle, Elgin Pearce and Kevin King also had singles for the Dinos, while Jacob DeSerres made 14 stops to earn the win in goal.
Tayler Thompson and McCallum netted singles for the Huskies, while Jordon Cooke turned away 25-of-29 shots suffering the loss in goal.
Huskies head coach Dave Adolph is holding at 377 career conference wins, which ties him with University of Alberta Golden Bears head coach Clare Drake for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport record for conference victories. Adolph will have to hope the fourth attempt at getting the record will be a charm.
U of S heads on the road to Vancouver for two key games against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds hold down fourth overall in the conference with a 10-9-3 record, which means they would host a first round playoff series if the regular season ended right now.
If the Huskies still hope to host a home playoff series, they needed to win at least one of those games to keep those hopes alive. With that said, one win might not be enough. A sweep is likely needed.
With the Huskies in a rebuild, a home playoff series and a winning regular season record might not be in the cards for the current campaign.

Paparazzi picture a good sign


Huskies ace picture taker Kandace Cook.
            The volume of the laughs and the mischievous giggles gave away that something was up.
            During the Huskies men’s hockey game on Jan. 3 at the Rutherford Rink against the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns, I went over behind the Pronghorns net to shoot pictures in the second period. The Pronghorns were in the end that contained the box seats at the Rutherford and most of the members of the Huskies women’s hockey team were up there.
            As I was getting ready to shoot, I could hear the laughter, and I knew something was going on. When I returned home that night, I saw fifth-year forward Kandace Cook took a picture of me doing my thing and put it on Twitter.
            I am all cool with that. If that helps the Huskies have fun at the rink and win, it is all good. The Rutherford is their home rink, and it should always be a fun place for them to be at.
Actually, to me that is a good sign. If they have the comfort level to do something like that, it is just another signal that shows me how together the Huskies women’s team is and that they have another intangible to help them be successful.
            I don’t mind getting made fun of or being the victim of a prank. Pretty much all the women’s sports teams I have dealt with that have won have done something along those lines.
            It is just too bad the Cook’s Huskies took one on the chin in their first weekend back. They traveled to Calgary and were swept by the Dinos by respective scores of 4-1 and 5-2 on Friday and Saturday.
            The Dinos roster contains Canadian National team icon Hayley Wickenheiser and Russian national team standouts Iya Gavrilova and Alexandra Vafina. All three were not with the Dinos last season because it was Olympic year.
            Back in October, the Huskies swept the Dinos, who had all those stars on the ice, 4-3 in overtime and 3-1 at the Rutherford Rink. After those results, you can bet the Dinos, who are guided by head coach and former Canadian national team star Danielle Goyette, played the revenge card in an old school style way like how head coach Bill Belichick prefers to see his New England Patriots bury opponents in the NFL.
            In Friday’s encounter in Calgary, Heather Berzins, Wickenheiser, Janelle Parent and Kate Lumley netted singles for the Dinos, while Carissa Fischer made 23 stops to earn the win in goal.
            Cook had the Huskies lone goal, while Cassidy Hendricks made 44 stops taking the loss in the Huskies net.
            A day later, Erica Mitschke scored twice for the Dinos, while Megan Grenon, Gavrilova and Vafina netted singles. Fischer made 13 stops to earn the win in goal.
            Captain Paige Anakaer and Hailey Tyndall picked up singles for the Huskies. Hendricks turned away 15-of-20 shots starting in goal for the Huskies. Jessica Waltz stopped all 14 shots she faced in a relief appearance.
            The Dinos vaulted into first in Canada West improving to 11-3-4. The Huskies dropped from first to fifth in the tight contested conference with an 11-5-2 mark.
            The Huskies return to action this coming Friday and Saturday when they host the Thunderbirds (10-4-4) at 7 p.m. on both nights at the Rutherford Rink.
            The losses to the Dinos were likely a big learning experience for the Huskies in dealing with a revenge minded team.
            Knowing the character of the players on the Dogs, expect them to bounce back and move on.

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