Friday, 2 January 2015

Sprint to the finish

Huskies will attempt to surge up Canada West standings

Jordon Cooke tends goal for the Huskies.
            It might be now or never time for clubs looking to make noise in the regular season of Canada West men’s hockey.
            Every one of the conferences eight teams will play their final 10 regular season games during what will be a busy month of January. The hectic schedule is due in part because players from the Canada West conference will make up the entire Canadian roster for the men’s team that will compete at the 2015 Winter Universiade, which will run Feb. 3-14 in Granada, Spain.
            As a result, there are no Canada West games scheduled, when the Universiade is on. The three conferences that make up the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s hockey league represent Canada at the Universiade on a rotating basis.
            The University of Saskatchewan Huskies enter the final stretch sitting fourth overall in the conference with an 8-9-1 record. They are nine points behind the second place Calgary Dinos, but only four points ahead of the Regina Cougars, who sit seventh overall.
            The top six teams in the conference make the post-season, while the first and second place clubs earn byes into the second round of the playoffs.
            The story for the Huskies this season is they have been able to keep the puck out of the net, but they haven’t been able to put the puck into the net.
            The Huskies roster contains 12 players in their first year of eligibility, with the bulk of those newcomers playing on the forward lines.
            After finishing second at last year’s University Cup, the Huskies graduated their top four scorers in Derek Hulak, Kenton Dulle, Andrew Bailey and Brennan Bosch. Hulak was the most valuable player of the Canada West conference last season and the MVP of the University Cup tournament. He has since moved on to play with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
            At the moment, the Huskies haven’t replaced the offence from those key departures.
            Hulak topped the Huskies in scoring with 13 goals and 35 assists in 28 games. Fifth-year forward Craig McCallum leads the team in scoring with season with five goals and 10 assists in 18 games. No player on the Huskies is averaging a point a game this season, while three players averaged over a point a game last season including Hulak, Dulle and McCallum.
Josh Roach (#7) speeds through a check for the Huskies.
            While the goals haven’t come in bunches, goaltending has allowed the Huskies to always challenge for victory.
            Fifth-year veteran Ryan Holfeld has posted a 3-5-1 record, a 2.18 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and one shutout. Rookie Jordon Cooke has been equally as strong recording a 5-4 record, a 2.20 goals against average, a .930 save percentage and one shutout.
            A veteran crew on defence has also helped the netminders. With that said, the Huskies can’t ask for anything more in the goals against department.
            The Huskies have forwards that have piled up the points at various other levels of the game. If two or three forwards can have a hot last stretch, that might be the difference in ensuring the Huskies will once again host a home playoff series.
             U of S starts its stretch run hosting the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. on both nights at the ancient Rutherford Rink. The Pronghorns sit last in the conference with a 3-15 record and have lost their last seven straight regular season games.
            If the Huskies can pull out a couple of wins, that might help spark a strong final stretch.

Adolph nears record

            Huskies head coach Dave Adolph is one win away from equaling the Canadian Interuniversity Sport for most conference wins.
            Adolph has 376 wins, which is one shy of the record of 377 held by legendary Alberta Golden Bears head coach Clare Drake.

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