Thursday, 12 February 2015

Defensive “Ds” key for Dogs

Brooke Mutch controls the puck for the Huskies.
    They are a group you almost forget about.
    When comes to the defenders on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's hockey team, Julia Flinton is easiest rearguard to notice. The member of Canada's women's team at the 2015 Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain, has a unique skill set on the offensive end, which has allowed her to collect five goals and nine assists in 23 regular season games with the Dogs.
    Going pretty much unnoticed are the team's five defensive defenders in fourth-year veterans Brooke Mutch and Hanna McGillivray, third-year vet Alyssa Dobler and sophomores Kira Bannatyne and Brooke Patron. When it comes to locking down the action the action in their own zone, they are as good as any group in the Canada West Conference. They are also durable having only lost a combined three games to injury, when McGillivray sat out three contests with a concussion early in the second semester.
    As group, they have helped the Huskies give up the fourth fewest goals in the conference with 61 tallies against in 26 games. That equates to a team 2.35 goals against average.
    That stat is even more impressive given the fact the Huskies have scored the third fewest goals in the conference at 52. The struggles on the offensive end means there is that much more pressure placed on the defenders and the goaltenders to ensure the team still has a chance to win game in and game out.
    When the Huskies do get ahead by scores of 3-1 or 4-2, the defensive defenders are able to lock things down to ensure victory will be obtained.
    Mutch might be arguably the toughest of the defensive defenders. Her minus-10 rating in the plus-minus department is more of a product of her squad's offensive struggles and the fact she usually faces the top forwards of every opponent the Huskies face.
    While bodychecking isn't legal in the women's game, the Nokomis, Sask., product has thrown the odd hit that has helped turn the momentum of the game around. She is also very solid, when it comes to calmly bringing the puck out of defensive zone to transition the play up ice.
    McGillivray is a must player you have to have on the ice when you are protecting a one-goal lead in the final minute of the third period. The Saskatoon product has a plus-one rating in 23 regular season games.
   The Huskies missed McGillivray's consistency when she was injured. The Dogs gave up 11 goals in the three game they played without McGillivray.
Alyssa Dobler has played 94 straight games for the Huskies.
    Dobler has never missed a game in her career playing in 94 straight contests for the Huskies counting action in the regular season, the Canada West playoffs and last year's Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship tournament. It almost seems automatic that she will step in and play big minutes.
    Both Bannatyne and Patron have seen their roles increase on the team as sophomores. They have stepped to the challenge knowing they won't be healthy scratched due to the fact the Huskies only have six rearguards on their roster.
    If the Huskies can shake their collective jinx around the net on the offensive end, it will make their defensive defenders that much more effective. It will decreased the pressure of giving up just one goal and make it easier to play that much more calm and in control.
    With Mutch, McGillivray, Dobler, Bannatyne and Patron controlling things on the back end, the Huskies have to feel secure about things in their own zone.
    NOTES -- The Huskies (13-10-3) close the regular season with a home-and-home series with the U of Regina Cougars (14-10-2). The two teams meet Friday at 7 p.m. at the Co-operators Centre in Regina and on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the ancient Rutherford Rink on the U of Saskatchewan campus. Saturday's tilt will be senior's night for the Huskies, which means there will be some pre-game honours headed the way of fifth-year forwards Kandace Cook and Chelsey Sundby.

Ridley hits another milestone

Bob Ridley calls a Tigers game at The Arena.
    In what might be one of the best feel-good stories periods in sports, Medicine Hat Tigers legendary play-by-play voice Bob Ridley hit another milestone.
    On Wednesday, Ridley called his 3,600th game as the WHL team's play-by-play voice, when the Tigers dropped a 6-3 decision to the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B.C. The total includes 3,202 regular season games, 378 games in the WHL playoffs and 20 games in the Memorial Cup tournament. Over most of that stretch, Ridley has also driven the Tigers bus on road trips.
    With the Tigers trailing 6-1 heading into the third period, Ridley still called his classic upbeat game. When German forward Markus Eisenschmid scored for the Tabbies to cut the Ice lead to 6-3, Ridley's call made it sound like the orange and black could still make a comeback. Ridley quickly followed with the fact that there was basically less than 30 seconds to play, so you knew a rally wasn't possible.
    You can't help but be in awe of the total of games Ridley has called. That feeling of awe grows with every Tigers contest Ridley continues to call in the future.

Farewell to Beily's

    Saskatoon's night life will never been the same after this weekend after Beily's Ultralounge on 8th Street closes its doors forever.
    This will be the last weekend Beily's will be open, as it will be shut down after a 10-year run. For most of that run, it was the hotspot to be at in Saskatoon, before a whole bunch of different pubs opened up in downtown. NHL players often stopped in at Beily's. For a number of years, there was often an annual impromptu gathering there during the weekend NHLers came to town to support the annual fundraising golf tournament for the Royal University Hospital.
    For the longest time, it was one of the places that even as a male you would dress up classy to go out to. During most of the 10 years Beily's was open, it also was one of the few night establishments that had regular staff work there over long stretches of years. That helped attract regulars.
    Beily's industry nights on Sunday nights were legendary, as large numbers of staffs from the other night clubs in the Bridge City would meet for fun nights out. There will be one more of those fun nights this coming Sunday.
    For myself, I had a lot of memorable nights there, and I appreciated how great the staff always was. I also appreciated the fact cabs always seemed to be available at the end of the night.
    I think the night I was best known for being out there was a Sunday back in 2012 when I bought about 25 members of the Saskatoon Valkyries shots to celebrate one of their victories in Western Women's Canadian Football League playoffs.
    Cheers to Beily's. Thanks for all the great times.

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