Sunday, 1 February 2015

Great night for Smuker

Cody Smuk drops the ceremonial faceoff at Friday's Huskies game.
   For one night, the rusting deficiencies of the Rutherford Rink were forgotten.
   The 85-year-old facility on the University of Saskatchewan campus was the warmest place to be.
   On Friday night, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team hosted their long-time rivals the University of Alberta Golden Bears to close the regular season in a match that celebrated the rink's birthday during a vintage night promotion.
   The bigger thing everyone was focused on was the fact the game would be a fundraiser for Marty's Men, which is the really for life team for alumnus Cody Smuk. Smuk has been battling cancer since May of last year.
   He had gone through five days of chemotherapy treatments to deal with cancer in his lung before Friday's contest rolled around. As a result, there was some uncertainty if he would be able to attend the game himself.
   There shouldn't have been any doubts. Smuk was there and received a loud and warm standing ovation when he dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff. That was followed by first the Golden Bears lining up, so they could all shake his hand. The host Huskies then followed suit, and some of those handshakes turned into heartfelt hugs with former teammates.
   In seeing Smuk, you could tell he lost a little bit of weight, but it was clear he had some extra jump in his step, when he was at the game. He seemed to be energized by the positive vibes.
After the game, he spent just over an hour visiting with former teammates and friends, and it was inspiring to see how positive and upbeat he was.
   Over the course of his cancer battle, he also developed into a top rate public speaker, when it comes to dealing with cancer related issues. On his Twitter account, he has been retweeting posts that contained stories of the testicular cancer battles U of Lethbridge Pronghorns goaltender Dylan Tait and equipment manager and athletic therapist Brennan Mahon are going through.
   Smuk originally had testicular cancer and tests show he is clear of that form of the disease.
   The only thing that didn't happen on Friday night was the fact the Huskies couldn't pull out a victory.
Cody Smuk shakes hands with the Huskies players.
Playing in front of largest crowd of the season at the Rutherford Rink, which included the school's pep band, the Huskies fell behind 4-0. They tried to rally late, but the Golden Bears skated away with a 4-2 victory.

   Kruise Reddick, T.J. Foster, Johnny Lazo and Jordan Hickmott netted singles for the Golden Bears, while Luke Siemens made 24 saves to earn the win in goal.
   Sean Aschim and Michael Sofillas responded with singles for the Huskies, while Jordon Cooke made 39 stops suffering the loss in goal.
   The Golden Bears finished the regular season first overall in the Canada West Conference with a 24-3-1 record and have a bye into the semifinal round of the conference playoffs.
   The Huskies finished sixth in the conference with a 10-15-3 mark. They will travel to Calgary to face the Mount Royal University Cougars (17-10-1) in a best-of-three quarter-final series slated to start on Feb. 20.
   As far as events on Friday went, the highlight was seeing Smuk with a big smile on his face. During the game itself, $2,300 was raised for Marty's Men. By Saturday, $3,500 has been raised.
   Those looking to donate to the Relay for Life team can do so right here.

Holfeld valiant in final home stand

Ryan Holfeld makes a stop for the Huskies.
   Ryan Holfeld almost pulled off a Miikka Kiprusoff type victory.
   With the Huskies locked into playoff all their games in the 2015 post-season on the road, Holfeld, the team's fifth-year goaltender, made his final home start on Thursday at the Rutherford Rink, when the Huskies hosted the Golden Bears in the first match of a two-game set. The LeRoy, Sask., product made 48 saves through regulation and two overtime periods as the Huskies and Golden Bears went to a tiebreaking shootout locked in a 1-1 draw.
   In the shootout, Holfeld turned away the first four Alberta shooters before being beaten by Reddick. The Golden Bears took the tiebreaking session 1-0 and the game 2-1.
   Holfeld was the reason the Huskies got to a tiebreaking shootout. At the other end, Golden Bears netminder Kurtis Mucha made 21 saves over 70 minutes and stopped all five shooters he faced in the shootout.
   Hickmott gave the Golden Bears a 1-0 lead in the second, but Jesse Ross picked up the equalizer for the Huskies just under three minutes later to make the score 1-1.
From there, Holfeld did whatever he could to keep the Golden Bears off the scoreboard. In overtime, the Huskies had a number of chances to steal the victory, which included a pair of breakaway chances. The hosts couldn't find the back of the net to win the game.
   Holfeld finished the season with an impressive .922 save percentage and a stellar 2.42 goals against average. The Huskies, who have 12 first year players on their roster, struggled with scoring all season, and as a result, Holfeld only had a 5-8-1 record on the season.
   Cooke also had strong numbers posting a .905 save percentage and a 3.13 goals against average. Due to the team's lack of scoring, he had a 5-9 record on the year.
   The Huskies couldn't ask for any more out of their goaltenders in the regular season. It is too bad they couldn't pull out a few more wins for the puck stoppers.

Cook slams down gorilla

Kandace Cook played OT hero for the Huskies on Saturday.
   It definitely wasn't an overstatement to say the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women's team slammed down a big gorilla that was on their collective backs.
   The Huskies took a seven-game losing streak into their match against the U of Alberta Pandas on Saturday in Edmonton. Before the skid, the Huskies were sitting first overall in the Canada West Conference. They dropped to fifth due to the slide, while the Pandas jumped into first.
   Locked into a 1-1 draw heading into a second five minute overtime period to be played three skaters versus three skaters, fifth-year forward Kandace Cook slammed the gorilla to the ground. Just 27 seconds into the frame, the fearless Cook popped home her ninth tally of the season to give the Huskies a 2-1 victory. Linemate Kaitlin Willoughby picked up the assist.
   In the second period, Cook set up Willoughby to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. Hannah Olenyk scored for the Pandas in the third to tie things up at 1-1.
   Cassidy Hendricks made 32 saves to earn the win in goal for the Huskies (12-9-3). Lindsey Post turned away 18 shots taking the loss for the Pandas (17-6-1) in goal.
   Due to injuries and defender Julia Flinton's departure to play in the 2015 Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain, the Huskies played with 17 skaters, which is one short of the regular number of 18.
   On Friday night in Edmonton, the Pandas downed the Huskies 4-1. Lauren Zary gave the Huskies an early 1-0 lead with a power-play goal.
   Olenyk, Alison Campbell, Deanna Morin and Gillian Altheim had singles for the Pandas.
   Hendricks turned away 21 of 24 shots taking the loss in goal for the Huskies. Post made 10 saves picking up the win for the Pandas.
   The Huskies travel to Lethbridge this Friday and Saturday to face the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns.

Young duo shines for Stars

Nara Elia in action for the Saskatoon Stars.
   Nara Elia and Sophia Shirley might be one of the best kept secrets in the Saskatoon sports scene.
   The two 15-year-old forwards with the Saskatoon Stars team are the top two scorers in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League. Elia tops the scoring race with 20 goals and 15 assists, while Shirley is second with 21 goals and 13 assists. The linemates have powered the Stars to top spot in the league at 22-2, and they were key factor in the Stars winning the female division of the prestigious Mac's Midget Tournament in Calgary.
   The Stars posted an easy sweep of the struggling Notre Dame Hounds at the Agriplace Arena by scores of 8-1 and 7-0 on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Saskatoon rolled its lines in those two contests, and Elia and Shirley were far ahead of everyone else on the ice. They also seemed to know where each other was on the ice making numerous creative plays.
   Watching the duo on the ice, you almost can't believe they will still play two more full seasons together at the midget AAA level before moving to the post-secondary ranks. With Elia and Shirley on the ice, the Stars will take part in a lot of big games this season and in the two campaigns that will follow.

Blades make youngsters happy

   From the unexpected file, members of my family have been sending a number of thank-you messages to the Saskatoon Blades.
   My cousin Jeff Chomitzky, who was a single father, passed away recently and was only about a couple of months in working with the maintenance crew with the Sasktel Centre, which is the Blades' home rink. Roger Vaillancourt, who is a family friend, wanted to take Jeff's two young sons, Braden, 11, and Blake, 9, to see the Bridge City Bunch play.
   In what was put together in less than a couple of days, Braden and Blake became Blades for a day during the team's 4-0 home win over the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday. They got to read out the team's starting lineup and stand on the bench for the national anthem. The experience was definitely a big highlight for the two.
   The Blades put together a wonderful little documentary video which can be viewed here.

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