Monday, 23 February 2015

Holfy valiant in last stand for Huskies

Huskies goaltender Ryan Holfeld gets focused for action.
    Ryan Holfeld did all he could do to extend his CIS career to another weekend.
    As has been the case a number of times this season, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team couldn't score enough goals to support him.
    On Sunday night at the Flames Community Arena in Calgary, Holfeld was once again in net for the Huskies this time in a deciding Game 3 of a Canada West quarter-final series against the Mount Royal University Cougars. The fifth-year netminder kept making save after save and finished the contest making 41 stops in total.
    As far as the scoreboard was concerned, the effort went for naught. The Huskies were unable to score and fell 3-0 to bring their 2014-15 campaign to an end. Cam Lanigan made 23 stops in the Cougars goal to pick up the shutout.
    In defeat, Holfeld was once again heroic. He again gave his Huskies every opportunity to earn victory.
    His teammates paraded to the penalty box allowing the Cougars to have 15 power-play chances. Holfeld, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 185 pounds, only surrendered one goal on those chances, and it likely should have been more. Playing like a focused pro, he wouldn't let the game get away from his squad.
    This past weekend, Holfeld left one last big memory over three games of work to once again show just how amazing he could play in goal. He stopped 100-of-108 shots fired his way for a .926 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average.
    In Game 1 of the series Friday in Calgary, he made 25 stops through regulation as the Huskies and Cougars played to a 1-1 draw. MacKenzie Johnston gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the first period, while Sean Aschim netted the equalizer for the Huskies in the third.
    The Huskies dominated play in the final frame of regulation outshooting the Cougars 14-3. During the regular season, the Dogs scored the third fewest goals in the eight-team Canada West Conference, and their struggles around the net were showing up again.
    Just 36 seconds into overtime, Holfeld was beaten by Cougars forward Matthew Brown on the first shot of the extra session to help the hosts skate away with a 2-1 win. Once again, the netminder had to suffer through a heartbreaking loss. His Huskies arguably had what would be their best outing of the series as Lanigan made 31 stops to pick up the win.
Ryan Holfeld makes a stop in goal for the Huskies.
    In Game 2 on Saturday in Calgary, Sebastien Pare gave the Cougars an early 1-0 lead. Before the opening 20 minutes finished, the Huskies finally had an offensive spark going up 3-1 with singles coming off the sticks of Jesse Ross, Zak Stebner and Connor Cox. Overall, the Huskies scored three times on five shots in the first.
    The visitors played a strong second, but the Cougars came out with a whole pile of pressure in the third. Pare would net his second of the contest, and Emerson Hrynyk tied the contest up at 3-3 with 7:20 to play in the stanza.
    From there, the Holfeld kept the Cougars at bay, and the Huskies were able to stave off elimination. With 29 seconds to play in the third, rookie forward Michael Sofillas scored to give the visitors a 4-3 victory, which ended a six game skid including the regular season and playoffs.
    Holfeld made 34 stops to earn the win. Lanigan turned away 23 shots in goal for the Cougars. The series and the battle between two former members of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers was tied 1-1.
    As it turned out, the OT loss in Game 1 was the one that got away for the Huskies. In Game 3 on Sunday, Tyler Fiddler scored 30 seconds into the first to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. They outshot the Huskies 26-6 in the second and added two more goals on singles from Jamie King and Tyler Jewitt.
    The Cougars were on their way to face the Calgary Dinos in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series this coming weekend. 
    Holfeld's career was left to tick away.
    The 25-year-old LeRoy, Sask., product goes down as one of the best goaltenders the Huskies men's program ever had. In the regular season, he finished with a 53-34-2 record, a .919 save percentage, a 2.43 goals against average and eight shutouts. His 2,452 career saves in regular season play is a record for the Huskies men's team.
    During the 2014-15 regular season, he split time in goal with rookie Jordon Cooke, who came off a stellar WHL career with the Kelowna Rockets. The Huskies posted their first losing record in 19 years with a 10-15-3 mark due in large part to their goal-scoring struggles.
    Holfeld was still sensational recording a .922 save percentage, a 2.42 goals against average and one shutout in posting a 5-8-1 record.
    In his first four seasons at the U of S, the Huskies never finished lower than third in the Canada West standings. While those Huskies teams had a larger number of high end forwards, Holfeld did steal his share of games.
Ryan Holfeld (#31) gets congratulated after a win in early Jan.
    Due to mostly being made up of graduates of the major junior and junior A ranks, the players in Canada West are good at critiquing their own performances, and when Holfeld stole a win, there were a lot of players telling him thank-you afterwards, while vowing to play better going forward. He was key in helping the Huskies win a Canada West title in 2012.
    Away from the rink, Holfeld endeared himself to his teammates and players on other Huskies teams for being a comedian that would say the most humourous things out of the blue. He also knew when it was time to be serious and was the teammate others could confide to, if they were having troubles in their lives.
    Holfeld also excelled in the classroom, which allowed him to be accepted into law school after his third year with the team. Over the past two seasons, he was usually busy studying, when he wasn't at the rink. He was still able to squeeze in time to visit with family and friends for short periods after games.
    For all that he was able to do in his five seasons with the Huskies, it would have been nice if he could have gotten one more series win.
    On and off the ice, he will always be viewed as one of most proud success stories of the U of S athletic program.

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