Sunday, 1 March 2015

Madness starts early for Huskies

Matthew Forbes slams down a huge basket for the Huskies.
    One elimination game down, and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's basketball team hopes to experience a lot more do-or-die matches in March.
    The Huskies didn't take the easy road in claiming a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final playoff series 2-1 against the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack. In all three games, U of S fell behind by sizable margins, but managed two successful comebacks to stay alive in the post-season. In a series deciding Game 3 on Sunday at the Physical Activity Complex, the Wolfpack led the host Huskies 39-29 at one point in the second quarter.
    The visitor's led was cut to 43-42 at halftime after Huskies guard Evan Ostertag hit a three at the buzzer. The hosts took a 61-57 lead after the third quarter and rolled in the fourth quarter to an 84-71 victory. The win was capped by a monster dunk by Huskies post Matthew Forbes inside of the contest's final minute.
    Thanks to that win, the Huskies will have the rare privilege of host the men's Canada West Final Four tournament this coming Friday and Saturday at the Physical Activity Complex. The opening match at 6 p.m. on Friday sees the U of Victoria Vikes, who were 15-5 in the regular season, take on the Abbotsford, B.C., based University of the Fraser Valley Cascades, who were 17-3 in the regular season. At 8 p.m., the U of British Columbia Thunderbirds, who were 14-6 in the regular season, face the Huskies, who were 15-5 in the regular season.
    The Huskies host the final four, because they topped the Conference's Pioneer Division. The Cascades topped the Explorer Division.
    Before the Huskies could think about hosting the final four, they had to down a determined Wolfpack side. Games 1 and 2 were held at St. Joseph High School due to the fact the U of Saskatchewan was hosting the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Men's Volleyball Championship tournament. The atmosphere at the packed high school gym was raucous on both nights.
    In Game 1 last Friday, the Wolfpack, who were 11-9 in the regular season, jumped out to a 27-19 lead after the first quarter and held a 49-43 edge at halftime. The Huskies dominated the second half and rolled to a 96-82 victory. Veteran post Matthew Forbes led the way for the Huskies with 20 points, while second-year forward Shane Osayande came off the bench and hit all seven of his shot attempts to finish second in team scoring with 14 points.
Dadrian Collins drives the lane for the Huskies at St. Joseph High School.
    In Game 2 last Saturday, the Huskies faithful packed the gym at St. Joseph High School hoping the first half scare the Kamloops, B.C., based Wolfpack gave the U of S side would only happen for one game. It didn't.
    The Wolfpack stormed out to a 16-0 lead and held a 40-25 edge at halftime. The Huskies rallied in the second half and closed to within 71-69 late in the game. The visitors scored to go up 73-69 and closed out an 81-75 victory to tie the series 1-1.
    Andrew Henry and Dadrian Collins led the Huskies with 12 points each in the Game 2 setback.
    Game 3 back at the PAC wasn't an easy one for the Huskies to pull out. Wolfpack fifth-year guard Brett Rouault went off for a game-high 33 points mostly due to hitting 7-of-10 shots from three-point range.
    Forbes countered topping the Huskies with 30 points to help the hosts get their series clinching 84-71 win.
    Going forward in the post-season, the Huskies would like to have some better starts, but they should have some confidence knowing the can pull out big comeback victories if they need to.
    Now, they face was is essentially another elimination game. The two teams that make the final of the Canada West Final Four advance to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final Eight championship tournament hosted by Ryerson University in Toronto.
    The winners of the semifinal games of the Canada West Final Four this coming Friday will ensure they will play in the final weekend of the 2014-15 campaign. Being at home for basically a do-or-die match, you have to like the Huskies chances of advancing, even if they do fall behind once again.

Huskies women's hoopsters hit the road

Kabree Howard dishes the ball for the Huskies.
    The Huskies women's basketball team will be on the road for the duration of their playoff run.
    They had a chance of hosting the women's Canada West Final Four tournament had the U of Regina Cougars upset the UBC Thunderbirds in a best-of-three quarter-final series in Vancouver. 
    The favoured Thunderbirds prevailed. UBC took Game 1 on Friday 75-59 and Game 2 on Saturday 68-63.
    As a result, the women's Canada West Final Four opens on Friday in Vancouver. The Huskies, who were 17-3 in the regular season, face the U of Victoria Vikes, who were 13-7 in the regular season. 
    The Thunderbirds, who were 17-3 in the regular season, take on the U of Alberta Pandas, who were 16-4 in the regular season, in the other semifinal.
    The Huskies enter the final four having won 15 straight games combined in the regular season and playoffs.

Men's CIS volleyball championships a hit

The Huskies salute their home crowd after their last regular season game.
    Huskie Athletics should get all sorts of high praise for host an outstanding Canadian Interuniversity Sport Men's Volleyball Championship tournament.
    There had to be a bit of fear with regards to how well attended the event would be at the Physical Activity Complex if the host Huskies weren't able to advance to the semifinal round. The Huskies did not qualify for the Canada West playoffs finishing the regular season with a 12-12 record and were seeded eighth in the eight-team event.
    They played hard in the quarter-final round but committed too many errors in being swept away by the top seeded McMaster University Marauders by scores of 26-24, 25-20 and 25-18. Officially attendance was 2,223 at the PAC, which seats 2,500. Those that were there said it was hard to find a seat, and spectators filled the standing space that rung round the track at the top of the stands.
    With the Huskies knocked to the consolation side, attendance stayed fairly strong. A total of 1,841 spectators attended Friday's semifinal round and 2,127 were out for the medal round games on Saturday. Those numbers have to be considered huge successes.
    Overall, this year's CIS Men's Volleyball Championship tournament was viewed as being extremely well run.
    In the title game, U of Alberta Golden Bears repeated as champs sweeping the Trinity Western University Spartans 25-19, 25-17 and 25-15. McMaster swept Dalhousie University 3-0 in the bronze medal game.
    The host Huskies downed Universite de Laval 3-1 in a consolation semifinal match and took the consolation final 3-1 over York University to finish fifth.
    Once again, Canada West showed it is the powerhouse conference in men's volleyball, as its three entries finished in the top five of the CIS tournament. That powerhouse showing takes a whole new light considering the Huskies just missed making the Canada West Conference playoffs and were still fifth at nationals.
    Canada West Conference teams have claimed 20 of the last 21 championships in CIS men's volleyball.

Stars advance to final four

Courtney Cormack, left, and Danielle Nogier celebrate a goal.
    The Saskatoon Stars will enjoy a little bit of time off before they resume their quest to earn a provincial title.
    On Sunday, the Stars completed a 3-0 sweep of their best-of-five Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League quarter-final series over the Notre Dame Hounds. Saskatoon took Game 1 in Wilcox 7-2 on Thursday, and Games 2 and 3 at the Agriplace Arena by respective scores of 9-5 and 10-0 on Saturday and Sunday.
    Those results weren't much of a surprise as the Stars finished first in the league at 25-3, while the Hounds were last in the eight-team circuit at 4-22-2.
    The Stars top forwards Nara Elia and Sophia Shirley each had six goals and six assists in the series. Their linemate Julia Rongve had three goals and six assists. Forward Courtney Cormack have five goals and an assist in the three games.
    Saskatoon's opponent for the semifinal round is still to be determined as two quarter-final series were still ongoing after Sunday. The post-season road will definitely become more challenging from here on out for the Stars, who won the female title in the Mac's Midget AAA Tournament on Jan. 1.
    As they progress through the playoffs, they will pick up more and more attention in the Saskatoon area as a number of other local teams see their campaigns come to an end.
    At the moment, the Stars are still one of the best kept secrets in the Bridge City. By the end of March, they will likely have an increased profile.

    If you have any comments about this blog, feel free to email them to