Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top 10 memories of 2016

Rush captain Chris Corbeil raises the Champion’s Cup.
    Wow! I am amazed at how much happened this year.
    This year seemed to be incredibly busy, but it was a good busy. Through using this blog and freelance opportunities, I traveled all across the three Prairie provinces piling up memories in 2016.
    During the busy times in my final three years in the mainstream media, I wasn’t able to enjoy everything I was involved with because the busy schedule was an overload one. Now that I am flying solo, I feel like I was able to set my busy schedule to a point where I could soak in and enjoy the experiences I was going through.
    While 2016 will be remembered for the fact that way too many celebrities passed away, I will still look back on the past 12 months with fondness, because I believe I had a good year.
    When the end of June rolled around, I could have made a top 10 list at that point of highlights for the first six months. I could have had another for the last six months.
    Overall, I think made a solid selection for top 10 memories, but I still couldn’t believe what I left out. Memories that didn’t make the cut included attending a Garth Brooks concert in June in Saskatoon, which is a bucket list item.
    Also not making the cut was watching the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team win a Canada West title at home and being pumped they moved on to capture their first national championship. The Canada West title victory came against the U of Regina Cougars.
    Attending the first football game at New Mosaic Stadium between the U of Regina Rams and U of Saskatchewan Huskies also didn’t make the cut as did watching Saskatchewan win Football Canada’s inaugural Senior Women’s National Championship tournament.
    During my journey in 2016, this blog also doubled in readership, so I thank you all for checking in. I humbly hope I can keep earning and holding your respect as I continue onwards.
    I also did well enough I made donations to the scholarship funds of both Saskatchewan’s university football teams in the Rams and Huskies and the provinces two junior programs in the three-time defending Canadian Junior Football League champion Saskatoon Hilltops and Regina Thunder. 
    Besides the football teams, I donated to the scholarship funds of the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s and women’s hockey teams, the U of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team, the U of Regina Cougars women’s basketball team and to the Home Ice Campaign, which is raising funds to build a new hockey arena on the U of Saskatchewan campus.
    Now without further ado, here are the memories.

10. Final Labour Day Classic at Taylor Field

Justin Medlock boots the winning field goal for the Blue Bombers.
    The final Labour Day Classic at Taylor Field/old Mosaic Stadium between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers was a classic on many fronts.
    I spent the whole weekend in Regina enjoying and soaking in the whole weekend on the social side. The partying was so good the Saturday night before the game I was definitely not 100 per cent the Sunday morning of the game.
    A Bombers fan saw me and said, “Don’t worry. You’re still in Calgary.”
    I guess that shows where I was at in the recovery state. This was my 16th Labour Day Classic, and with it being the last one at Taylor Field, I wanted to make it memorable, and things were perfect on the social front.
Darian Durant celebrates scoring a TD for the Roughriders.
    As the game itself went on, I was feeling better and better. The contest itself was a classic.
    With under a minute to play, Kendial Lawrence returned a punt 86 yards for the Roughriders to force a 25-25 tie. The Bombers pulled out a 28-25 victory, when kicker Justin Medlock nailed a 43-yard field goal on the last play of the game.
    The Bombers victory dampened the fact Roughriders franchise quarterback Darian Durant completed 36 of 47 passes for 399 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
    Winnipeg snapped its 11-game skid in the Labour Day Classic. While I was cheering for the Roughriders, I was happy for the Winnipeg fans, especially the regulars that make it to Regina every year for that contest. The fan bases from both sides really get along well.
    The Roughriders are 14-2 in the 16 Labour Day Classics I attended at Taylor Field. While the Roughriders didn’t get the last one, I will always remember that day and weekend fondly.

9. Rush conquer all

The Rush celebrate the NLL title winning goal from Jeff Cornwall, centre.
    I might get a little more into the Saskatchewan Rush in the future, but I will admit the first impressions were good ones.
    Former veteran WHL coach/executive and current Calgary Flames scout Brad McEwen said I would love the National Lacrosse League before the Rush played their inaugural season in Saskatoon. The Rush moved to town from Edmonton as defending NLL champions. McEwen definitely knows me, because he was right.
    After getting off the WHL playoff trail, I decided to check out the Rush as a ticket buyer. I made it to their final two home playoff games. I saw them lock up the West Final with a 12-9 victory over the Calgary Roughnecks on May 21.
    I was there when they won the Champion’s Cup to repeat as NLL champions with an 11-10 victory over the Buffalo Bandits on June 4. With the teams locked in a 10-10 draw, Rush defenceman Jeff Cornwall scored on a breakaway with 12 seconds to play to deliver the Rush to victory.
Rush forward Robert Church drives to the net for a scoring chance.
    In the win over Calgary, a SaskTel Centre record crowd of 15,192 spectators turned out and 15,182 spectators came out to the NLL title clinching game. I believe the 10 person difference depended on how many people could be squeezed into the luxury boxes on any given night.
    Between the tailgating in the parking lot, watching the Crush dance team and high-tempo non-stop game action jumping at the pace of up tempo music, Rush games are a hit. The way the province has rallied around this team is impressive.
    To top things off, the players seem pretty down to earth during the brief interactions I have had with them. I enjoyed getting the chance to watch them win it all.

8. “Thank You Mr. Hockey Day” exceeds expectations

Gordie Howe’s four children take part in a ceremonial faceoff.
    It was one of the classiest game days ever at the SaskTel Centre, and I still can’t even remember what happened as far as actual game action went.
    On Sept. 25, the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades hosted a “Thank You Mr. Hockey Day” to honour late hockey icon Gordie Howe. Howe passed away at age 88 on June 10, and the Blades were looking for a way to honour “Mr. Hockey” in his hometown area.
    When Blades president Steve Hogle found out from Howe’s children that one of his wishes was to have his ashes interred at the base of the Gordie Howe statue outside the SaskTel Centre along with the ashes of his late wife, Colleen, the wheels were put in motion for a special day.
    A private interment ceremony started open to 61 members of the Howe family started the day’s festivities in the morning. The Howe family was then taken to see the Circle Drive South Bridge, which was renamed the Gordie Howe Bridge. They proceeded to visit King George School, which Gordie attended, and one of Gordie’s childhood homes.
A fan gets her picture taken with the Gordie Howe statue.
    Before that day’s WHL clash with the Swift Current Broncos, the Blades put on a stirring 25-minute pre-game tribute. There were photos on display in various locations around the rink of the Howe family over the years. The Hockey Hall of Fame put on an exhibit to display a number of Howe items including one of his Detroit Red Wings jerseys from his NHL days and one of his Houston Aeros jerseys from his WHA days.
    I soaked in the magic of the day and renewed ties with old hockey friends and made new ones. I was able to visit with Bryan Trottier for a short while.
    The highlight was spending the whole second period hanging out with old hockey bud Morris Lukowich and Gordie’s son, Mark, who I just met at that point in time. It was fun meeting Gordie’s grandson, Corey, and his girlfriend Davis Parkinson. The two were the textbook image of the cute young couple.
    The Broncos won the game 6-0, and I couldn’t tell you how they got any of their goals. When the night ended, the Blades handed out Gordie Howe posters that contained three pictures from festivities from that day.
    It was the perfect hockey day that paid a fitting tribute to a legend.

7. Valkyries win WWCFL final 81-6

Julene Friesen runs in for TD for the Valkyries in the WWCFL final.
    That was no misprint. The Saskatoon Valkyries actually won the Western Women’s Canadian Football League championship game 81-6.
    Since I first saw the Valkyries play in their sophomore season back in 2012, I have always admired how well they approach playing the game of football and all the accomplishments they have piled up. On a warm Saturday afternoon in Lethbridge on June 25, I watched the Valkyries thump the Edmonton Storm 81-6 to claim their fifth WWCFL in their six seasons of existence.
    The win concluded a 7-1 overall campaign for the Valkyries, whose only loss was a 27-26 setback to the Riot in Regina on May 28. The Storm had a strong season posting a 6-2 overall mark.
    In the win over the Storm, the Valkyries may have never looked more polished in setting a new team record for points scored in a game and matching the team record for largest margin of victory.
The Valkyries celebrate their WWCFL championship win.
    It seemed you could go up and down the Valkyries roster listing a special plays each member of the team contributed in that outing.
    Julene Friesen, who is Saskatoon’s Marshall Faulk style tailback, was named her side’s player of the game. She piled up 142 yards rushing on seven carries and 109 yards on three kickoff returns. Friesen opened the game’s scoring with a 28-yard touchdown run and finished the scoring with an electrifying 82-yard kickoff return score.
    The Valkyries put together an impressive 2016 campaign with a good mix of strong veterans and talented newcomers. Going into 2017, they are set to have another strong campaign under new head coach Pat Berry. Jeff Yausie, who was the team’s only head coach before Berry took the role, will remain with the team as a position coach, but he is opening up his schedule to focus on his various roles in the sport provincially and nationally.
    With the title win in Lethbridge, the Valkyries cemented themselves as one of Saskatoon’s great sports dynasties.

6. Saskatoon Hilltops are always a great time

Jared Andreychuk fires a pass downfield for the Hilltops.
    The years change and the players come and go, but the Saskatoon Hilltops always find a way to remain one of the top amateur football programs in Canada.
    In 2016, the Hilltops claimed their 19th Canadian Junior Football League championship in team history, their six national crown in the last seven years and their third championship win in a row. On Nov. 12 in Langford, B.C., the Hilltops downed the Westshore Rebels 37-25 to one again capture the Canadian Bowl championship trophy.
    In the process, Hilltops starting quarterback Jared Andreychuk became what is believed to be the third signal caller in CJFL history to guide a team to three straight national championship wins as a starter. Andreychuk, who exhausted his junior eligibility following the 2016 campaign, finished his CJFL career with a perfect 9-0 record in the post-season.
    The fun with the Hilltops comes from everything that goes around the team like enjoying the annual alumni game, involvement in community events or participating in team fundraising functions.
Joshua Ewanchyna runs in for a winning TD for the Hilltops.
    One of the best social functions came after the Hilltops played their final game at Taylor Field/old Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Oct. 1. The Hilltops fell behind the host Regina Thunder 26-16 with 2:21 to play but rallied for a 30-26 victory. Rookie running back Joshua Ewanchyna ran in the winning score with 48 seconds to play.
    Following that contest, the Hilltops had a nice pizza party outside the stadium for the players, coaches, team staff and player families before everyone boarded the bus to head home. It was a great time enjoying fellowship on a warm clear night in Regina.
    The Hilltops seemed built to create great memories, and those memories always help to brighten up any rough spots in life.

5.  Rams home opener and return to U of R

Ryan Schienbein catches a winning TD for the Rams.
    The University of Regina Rams home opener in 2016 ended up being more meaningful to me than I originally thought it would.
    I have strong ties to the athletics program at the University of Regina built from the years I attended school there, but it felt like things changed. After Frank McCrystal retired as Rams head coach following the 2014 season and Dick White retired as the school’s director of athletics in December of that same year, I went more than a full year without hearing from anyone in that athletics program.
    With having covered the WHL for so long, I just wrote that off as part of the business of sports. New people were in charge and they were going to do things their way and communicate with the people they felt most comfortable with. You just kind of move on while still holding a soft spot for the program.
    That changed this year when Steve Bryce, who was one of McCrystal’s former players, replaced Mike Gibson as Rams head coach, and Tanya (Hutchinson) Reynoldson, who is an alumna of the U of R’s Cougars women’s hockey program, replaced Curtis Atkinson as the school’s interim director of athletics. I started to hear from the U of R’s athletic program again.
The Rams celebrate a home opening win over the Bisons.
    I planned on seeing the Rams play one last time at Taylor Field/old Mosaic Stadium. Due to getting back in touch with the program, a quick visit turned more of an impromptu homecoming over a couple of days where I visited with coaches and met some current athletes. With Bryce as head coach of the Rams, I found out the team started renew ties with its alums which had been lost under Gibson.
    During the Rams home opener, I found myself on the field shooting pictures and it felt like old times.    
    The Rams trailed the visiting U of Manitoba Bisons 38-27 late in the fourth quarter and rallied for a 41-38 victory. With 25 seconds to play, Rams quarterback Noah Picton hit Ryan Schienbein with the game-winning touchdown pass, and the play literally happened right in front of me.
    The feeling of the Rams pulling out a game like that at Taylor Field was a definitely flashback. In that moment, it felt great to be home.
    I will always have a soft spot for the athletics program at the U of R, but I realized how special it was to feel that good about being home again that night. I have been back to a couple of other Rams games. I hope to be around at a few other U of R athletics events in the future too.

4. Run though the WHL playoffs

Jayce Hawryluk (#8) and Nolan Patrick (#19) enjoy a Wheat Kings win.
    In 2016, I so enjoyed hitting the road and getting on the WHL playoff trail.
    Originally, I planned to hit games in Saskatchewan centres, but those plans evolved to taking trips to Alberta and Manitoba. At first, it felt a bit weird to be working a WHL playoff game that didn’t include the Medicine Hat Tigers, due to the fact I covered the Tigers as a beat writer from 2004 to 2014. The last time I worked any WHL playoff games that didn’t involve the Tigers was way back in 2004.
    I was able to work a game in every round of the post-season, and I was very well received wherever I went. The two most memorable stops were Red Deer and Brandon. Both those cities’ teams went deep in the playoffs and ended up in the Memorial Cup tournament. The Red Deer Rebels were the host team and the Brandon Wheat Kings made it winning the WHL championship.
    Red Deer was really memorable due to the fact it seemed like everyone there remembered me from my days covering the Tigers. I was warmly received, and I had some good nights out on the town there. It was also interesting to see that the Rebels fans took the rivalry between the Rebels and Tigers as seriously as the fans in the Hat do.
Winger Jake DeBrusk breaks into the offensive zone for the Rebels.
    My young cousin Nelson Nogier was playing for the Rebels, and he had a chuckle when I mentioned I was having fun there. Nogier knows I like to have my moments of pleasure on the WHL beat. I made it back to Red Deer for a short time as a ticket buyer to enjoy part of the Memorial Cup tournament, which still included writing a couple of stories.
    Brandon was a blast as well. I hadn’t been to a Wheat Kings home game for a while, and it was wicked seeing the citizens of Brandon rally around that team. I was there to see the excitement when the Wheat Kings won the WHL Eastern Conference title against the Rebels.
    In the WHL championship series, I saw one of the craziest finishes ever, when the Wheat Kings took Game 2 of that series against the Seattle Thunderbirds 3-2 in overtime. The overtime winner came courtesy of Wheat Kings forward Jayce Hawryluk, who deflected a puck in off Thunderbirds goalie Landon Bow into the net from a bad angle against the right corner boards in the Seattle zone. Hawryluk was trying to hit linemate Nolan Patrick with a backdoor feed.
    During that whole run, I learned I could enjoy working the WHL post-season without being an employee of a mainstream media outlet.
    I enjoyed the games, and was impressed I enjoyed them even though they didn’t involve the Tigers. Trust me, I totally enjoy any WHL post-season game that includes the Tigers, but I also enjoy seeing how each club in the league builds on their respective histories.
    Each team has its own unique stories that are fun to tell and live through. Those stories help give the WHL its character.

3. Final Roughriders home game at Taylor Field

Rider Nation soaks in the final Roughriders home game at Taylor Field.
    On Oct. 30, it was time for one last Saskatchewan Roughriders nostalgia trip at Taylor Field/old Mosaic Stadium.
    The CFL’s oldest franchise in Western Canada was playing its final game at its iconic home park. During the drive down from Saskatoon to Regina to attend that contest, it felt weird knowing that would be the final time I would see the Roughriders play at a facility I hold close to my heart.
    The day was festive when you arrived in the Queen City. It felt like a mix between a Labour Day Classic game and when the Roughriders hosted and won the 2013 Grey Cup. The festive activities included a kick butt halftime performance from country star Jess Moskaluke, who is from Langenburg, Sask.
    The post-game ceremony definitely took you on a trip down memory lane seeing all the old photos from years past. The day provided a great celebration of all the good things that went on at Taylor Field over the years.
Terrell Sinkfield Jr. makes an acrobatic TD catch for the Lions.
    The only downer was the fact the visiting B.C. Lions came away with a 24-6 victory. It was also familiar to see the fans super engaged with the contest.
    You would have thought the Grey Cup was on the line. The passion of Rider Nation was at its best.
    When the post-game ceremonies ended, I lingered around the field just soaking in the sites and the sounds like I did when I was there for the Roughriders 2013 Grey Cup victory. It was different to walk out of there after that game to a post-game party on the Dewdney Avenue strip.
    Taylor Field was the place that memories were made, and the memories from that park will always be special. It is still weird to think I will never see the Roughriders play there live ever again.

2. Stars keep getting brighter, excite on repeat long playoff run

The Stars celebrate a SFMAAAHL title win.
    There might not be anything that can bring a bigger smile to your face than seeing the Saskatoon Stars skate to greatness and look modest and excited while doing it.
    As my young cousin Danielle Nogier was playing out her final season of eligibility as the Stars captain, I thought it would be neat to cover their playoff run like a WHL post-season run. I figured the Stars had a good shot of repeating as Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League champions and returning to the Esso Cup national championship tournament. I did have dreams of the Stars winning it all.
    With the way the schedule works out in the SFMAAAHL post-season, the Stars pretty much ended up playing every second day like a team in a WHL playoff run would.
    The Stars also have an outstanding group of players, coaches, staffers and the best parents group I had ever seen around a minor sports team. I felt pretty positive that this would be a good time.
Following the Stars took me on the road to Swift Current and Weyburn provincially as well as Shoal Lake, Man. During the run, it seems readers appreciated the fact I followed the Stars and their exploits as my page views big time spiked when I wrote about them.
    I also gained a new appreciation for how well Swift Current, Weyburn and Shoal Lake, Man., back their female midget AAA teams.
Emma Johnson makes a save in goal for the Stars.
    The highlight was seeing the Stars lock up the SFMAAAHL championship series in Swift Current with a 4-3 overtime victory over the host Diamond Energy Wildcats on March 26. At the 4:08 mark of the extra session, 14-year-old Stars forward Grace Shirley drove home the winner on a brilliant shot. Her goal celebration was just as good as winning tally.
    Another special night was seeing the Stars lock up the Western regional playdown series with a 3-1 victory over the Yellowhead Chiefs in Shoal Lake, Man. Star goalie Emma Johnson was stellar making 32 save to steal that win, while 18-year-old defender Rayah DeCorby blasted home the winner in the third period and added a key empty-net insurance goal.
    I followed the Stars to the Esso Cup national championship tournament, which was held in late April in Weyburn. They made it to the tournament’s semifinal. The goal dried up at that point, and they came away with a fourth place finish.
    The whole run was spectacular. I was glad I decided to pile up the road miles.

1. Huskies get sweet title sweep for Smuk

Kendall McFaull (#2) shows off Cody Smuk’s jersey.
    During my time of being involved in sports, I have never seen as much emotion around a championship win as when the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team captured this year’s Canada West championship.
    I have seen teams win national championships and numerous conference, league and provincial titles, but the emotion I saw when the Huskies won the Canada West title in memory of former teammate and alumnus Cody Smuk was unique. Smuk was a gritty forward, who played for the Huskies from 2010 to 2014, and he was known for his hard work and being the ultimate glue guy in the dressing room. He passed away from cancer in June of 2015.
The Huskies are all smiles after a goal from Logan McVeigh.
    For the whole 2015-16 campaign, the Huskies warmed up wearing Smuk’s #24 jersey. The Huskies men’s team retired Smuk’s #24 on Oct. 24, 2015. During the campaign, the Huskies piled up their wins and matched a team record for wins in a regular season finishing first in Canada West with a 22-6 mark.
    On March 5, the Huskies swept their “Forever Rivals” the U of Alberta Golden Bears taking Game 2 of a best-of-three Canada West championship series 3-2 at the ancient Rutherford Rink. Trailing the Golden Bears 1-0 entering the third period of that contest, the Huskies rolled off three straight goals to cement a championship victory.
    After the game, Huskies captain Kendall McFaull skated on to the ice with Smuk’s #24 jersey. McFaull along with third-year forward Josh Roach helped bring Smuk’s father, Marty, mother, Darla and fiancĂ©e, Stephanie Vause, on to the ice for the team championship picture. All three attended every Huskies home game.
The Huskies celebrate a Canada West title with Smuk’s family members.
    You could feel the real emotion from the Huskies men’s hockey team as well as the Huskies women’s hockey team, who were all in attendance that night.
    I really thought the Huskies men’s team was going to move on and win the University Cup national championship tournament, which was held in Halifax, N.S. The Huskies weren’t able to pull out the fairy tale finish.
    They won their quarter-final match in thrilling style on Parker Thomas’s OT winner, but dropped an OT heartbreaker in a semifinal match. The Dogs returned home with a fourth place finish.
    Still, the emotion of the Canada West championship win will be the dominate memory for the 2015-16 campaign. To this day, my post of the recap of that night’s events is still my most viewed blog post.
    The Huskies conference title win helped bring the healing process of Smuk’s passing to as much of a closure as you could get. That is something that is absolutely priceless.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Huskies in transition period

Expect more changes to come from U of S athletic program

The Huskies football team storms out to the field for a game in September.
    The winds of change are blowing through the University of Saskatchewan Huskies athletic program, and an educated guess makes one suspect the changes haven’t finished just yet.
    In stepping back to take a look at the bigger picture, it appears the wheels were in motion to make changes at the storied Huskie Athletics program long before high profile departures were announced this month. The departures include the retirement announcement by athletic director Basil Hughton on Dec. 5 that becomes effective June 30, 2017 and the announcement that after 33 years Brian Towriss was stepping down as the head coach of the football team on Dec. 19.
    News of Towriss’s departure was taken with quite a bit emotion from alums, current coaches, current players and supporters of the football program. The shock was also felt from alums and current players from the other Huskies teams as well.
    The overriding emotion was one of being upset because of a feeling that Towriss was being pushed out. I know for myself my gut tells me it was a force out too.
    Signs that the Huskies were heading in a new direction appeared five years ago, when the Sheaf – the student newspaper at the University of Saskatchewan - produced a feature in October of 2011 questioning the association local businessman, philanthropist and Huskies football alumnus David Dube had with the football program. 
    In a well-constructed piece, the Sheaf story explores the question of Dube’s influence going beyond being a sponsor and having influence on the team’s direction.
    Fast forward to April 1 of this year, the Huskies were celebrating a very successful 2015-16 campaign during the Huskie Salute annual awards night. During the 2015-16 campaign, the Huskies claimed Canada West titles in men’s track and field, men’s wrestling, men’s hockey, women’s basketball and a national championship from women’s basketball.
    The whole night felt very warm, cozy and inviting. It seemed like everything was in a state of being great.
Basil Hughton, right, announced he will retire as Huskies athletic director.
    Then in July, two of the program’s elite coaches announced they were taking a professional leave of absence for the 2016-17 campaign first in men’s volleyball head coach Brian Gavlas followed by women’s hockey head coach Steve Kook. The announcements were made within six days of each other.
    Joel Dyck is the interim head coach of the men’s volleyball program, while Robin Ulrich is the interim head coach of the women’s hockey team. Both are former players and had been assistant coaches for their respective teams.
    Normally if one head coach goes on a leave of absence for a season, no one blinks. It is a bit unusual for two coaches to depart at relatively the same time and during a period that is getting a little late in the off-season and makes you slightly feel like something is up. With that said, Kook has attended a few women’s hockey games and has been present at announcements for the Home Ice Campaign, which is raising funds for a new hockey arena on campus.
    The big news came down on Sept. 13, which Huskie Athletics entitled a “New Direction For Huskie Athletics At U of S” on a website release. It was announced that on Nov. 1 a Board of Trustees will advise and guide Huskie Athletics.
    The board consists of six community members and five representatives from the university. Dube, who is also a member of the U of S Board of Governors, was appointed as the chairperson. The board reports to U of S president Peter Stoicheff.
    When the board was announced, Dube made it clear change was overdue when he said, “Do you have the same cellphone as 20 years ago? I doubt it. I’m sure you don’t fly in a 100-year-old airplane, or a 100-year-old car. This was a 100-year-old governance model.”
    Usually, something like the creation of the Huskies board of trustees is a process that comes over a period of a number of months. When you consider when the board was announced and remember the mandate for change, you start connecting the dots regarding the moves that were made in July and the ones that came in December along with the formation of the board.
Brian Towriss’s resignation shocked the majority of Huskies backers.
    You start to wonder how much influence the Board of Trustees or a single person on that board really has.
    Will Gavlas and Kook be back? Only time will truly answer that question.
    Greg Jockims took his professional leave of absence after leading the Huskies men’s basketball team to Canada West and national titles in 2010. A year later, he resigned his post in order to spend more time to help raise his young family.
    Will other aspects in Gavlas’s and Kook’s lives move them to consider a similar choice?
    For now, you start to wonder what will be the next major move made by Huskie Athletics?
    The next move might be delayed given the fallout from when Towriss stepped down. The vocal minority that sat in the one corner of Griffiths Stadium heaping criticism on Towriss in recent years seems really small these days.
    The amount of alums that have come forward saying how important the veteran bench boss has meant to their lives has been staggering. A few fans are suggesting they won’t renew their season tickets for the football team.
    Even when I went shopping on Boxing Day just a week after Towriss resigned, I had three people come up to talk to me about him. It even distracted me on a visit I had with a family member.
    Overall, the prestige of Huskie Athletics on the national stage did take a negative hit with how Towriss’s situation played out. The athletic department overall is successful, so how much change does one want to make?
    I am sure there members of the university’s communications department who are choked that the company message track that it was Towriss’s choice to step down was widely rejected. When Towriss fumbled a bit with that question at his departure news conference, the optics showed something else was going on due to the fact Towriss had a long standing tell it like it is reputation.
    There are some, who seem like the minority, who agree with the moves that have been made on the Huskies front. On the football front, there are some that say the Towriss move was the right one looking at the team’s eight straight post-season losses.
    Some want the Huskies to make moves like a professional team or a WHL one if wins or not enough wins are coming. You make a change to go in a different direction and move on.
The Huskies have won a lot of recent trophies and championship banners.
    When the Huskies teams that are still in action resume play in the new year, all of this will be a slight distraction. Due to the pressures of managing basically two full time jobs of being a university student and a university level athlete, players are used to taking things day by day. If romantic relationships are happening, that just increases the day-to-day focus.
    When each team reaches the end of its season, then the future will be more of a distraction.
    At the end of 2016, the Huskies are looking different from the start of the year. Change might be the only consistent as the 2017 calendar year plays out. If the Huskies pile up the championship banners after the changes are made, a lot of the hurt feelings will likely go away.
    NOTES – Saskatoon Express editor Cam Hutchinson was at the press conference when Towriss announced his resignation. Hutchinson’s piece on the matter can be found right here.
    The Sheaf’s 2011 story on Dube’s influence on the football program can be found here.

Message from Stoicheff and Towriss

    It is likely a coincidence, but a message was posted from Stoicheff and Towriss on the Huskies website and communicated along Facebook and Twitter lines about an hour after this blog was originally posted.
    In the joint statement, Stoicheff publicly apologized for how the news regarding Towriss’s resignation was handled. In an eloquently written comment, Towriss said he appreciated the apology from the university president.
    Huskie Athletics has taken heat from a number of different sources about how Towriss’s departure was handled since the news came down on Dec. 19.
    My initial reaction is this will help heal things over time. Initially, there have been some immediate disappointment reactions on social media. With that said, the statement was a step in the right direction and the best course of action the U of S could take at this time.
    The statement from the Huskie Athletics site can be found right here.

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Saturday, 24 December 2016

People who rock part two

    I first wrote a column listing people who rock in June of 2015, and I have been itching to do it again.
    I thought the first time I wrote a “people who rock” column it made for a great feel good exercise to create some positive energy, and the post was really well received. I wish it didn’t take me so long to write another one of these lists, but it is better late than never.
    By no means is this list complete or in any sort of order. Here are a few “beauties” that just make life just so much better.

Brian Towriss

Brian Towriss shakes hands with U of Regina Rams players.
    Towriss stepped down on Monday from his post after 33 years as the head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team to shock of the football world in Canada and even beyond the country’s borders.
    In the aftermath, it was easy to see how many lives he had a positive impact on during his career. Tonnes of former players from the start of Towriss’s head coaching days spanning all the way to current players have talked about how meaningful an influence the bench boss had on their lives. To a lot of those players, Towriss was a second father.
    That reaction in itself is bigger than the U Sports record 196 career victories, 11 Canada West titles, nine Vanier Cup appearances and three Vanier Cup championships Towriss piled up walking the Huskies sideline as head coach. If you as a coach are trying to make your players better people on top of being better athletes, all the wins and championships and coach of the years honours will look after themselves.
    Towriss also had the ability to work with a diverse group of people over the years. He got the best out of players that were as cerebral as quarterback Brent Schneider and characters who had character that were a little bit out there in a good way in power tailback Tyler Siwak and rush end Brent Dancey.
    During his farewell press conference, Towriss said teams won a lot of games with honesty, respect and hard work. His Huskies teams were always respected for those qualities.
    “BT” did things the right way, and his Huskies teams produced a high-quality legacy in competition and away from the game that all U of S steams should strive to uphold.

Ehjae Chan

Ehjae Chan (#24) tackles an Edmonton Storm fullback.
    Chan is the kick butt defensive back/linebacker with the Saskatoon Valkyries women’s football team, and she was a member of Saskatchewan’s provincial team last summer that won nationals.
    She always tells me to include the linebacker position when talking about her role in football, and I don’t question that because she kicks butt. In an era of football that tends to be a little more pass happy, defensive players frequently have to play that tweener role between defensive back and linebacker.
    When Chan’s Valkyries face their arch rivals the Regina Riot, you definitely see she excels in that role. She is able to be the cover corner in the secondary that makes a key interception and tough enough to mix it up in the front seven to make a tackle to stop a tough runner.
    Chan is also known for her gifted artistic talents off the field. She can take some of the most beautiful pictures you have ever seen and they can span from amazing scenic shots to people pictures.
    Her ability to draw and paint is also a gift that has been handed down from a Higher Power. Her work is way better than anything you will find in a store or on display in a gallery.
    Chan also wears her soul on her sleeve, and when you combine everything she does, you have one incredibly inspiring person.

Jordon Cooke

Jordon Cooke has stood tall in goal for the Huskies.
    The gutsy goalie from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team just gets the job done wherever he goes.
    In his final season in the major junior ranks in 2013-14 with the Kelowna Rockets, Cooke was named the Canadian Hockey League’s goalie of the year. He posted a 39-7-4 record, a .922 save percentage, a 2.28 goals against average and four shutouts.
    Last season in his sophomore campaign in the U Sports ranks, Cooke had another dream season. He set a Huskies record for wins in a regular season at 19 posting a 19-5 record, a .921 save percentage, a 2.52 goals against average and two shutouts. 
    Cooke backstopped the Huskies to a Canada West Conference championship, was named the conference’s most outstanding player and took home honours as the top goaltender in U Sports.
    Currently in his third year with the Huskies, Cooke is having another outstanding campaign posting a 10-3-2 record, a .928 save percentage, a 1.98 goals against average, and three shutouts.
    He has the talent that should give him a shot to play in the NHL ranks, but those clubs shy away from drafting or signing goalies that stand 5-foot-10 and weigh 185 pounds like Cooke does. Cooke plays a style that is similar to Chris Osgood, who was a former star netminder of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. Osgood also mirrors Cooke in size.
    Despite being overlooked, Cooke just goes about his business in a humble manner and always ensures to spread the credit around to his teammates that play in front of him for any success he has. Osgood used to do the same thing.
    With that in mind, good things do come to good people, and Cooke was recently named to Hockey Canada’s roster for the Spengler Cup tournament in Davos, Switzerland. Canada opens play this coming Monday against HC Dinamo Minsk. The Leduc, Alta., product will be the first active Canada West player in over 30 years to play at this event.
    It would not be a shocker to see Cooke excel at this event and see other big doors open for him in hockey.

Kylie Gavelin

Kylie Gavelin wheels in the offensive zone for the Cougars.
    Gavelin is the silky smooth offensive sparkplug for the University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team.
    If you are not aware of where Gavelin is in the offensive zone, she will make you pay. If she has time and space, her rocket snapshot will be in the back of the goal. During her career with the green and gold, Gavelin has netted a couple of impressive overtime winners where the goalie could see the shot and had no chance to stop the puck.
    The Mankota, Sask., product started to turn heads as a sophomore at the university level during the 2014 playoffs, where she netted three goals and two assists in eight games as the Cougars advanced to the Canada West championship series. They eventually fell to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in a hard fought best-of-three series that went beyond the distance.
    In her third year in 2014-15, Gavelin, who stands 5-foot-6, picked up a career high 13 goals and netted eight assists in 27 games.  She had her best season last year picking up 11 goals and 16 assists in 26 games.
    Now in her final season of eligibility, Gavelin will get to wear Canada’s colours in the new year. She will play for Canada’s women’s hockey team at the FISU Winter Universiade, which runs Jan. 29 to Feb. 8, 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Gavelin will be joined by U of R teammates Jaycee Magwood and Alexis Larson.
    Gavelin is also pretty popular with her teammates in the Cougars dressing room, but the opportunities to see her in action are running out as this is her retirement run. The gifted sniper has six goals and six assists in the Cougars first 16 games this season.
    She will be part of one more run through the playoffs and players that wear #13 for the U of R Cougars women’s teams seem to traditionally create magic in the post-season. Gavelin likely still has a little more magic on her stick.

Brooklyn Haubrich

Brooklyn Haubrich is the Huskies feisty forward.
    Haubrich is the feisty forward for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team who will kill you with kindness.
    The former captain of the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats midget AAA team standing only 5-foot-4, but she is not afraid to be an energy player and battle in all the greasy areas on the ice. In almost all of those physical battles, she is usually battling against a player that is bigger physically than her.
    The Hodgeville, Sask., product is also a happy intense player. No matter how intense the physical battle gets, Haubrich always has a huge smile on her face. When you are around her, you think she has never had a bad day in her life. Her style of play on the ice mirrors what former NFL receiver Hines Ward used to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
    As a rookie last season with the Huskies, Haubrich chipped in a little bit offensively collecting four goals and three assist appearing in all 28 of her team’s regular season games. She has managed an assist in 11 appearances this season.
    Her speedy and feisty style of play will help change the tone of a game in her team’s favour after one shift. Her upbeat personality also makes the morale in the Huskies dressing room take a big spike upwards.
    Haubrich is one of those unsung heroes, who plays a key part in helping the Huskies succeed.

James Vause

James Vause gets set in the Hilltops secondary.
    Vause is the kick butt and first rate person safety of the current three time defending Canadian Junior Football League champion Saskatoon Hilltops.
    Since joining the Hilltops in 2014, Vause has become one of the key leaders on the defensive unit becoming one of the team’s captains this past season. Off the field, he always seems to be one of the first guys to step up and do the blue and gold’s community functions.
    In July of 2015, Vause played a big part in organizing the Cody Smuk Memorial Road Hockey Tournament, which raised funds for Choc ‘la Cure. Choc ‘la Cure collects funds for equipment at the Saskatoon Cancer Centre.
    Vause’s sister, Stephanie, was engaged to Smuk. Smuk was the heart and soul gritty glue guy forward of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team, who passed away in June of 2015 after a battle with cancer that lasted over a year.
    On the field, James Vause’s specialty is pass defence. He has a strong ability to dissect a play and get to where the ball is going to make a knockdown or interception. He has also earned huge respect from his rivals thanks to his heightened level of sportsmanship.
    When you lose to the Hilltops and then meet Vause, you come away with a great impression of that team.
    On the humourous front, Vause is well-known for breaking up the Hilltops dressing room with impersonations of the team’s head coach Tom Sargeant. Vause also gives killer funny interviews on radio shows in the days leading up to a Hilltops contest.
    The Hilltops are fortunate to have the Aden Bowman Collegiate grad on their roster for another two seasons.

The Happiest Christmas Tree

The Happiest Christmas Tree.
    I know this isn’t a person, but it is Christmas time and you have to love the Happiest Christmas Tree.
    I bought this at the Wal-Mart in Medicine Hat about three or four years ago. You should have seen the looks and smiles on people’s faces, when I had this thing in my shopping cart.
    When you get it singing its song and dancing, you can’t help but laugh. One word of warning, the tune this things sings is catchy.
    You can hear the Happiest Christmas Tree doing its thing in a video that can be found right here.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass on about this post, feel free to email them to The first “people who rock” column can be found right here.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Shirley, Rongve power Stars past Sharks

Grace Shirley (#14) drives hard to the net for the Saskatoon Stars.
    Julia Rongve always seems to be the perfect fit to play on a line that features a Shirley.
    Two years ago, Rongve was part of a dynamic 15-year-old sophomore forward line featuring Sophie Shirley and Nara Elia with the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team. Playing with Shirley and Elia, who were both recently named to Canada’s under-18 national team, Rongve piled up six goals and 17 assists in 28 regular season games in 2014-15.
    These days Rongve is a 17-year-old veteran with the Stars, and she has been playing in a line with Sophie Shirley’s younger sister, Grace. Last season, Grace Shirley exploded on to the scene with the Stars piling up 18 goals and 14 assists as a 14-year-old rookie, and she is having another standout campaign as a 15-year-old sophomore.
    On Sunday at the Agriplace Arena, Grace Shirley and Rongve combined for three goals and five assists to power the Stars to a 7-2 victory over the Battlefords Sharks.
The Stars celebrate a goal from Julia Rongve.
    For most of the first period, it seemed like Sharks were going to keep the Stars offence at bay as Battlefords netminder Chantel Weller turned away a number of solid scoring chances from the Saskatoon side.
    With 1:56 to play in the first, the Stars broke through for a 1-0 lead, when winger Joelle Fiala rifled home a power-play goal from the front of the Sharks net.
    Early in the second, Shirley and Rongve played a key part in helping the Stars score twice in a 35-second span to go ahead 3-0. They combined to set up 14-year-old rookie defender Chace Sperling for her fifth goal of the season. After that tally, Rongve proceeded to set up Shirley for her first goal of the night.
    Saskatoon’s edge expanded to 4-0, when offensive defender Willow Slobodzian scored a highlight reel goal on a solo end-to-end rush.
    Shirley and Rongve proceeded to combine for their most memorable goal of the night off an offensive zone faceoff. On an offensive draw with under seven minutes to play in the second, Shirley pushed towards with goal with the puck, fed a beauty pass across the face of the Sharks goal to Rongve, who tapped the puck into an open cage to give Saskatoon a 5-0 edge.
Joelle Fiala potted the Stars first goal on Sunday.
    Early in the third, the Stars found themselves in penalty trouble and 16-year-old forward Keara Amson scored twice for the Sharks on the power play to cut Saskatoon’s edge to 5-2 with 16:12 to play in the frame.
    With just over five minutes to play in the third and working on a power play of their own, Rongve set up Shirley for her second tally of the contest put Saskatoon in front 6-2. Anna Leschyshyn rounded out the Stars scoring with a single.
    Jordan Ivanco made 22 stops to earn the win in goal for the Stars. Weller stopped 47 shots to take the loss in net for the Sharks (3-11-1).
    Thanks to Sunday’s performance, Rongve now has eight goals and 12 assists in 17 games. Her goal total is a career high, and she will likely pass her career highs in assists and points, which were set playing alongside Sophie Shirley and Elia.
    Grace Shirley has 10 goals and 13 assists in 17 games this season, and she has a good chance to pass all her offensive totals from her rookie campaign.
Willow Slobodzian scored a short-handed goal on a coast-to-coast rush.
    The Stars head into the Christmas break sitting first overall in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League with a 14-2-1 record good for 43 points in the standings. They sit four points up on the Prince Albert Northern Bears (14-3) and the Melville Prairie Fire (14-4).
    The Bears and Prairie Fire trail the Stars due to the fact three of their wins have come in extra time, while all of Saskatoon’s victories have come in regulation. In the SFMAAAHL, you earn three points in the standings for a regulation victory and two points for an extra time win.
    Saskatoon’s Christmas break comes to an end on Dec. 27, when the Stars open play at the prestigious Mac’s Tournament in Calgary against the Prince George, B.C., based Northern Capitals.
    The Stars next regular season game is Jan. 7 in the new year, when they host the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats at 7:45 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.

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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Blades need more than morale victories

Saskatoon enters break with tough loss to Wheat Kings

Blades goalie Logan Flodell guides a shot away from the Saskatoon goal.
    For every heart-stopping victory the Saskatoon Blades earn, it seems like there are two heartbreaking defeats awaiting just around the corner.
    On Saturday, “the Bridge City Bunch” entered the WHL Christmas break dropping a 3-2 decision at the SaskTel Centre to the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. Locked in a 2-2 tie, Wheat Kings winger Connor Gutenberg banged home the winning goal during a net scramble after an offensive zone faceoff with 66 seconds to play in the third period to mostly disappoint a crowd of 4,319.
    The hosts couldn’t counter with the equalizer and fell to 13-19-3-1 to sit four points back of the Wheat Kings, who improved to 15-14-4, for the final wildcard playoff berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The Wheat Kings, who are the defending WHL champions, also have three games in hand on Saskatoon.
Wheat Kings winger Connor Gutenberg chases a loose puck.
    After three years of rebuilding under the ownership of Mike Priestner, who bought the franchise after it hosted the Memorial Cup in 2013, this is supposed to be the year the Blades obtain more tangible results – like earning a playoff berth.
    The Blades may still earn that elusive playoff berth. When play resumes after the WHL Christmas break, Saskatoon plays 22 of its remaining 36 games at home. There is the potential to make big gains.
    Since being bombed at home 8-2 by the Medicine Hat Tigers back on Nov. 26, the work ethic has been there for the Blades on most nights they have hit the ice. The highlight of that stretch was a thrilling 2-1 overtime win on Dec. 10 in Regina against the Pats, who are still rated first in the Canadian Hockey League’s top 10 rankings.
    Even on Saturday, the effort was there from the Blades and for the Wheat Kings as well.
Blades winger Braylon Shmyr zips into the offensive zone.
    Both sides have to be given credit for coming out hard, because there are a lot of occasions where the final regular season game before the WHL Christmas break turns into a dud. That sometimes is hard to avoid as players on both sides are looking forward to going home.
    Brandon used one tactic that seemed to catch the Blades off guard, which was to shoot or try and guide the puck on goal off an offensive zone faceoff.
    The Wheat Kings netted their first goal while playing short-handed doing exactly that at the 3:42 mark of the first. Off a draw, Wheat Kings centre Tanner Kaspick drove the puck on goal creating a net scramble, and linemate Meyer Nell potted the rebound to give the visitors a 1-0 edge.
    The Blades responded at the 2:13 mark of the second, when winger Braylon Shmyr slipped home a power-play goal on a backhander through a screen to force a 1-1 tie. That tally also ignited the contest’s Teddy Bear Toss promotion, where the spectators threw enough stuffed animals on the ice that they overfilled two half ton trucks and partially filled a third.
    At the 8:55 mark of the second, Brandon went ahead 2-1 off another offensive zone faceoff. Centre Reid Duke drove to the net off the draw and fed linemate Tyler Coulter with a sweet pass across the face of the Saskatoon net. Coulter potted his 11th of the season into an empty cage.
    The Blades showed their resiliency forcing a 2-2 tie at the 3:40 mark of the third on a highlight reel type tally. Breaking into the offensive zone, Shmyr slipped a smart pass past a Wheat Kings defenceman to spring Blades overage centre Jesse Shynkaruk in on a breakaway.
Evan Fiala and Tyler Lees (#16) load up a truck with stuffed animals.
    Shynkaruk went from his forehand to his backhand and slipped home his 11th of the season past Wheat Kings goalie Jordan Papirny.
    That set the stage for the dramatics in the final 66 seconds.
    Papirny made 22 saves to earn the win in goal for Brandon.
    Logan Flodell, who has been outstanding all season in net for the Blades, turned away 26 shots in the Saskatoon goal.
    With Saturday’s setback, the Blades fall to 6-8 in one-goal games.
    They have earned four points in the standing in four of those losses due to the fact they came in overtime or after a tiebreaking shootout.  
    Saskatoon could really use the points that were lost in the one-goal setbacks that came in either regulation or extra time. Those lost points are making the difference between sitting in a playoff position or on the outside looking in.
    The Blades have been hampered by the fact the injury bug seems to bite their key players. Star centre Cameron Hebig hasn’t played a game due to an upper body injury. Right-winger Mason McCarty has missed the Blades last 10 games due to a severe lower body injury.
The Wheat Kings celebrate victory at the expense of the Blades.
    Shynkaruk and defenceman Jake Kustra, who are both healthy now, both lost significant time due to injury.
    Saskatoon is currently without defenceman Libor Hajek, who is taking part in the selection camp for the Czech Republic’s world junior team.
    The fact the Blades have been competitive and are still in the playoff hunt with their injuries and close setbacks helps the club stack up a big list of morale victories.
    However, the morale victories need to turn into actual victories on the scoreboard, or the Blades will be out of the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
    They are still in position to make a push for the playoffs, but the road to the post-season won’t be an easy one.

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Oil Kings spoil robbery attempt by Flodell

Blades goalie makes 43 saves in 3-2 OT loss

Logan Flodell made 43 saves for the Blades.
    Logan Flodell almost singlehandedly ran the Saskatoon Blades winning streak to three games.
    The 19-year-old netminder stood on his head making 43 saves, but the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings exited Wednesday’s WHL contest at the SaskTel Centre with a 3-2 overtime victory. With the Blades holding a 2-1 lead, Oil Kings left-winger David Koch netted the equalizer at the 5:32 mark of the third period.
    He proceeded to pot the winner just 11 seconds into overtime on an odd man rush to deliver the visitors to victory.
    The Oil Kings started the contest by pinning the Blades in their own end and getting the first eight shots on goal. Flodell slammed the door to ensure the game remained scoreless.
    Momentum changed near the midway point of the frame, when the Blades scored twice on the power play with their first two shots on goal in the contest to go up 2-0.
    The first tally was a tick-tack-toe passing play that saw right-winger Josh Paterson tap home a backdoor feed from 16-year-old rookie Michael Farren. Just a minute after that goal, 16-year-old rookie right-winger Chase Wouters wired home his fourth of the season to give the hosts a two-goal edge.
    The Blades carried the play from that point until the momentum changed again, when Oil Kings Russian defenceman Anatolii Elizarov fired home a point shot through a screen with 45.2 seconds to play in the first period to cut Saskatoon’s lead to 2-1.
    The Oil Kings poured it on in the second earning four power-play chances and outshooting the Blades 19-7. Flodell stood his ground to ensure the hosts went into the second intermission with a one-goal edge, which also set the stage for Koch’s heroics.
The Oil Kings celebrate Davis Koch’s equalizer goal.
    Patrick Dea turned away 15 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Oil Kings.
    With the win, Edmonton improved to 15-15-3 to sit seventh overall in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and four points in front of the ninth place Blades, whose record moved to 13-18-3.
    Saskatoon sits a point behind the Brandon Wheat Kings (13-14-4) for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Wheat Kings have three games in hand on the Blades. Those two teams face each other in a home-and-home series before embarking on the league’s Christmas break.
    The Blades and Wheat Kings play Friday in Brandon and go at it again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. Saturday’s contest is also the Blades “Teddy Bear Toss” game.

Blades deal captain to Spokane to get bigger

Blades captain Wyatt Sloboshan was traded to Spokane.
    At the conclusion of Wednesday’s game, the Blades dealt 19-year-old captain Wyatt Sloboshan to the Spokane Chiefs in a trade involving four players.
    Sloboshan, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 184 pounds, was sent to Spokane along with 18-year-old defenceman Nolan Reid, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 175 pounds, and a third round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft for 19-year-old defenceman Evan Fiala, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds, overage forward Markson Bechtold, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 190 pounds, and a conditional sixth round WHL Bantam Draft selection.
    Sloboshan, who didn’t play Wednesday due to a lower body injury, has four goals and 12 assists in 30 games. Reid has played in all of the Blades 34 games this season collecting no goals and 11 assists.
    Fiala, who is a Saskatoon area product, has two goals and seven assists in 32 games. Bechtold has five goals and three assists in 13 games. The additions of Fiala and Bechtold give the Blades a boost in the size department.
    Fiala’s younger sister, Joelle, is a standout forward with the Saskatoon Stars of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League.
    Bechtold’s addition gave the Blades four overage players. In order to get down to the league limit of three overagers, they placed centre Kolten Olynek on waivers. Olynek had seven goals and six assists this season playing 31 regular season games with both the Blades and the Prince Albert Raiders. The Blades originally claimed Olynek via waivers in early October.

Back in the Express with feature on Pats Hobbs

Connor Hobbs is having a stellar season with the Pats.
    I was back in the Saskatoon Express this week with a feature story on Regina Pats offensive defenceman Connor Hobbs.
    Hobbs, who is from Saskatoon, is having a stellar 19-year-old season piling up 13 goals, 23 assists and a plus-19 rating in the plus-minus department.
    He went into this season already having an NHL entry-level contract signed with the Washington Capitals.
    This season, Hobbs has helped the Pats jump out to a 21-2-6 start.
    The only disappointment Hobbs has suffered is the fact he wasn’t invited to the main training camp for Canada’s world junior team.
    The story on Hobbs can be found right here.

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