Friday, 5 February 2016

Huskies finally get rewarded

Kaitlin Willoughby celebrates her second period goal for the Huskies.
    It might be a bit of an understatement to say the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team needed to break back into the win column.
    Entering play Friday, the Huskies had won only won one of their last six games, and in the five setbacks, they had the edge in shots on goal. The effort was there, but the goals had dried up as the Dogs only scored eight times over that stretch. What made the losses even more painful was the fact two were by one goal and two were by two goals.
    The biggest challenge facing Huskies head coach Steve Kook and his staff was trying to keep the confidence of their players elevated and make them believe that the goals will come, if they keep their effort up.
    Heading into their home game Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Huskies, who were no longer rated in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport top ten rankings, faced a huge challenge taking on the University of Alberta Pandas, who are a powerhouse club year in and year out in the Canada West Conference.
    In one of those that’s why they play the games moments, the Huskies pulled out a 2-1 victory in the match that resembled what one might see in the post-season.
    The contest turned out to be a goaltending duel between fourth-year veterans Cassidy Hendricks of the Huskies and Lindsey Post of the Pandas. Hendricks turned way 30 shots, while Post made 27 saves.
Centre Lauren Zary jets up ice for the Huskies.
    Over the opening 20 minutes, the Huskies stormed out of the gates with huge jump and outshot the Pandas 17-5. The hosts had some golden chances, but Post slammed the door shut.
    The Huskies mental toughness was tested even further in the second period. The Pandas responded with a big push back, where they were spending large stretches of time in the U of S zone.
    U of A broke through at the 13:23 mark, when third year forward Ashley Morin deked around a Huskies defender and tucked a smart shot past Hendricks to give the Pandas a 1-0 lead.
    The Huskies were at a point they could have folded, but they kept digging deep and finally started to get rewarded around the net. Just three minutes after the Pandas tally, Huskies winger Kaitlin Willoughby broke into the U of A zone with speed, deked past a Pandas defender and roofed a shot top corner on Post to tie things up at 1-1. The tally energized the home side.
    With 22 seconds to play in the second, Huskies were buzzing in the Pandas zone, and U of S centre Lauren Zary corralled a rebound from a Marley Ervine shot at the side of the U of A net and lifted a backhander home to put the Huskies up 2-1. The normally calm Zary proceeded to leap in the air and then jump into the glass with excitement.
    In the third, the Pandas had the majority of the chances, but the Huskies still had a number of moments where they applied pressure in the offensive zone in search for an insurance goal.
Cassidy Hendricks makes a clutch save late in the game for the Huskies.
    The biggest difference maker down the stretch was Hendricks in goal. With under a minute to play, Pandas standout rookie Alex Poznikoff had an opportunity to score from point blank range, but Hendricks was able to trap the puck between her arm and body.
    The win allowed the Huskies to improve to 13-9-3 to remain fourth in the Canada West standings with three games to play. The Pandas dropped to 13-9-3, but they remained three points ahead of the Huskies due to having three more regulation wins. In Canada West women’s play, teams are awarded three points for a regulation win and two points for an extra time victory.
    Both teams will go at it again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink, and the Huskies should have a little extra boost in confidence from seeing positive results come from their efforts.

Dogs winning streak ends at nine

Huskies goalie Jordon Cooke made 22 stops in Friday's loss in Edmonton.
    It seemed the University of Alberta Golden Bears men’s hockey team wanted to do everything they could to end the winning streak of their forever rivals, and they were successful in doing just that.
    On Friday night in Edmonton, the Golden Bears blanked the U of Saskatchewan Huskies 3-0 before a large gathering of 1,839 spectators at the Clare Drake Arena in a tightly contested match. Jayden Hart tallied for the hosts at the 9:40 mark of the second period to give the Golden Bears a 1-0 edge.
    The Golden Bears potted a couple of power-play goals in the third, with Jordan Rowley scoring at the 45-second mark and Kruise Reddick tallying at the 17:10 mark. Luke Siemens turned away 23 shots to earn the shutout in goal for U of A.
    Jordon Cooke stopped 22 shots taking the loss in net for the Huskies, who saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end. U of S was 11-0 on the road this season before falling to the Golden Bears on Friday night. The Huskies, who are rated first in the CIS top ten rankings, fell to 21-4, but they entered play Friday having first place in the Canada West Conference all locked up.
    The Golden Bears, who are rated seventh in the CIS top ten rankings, improved to 16-7-2 and sit a point behind the Mount Royal University Cougars (16-6-3) for second in Canada West.
    The Huskies and Golden Bears go at it again on Saturday at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton.

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