Saturday, 27 February 2016

Supporting cast seals sweep

Huskies head to nationals for fourth time in five years

Huskies defenceman Tyler Borstmayer celebrates his first career CIS goal.
    The unsung heroes delivered when the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team needed them the most.
    All season, the Huskies prided themselves on the fact they had more depth and balance throughout their lineup than they did a season ago. That showed when the team topped the Canada West standings with a 22-6 mark.
    During the clutch moments, the rookie line of Levi Cable, Kohl Bauml and Andrew Johnson seemed to lift the Dogs to another level. Their ability as a unit to flat out create offence has been a game changer.
    In a long playoff run, teams can’t just rely on their top offensive line. The deeper you go in the post-season the harder it becomes to score. Others need to step up and deliver on the scoreboard.
    Others did just that on Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, as the Huskies posted a 5-3 victory over the U of Calgary Dinos to sweep a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series 2-0. U of S’s high scoring rookie line accounted for one goal, which Cable dumped into an empty net with 12 seconds to play to lock up the final outcome.
    With the Dinos doing their best to limit the Huskies top unit, U of S had to look towards other sources to score and pull out victory.
Cameron Blair has three assists for the Huskies on Saturday.
    The challenge to have others score also got that much bigger, when the Dinos jumped out to a 2-0 just 5:44 into the contest on singles from Ryan Suchorab and Danny Gayle. The tallies silenced a packed Ruthy for a short time, and one had to wonder if a series deciding Game 3 was going to be needed on Sunday.
    Despite the Dinos fast start, the Huskies, who are rated third in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport top ten rankings, gained some traction when gritty rookie forward Jaimen Yakubowski, who had three points in 15 regular season games, tallied at the 11:50 mark of the opening frame. Yakubowski’s goal re-energized the packed and raucous crowd at the Rutherford Rink and was an early momentum changer.
    While the Huskies continued to mount pressure, Dinos netminder and former Saskatoon Blades star Steven Stanford was doing his best to keep the host side at bay. U of S broke through again on the scoreboard at the 13:49 mark of the second, when an on ice point shot from sophomore defenceman Tyler Borstmayer found its way to the back of the Dinos goal. Borstmayer’s first ever CIS goal pulled the Huskies even at 2-2.
Parker Thomas played a strong energy game for the Huskies.
    With 3:43 to play in the second, Kendall McFaull, who is earning a reputation as the Huskies “Captain Clutch,” put home an accurate off-speed point drive to put the Dogs up 3-2. Early in the third, the Huskies lead expanded to 4-2, when Connor Cox, who is a former Saskatoon Blades blue-liner, laser beamed home another point shot through a screen.
    In the four-goal outburst, sophomore forward Cameron Blair quietly helped set up three tallies. He almost matched his regular season total of assist in one game. Blair played in all of the Huskies 28 regular season games collecting seven goals and four assists.
    The Dinos still didn’t go quietly. U of C star forward Elgin Pearce potted his sixth of the post-season with 1:17 to play in the third to cut the Huskies edge to 4-3. U of S clamped things down defensively from there, and Cable’s goal ensured a comeback was not to be.
    Stanford, who stopped 77 shots in a 4-3 double overtime loss to the Huskies in Game 1 on Friday, turned aside 38 of 42 shots to take the loss in goal for the Dinos in Game 2.
    Cooke made 21 stops to earn the win in goal for the Huskies, who took all six of their encounters with the Dinos this season.
The crowd at the packed Rutherford Rink cheers a Huskies goal.
    Besides the offence, the Huskies also received strong contributions from players like energy forward Parker Thomas, who was key for the green and white on the forecheck.
    U of S advances to host the best-of-three Canada West championships series against their forever rivals - the U of Alberta Golden Bears. The Golden Bears, who have won the last two CIS titles, swept their semifinal series slipping past the Mount Royal University Cougars 4-3 in Edmonton on Saturday. Game 1 of the Canada West championship series will start this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.
    The Huskies also earned a berth to the eight-team CIS championship tournament, which runs March 17-20 in Halifax. That will mark their fourth appearance at nationals in the last five years.
    If the Huskies want their playoff success to continue, they need the X-factors to keep producing along with their top players. If that keeps happening, they might just win it all for the second time in team history.

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