Friday, 19 February 2016

“Willo” calls Huskies hatty

Winger nets three as Dogs take playoff opener 3-0

Kaitlin Willoughby (#17) celebrates her hat trick goal with her teammates.
    Kaitlin Willoughby called her shot and backed up her words.
    The standout left-winger for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team told head coach Steve Kook she was going to get a hat trick in the club’s playoff opener in a text message chat. Willoughby did just that on Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink netting all three of her team’s goals in the Huskies 3-0 victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons. 
    The win allowed the Huskies to take Game 1 of a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final playoff series, and they will look to close things out on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.
    “I was sick last night, and I missed practice,” said Willoughby. “Steve texted me this morning and said, “So Willo are you good to go?”
    “I texted him and I said, “Yeah, I am good to go this weekend, and I am going to score a hat trick tonight.” When I scored my hat trick, I turned around to the bench and said like, “Told ya.” I felt really good about tonight.”
    The three-goal night was a first for the Prince Albert product during her three campaigns in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport ranks. Her offensive instincts put the Huskies up 1-0 at the 13:32 mark of the first period.
    With linemate Lauren Zary speeding down the left wing with the puck, Willoughby zipped up through centre to create a two-on-one rush. Zary fed Willoughby a perfect pass and the graduate of the Prince Albert A & W Bears midget AAA team broke towards the goal and put a backhander past Bisons netminder Rachel Dyck.
Kaitlin Willoughby circles in the offensive zone with the puck.
    After a scoreless second, Willoughby netted her second marker seven minutes into the third tipping a home a point shot from star offensive-defender Julia Flinton and iced the game with an empty-net tally with 1:32 to play.
    “It was perfect timing,” said Kook about Willoughby’s three-goal night. “You need your best players to play good in big games like that.
    “Sometimes, you get games like that and the opposition keys pretty well on some of your top players. I thought she handled the pressure well and played really well through a lot of traffic out there.”
    The Huskies got out to a bit of slow start on Friday due to having to kill a couple of early penalties. From that point, the hosts began to string a number of strong shifts together.
    “Early on, it was a little disconcerting with starting with two PKs,” said Kook. “In hindsight, having to kill two power plays off in a hurry probably allowed us to get into the game mentally probably quicker than we would have otherwise.”
    Cassidy Hendricks made 21 saves to earn her first shutout victory of the overall 2015-16 campaign. She made at least four huge stops at critical times that could have allowed the Bisons to build some momentum.
    Dyck turned away 28 of 30 shot taking the loss in goal for the Bisons.
    Willoughby said her squad has to go into Saturday’s game with a clean slate and added there were a lot of positives to build off of from Friday night.
    “I am really happy with our team’s effort tonight,” said Willoughby. “I think there is a couple of things we just need to work on like just clean up our D-zone a bit.
    “Other than that, I think we are going to be good. We are going to be flying this weekend.”
Captain Paige Anakaer returned from injury to the Huskies lineup.
    NOTES – Huskies captain Paige Anakaer played in her first game for the U of S after suffering a knee injury in a 2-1 home loss to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds back on Jan. 22. She centred an energy/checking line containing rookie wingers Brooklyn Haubrich and Rachel Lundberg, who helped pin the Bisons for long stretches in their own zone.
    Fifth-year feisty forward Marley Ervine played in her club best 153rd consecutive game for the Huskies including action in the regular season, post-season and the CIS championship tournament. She had a helper and was a plus-two in the plus-minus department.
    Most if not all the members of the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team was at the Ruthy on Friday night and their cheering helped create an atmosphere that felt at times similar to that of the former home barn of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors - the late Moose Jaw Civic Centre. The visiting Bisons appeared to be rattled at times due to the noise.
    Friday’s win was the first in the post-season for the Huskies since they downed the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks 6-3 in the bronze medal game of the CIS championship tournament in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in March of 2014.

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