Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Hockey Huskies to experience March Madness

Jordon Cooke was named the CIS's goalie of the year.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team will have a different experience at the University Cup compared to their past visits to the national championship tournament.
    The Huskies last appeared at the University Cup as the host team in 2014. That year, the University Cup ran under its long time traditional six-team format. The competing teams were played in two pools of three and the first place team in each pool advanced to the title game after round robin competition within the pool.
    That format often at times could be confusing to follow. If a team lost its first game by a goal, that club still had a chance to make the final. You had to hope the team that beat you lost its next game, and you usually had to win your last round-robin game in blowout fashion to make the title contest.
    It often took a university’s best math ace to figure out the goal spread that was needed in that final contest to advance.
    Last year, the University Cup converted over to a final-eight format that is often used for various other sports in Canadian Interuniversity Sport and down in the United States in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. That means the eight-team field plays single elimination games through a quarter-final, semifinal and championship final rounds.
    The Huskies were eliminated in the first round of the Canada West playoffs last season, so they weren’t part of the University Cup tournament.
    This year they will get their first taste of a hockey style March Madness at nationals hosted in Halifax, N.S.
    U of S is the second seed and will face the seventh seeded Carleton University Ravens in one quarter-final match on Thursday.
    The Huskies, who are making their 17th appearance at nationals, topped the Canada West standings with a 22-6 record and claimed the Canada West championships with four straight post-season wins. The Ravens were 20-8 in the regular season, have gone 5-2 in the post-season so far and won a bronze medal in the Ontario University Athletics conference playoffs.
Kohl Bauml was named to the CIS all-rookie team.
    An elite-eight tournament is easy to follow, because every team knows you win you move on, or you lose and you have no chance to make the final. If you fall in the semifinal round, you can still play for a bronze medal.
    Most players on the Huskies have limited experience playing in this type of tournament. As their roster is made up players main from the major junior ranks and also members of the junior A ranks, those players are more used to best-of-seven series. The best-of-three series that are played in conference playoffs usually feel like the post-season on speed.
    Single elimination leads to a possibility of a hot goaltender or a strange goal creating an upset. In extra time, the joy of victory becomes that much more heightened, while the agony of defeat is that much more training. The drama also increases, if a game’s finish comes during that stage.
    For now, the Huskies, or any of the other seven competing teams, can’t look past their quarter-final games.
    If the Huskies prevail on Thursday, they will advance to one of Saturday’s semifinals to face the winner of the quarter-final match between the third seeded St. Francis Xavier University X-Men and the sixth seeded University of Alberta Golden Bears. U of A has won the last two University Cups.
    The University Cup final is set for Sunday (5:30 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet 360).
    Before the quarter-final round starts, a couple of Huskies picked up individual honours on Wednesday. Jordon Cooke was named the CIS goaltender of the year and a first team all-Canadian all-star. Forward Kohl Bauml was named to the CIS all-rookie team.

Flinton collects all-Canadian honour

Julia Flinton was named a first team all-Canadian all-star.
    Julia Flinton collected one last accolade to further cap her five-year career with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team.
    The Williams Lake, B.C., product was named a first team all-Canadian all-star at the CIS women’s hockey awards night held on Wednesday in Calgary, where the CIS women’s tournament will run Thursday to Sunday.
    Flinton led all CIS defenders in scoring netting four goals and 22 assists in 28 games. She also posted a plus-15 rating in the plus-minus department.
    During her career, Flinton was named a Canada West first team all-star twice, a Canada West second team all-star once, and she made the tournament all-star team at the 2014 CIS championship tournament, where the Huskies won a bronze medal. She was also a member of Canada’s FISU games team in 2015.
    Flinton leaves the Huskies as their all-time career leader in assists with 66 helpers and their fourth all-time leading scorer with 80 points in 131 games. Besides having a spectacular finesse game, Flinton was also tough and departs the Huskies as their all-time career leader in penalty minutes with 176 thanks to taking the odd infraction for bodychecking.

Hoop Dogs aim to capture elusive national crown

Laura Dally received all-star honours.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team hopes this year’s trip to nationals will finally be a golden one.
    The Huskies are making their eighth trip in the last nine years to the CIS championship tournament. In the previous seven visits, they made the championship final once falling 63-49 to the University of Windsor Lancers in 2011. That started a run of five straight CIS titles for the Lancers, who did not qualify for this year’s national championship tournament that will be held in Fredericton, N.B.
    U of S is seeded second in the elite-eight tourney and faces the seventh seeded U of Ottawa Gee-Gees in a quarter-final match on Thursday. The Huskies topped the Canada West standings with an 18-2 record and captured their third conference championship in six years winning four straight post-season games. They downed the U of Regina Cougars 73-62 in the Canada West final.
    The Gee-Gees topped the OUA standings with a 17-2 record, but fell in the conference title game to the Ryerson University Rams 66-60.
    If the Huskies win their quarter-final, they will advance to a semifinal contest on Saturday to take on the winner of the match between the third seeded Saint Mary’s University Huskies and the sixth seeded U of Alberta Pandas.
    The CIS final is set for Sunday (12 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet 360).
    On Wednesday, fifth-year Huskies guard Laura Dally was named a first team all-Canadian all-star.

Stars return to SFMAAAHL final

Joelle Fiala had a goal and an assist on Tuesday for the Stars.
    The Saskatoon Stars will try to keep the Fedoruk Cup in Saskatoon.
    Saskatoon returned to the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series for a second straight year after knocking off the Weyburn Southern Range Gold Wings 2-0 in Weyburn on Tuesday. The Stars claimed the best-of-five SFMAAAHL semifinal series between the two clubs 3-1.
    Joelle Fiala and Grace Shirley accounted for all of Saskatoon’s offence in the series clincher each picking up a goal and an assist. Emma Johnson made 26 saves to earn her sixth career SFMAAAHL playoff shutout.
    Chantal Burke turned away 21 shots taking the loss in goal for Weyburn.
    The Stars will face the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats in the best-of-five league championship series. The dates of the games are still to be announced.
    The Wildcats semifinal series with the Prince Albert A & W Bears went to a deciding fifth game on Wednesday in Swift Current. The hosts prevailed 2-1 in double overtime against the visiting Bears thanks to a breakaway winner by Josee Casavant.
    The Bears thought they netted the winner in the first overtime, but the goal was waved off.
    Saskatoon claimed last year’s SFMAAAHL title sweeping a best-of-five series with the Bears 3-0.

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