Sunday, 24 September 2017

Big plays make Hilltops day in romp of Rifles

Jason Price jets home on a 70-yard TD reception.
    It felt like the Saskatoon Hilltops offence could blow out the lights on the scoreboard of Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    After a bit of a slow start in Sunday’s Canadian Junior Football League clash, the Hilltops fell behind the visiting Winnipeg Rifles 7-0 and proceeded to catch fire. Rolling off a number of big plays, the Hilltops stormed out to a 45-7 lead early in the third quarter and cruised to a 52-26 victory.
    When the dust settled, the Hilltops, who are the three time defending CJFL champions, piled up 344 yards of offence through the air and 326 yards along the ground.
    The 670 yards of total offence was the highest output of the season for the Hilltops, who improved 5-1.
    Fourth year star receiver Jason Price was grinning at game’s end.
    “It is a giant confidence boost both running and passing the ball,” said Price. “It felt really good to connect with each other and play as a team.”
    The Rifles hit the scoreboard first in Sunday’s contest when quarterback Jonathan Remple hit receiver Xander Tachinski with an 11-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-0.
QB Jordan Walls throws for 321 yards for the Hilltops.
    Saskatoon responded about two minutes later when running back Logan Fischer dove into the end zone to score on a 12-yard rushing major to tie the contest up at 7-7.
    At that point, the big plays really started to pour out from the Hilltops.
    Before the first quarter ended, Hilltops quarterback Jordan Walls hit sophomore receiver John Brown on a 58-yard pass to set up a two-yard touchdown run by running back Joshua Ewanchyna to put the Hilltops up 14-7.
    Early in the second quarter, Walls found Price for a long 70-yard catch and run touchdown to give the Hilltops a 21-7 lead.
    “I haven’t had a really long run like that since probably Okanagan last year,” said Price, who was referencing a 58-2 road victory over the Okanagan Sun on Sept. 17, 2017. “It felt good.
    “I was a little tired afterwards. I realized maybe I’m maybe not as in shape as I thought I was.
    “It felt really good especially to see John Brown getting a nice long run too and Turple with a few long catches. It felt really good to connect as a team.”
    The Hilltops didn’t stop there. Ewanchyna had a Barry Sanders like 53-yard touchdown run extend the home side’s advantage to 28-7, and Fischer ran in a score from 31 yards out to give Saskatoon a 35-7 advantage.
Xander Tachinski gave the Rifles a short-lived lead.
    With 20.6 seconds to play in the second quarter, Hilltops safety/kicker James Vause booted a field goal from 34 yards out to extend the Hilltops lead to 38-7.
    The surge ended when Walls found fourth-year receiver Sam Mike for a 12-yard touchdown toss on a corner pattern to give Saskatoon a 45-7 advantage.
    “I think is just we started clicking and we started making plays,” said Price. “Once the first play happened, we just kind of rolled with that momentum and just kept it going through.
    “Everybody when they got the chance to make a play made their play.”
    Walls finished the game completing 16-of-19 passes for 321 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions before giving way to the Hilltops backups. Fischer also had a monster day running for 175 yards on 20 carries while scoring his two touchdowns before being pulled for the reserves.
    The Rifles opened the fourth quarter scoring 10 straight points off a 34-yard field goal from Matias Bueno and a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive back Andrew Ricard to cut Saskatoon’s lead to 45-17. Ricard made his interception off backup quarterback Tyler Hermann.
Logan Fischer dives in for a Hilltops touchdown.
    Ewanchyna proceeded to run a major in from 12 yards out for his third score of the day to put the Hilltops up 52-17. He ran for 73 yards on just four carries.
    Winnipeg rounded out the game’s scoring with nine straight points receiving a conceded safety from the Hilltops and Remple hitting receiver Dallas Opiola on a 21-yard scoring strike.
    Remple completed 24-of-35 passes for 316 yards and two touchdown passes for Rifles. Tachinski caught eight passes for 110 yards to lead all Winnipeg pass catchers.
    Defensively, linebacker Cody Peters and Vause led the Hilltops with eight and five defensive tackles respectively. Defensive lineman Riley Pickett came away with one sack for Saskatoon.
    Linebacker Donovan Hillary topped the Rifles with seven defensive tackles, while Ricard finished the day with two interceptions for Winnipeg.
    Price believes Sunday’s game puts the Hilltops offence in a good spot going forward.
    “It is will give us a whole lot more confidence going through the weeks,” said Price. “We know that there is still a lot to build from.
    “We are just going to have to try and improve week to week like we always do.”
The Hilltops celebrate their win over the Rifles.
    With Sunday’s win, the Hilltops sit alone in second place in the Prairie Football Conference. Also on Sunday in Edmonton, the host Huskies improved to 6-0 to remain first in the PFC by surging past the Regina Thunder 62-30.
    The Thunder sit third in the PFC at 4-2, and the Rifles are fourth at 3-3. The Calgary Colts sit fifth in the PFC at 2-4, while the Edmonton Wildcats occupy the conference’s basement at 1-5.
    The top four teams in the conference advance to the Playoffs, and the Huskies and Hilltops have post-season berths mathematically locked away with two weeks to play.
    The Hilltops return to action on Sunday, Oct. 1, when they host the Wildcats at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Smith brings rare blend of skill and toughness to Huskies

Power forward Chloe Smith is a welcome addition to the Huskies.
    Chloe Smith loves the fact her rivals have become her friends.
    The 18-year-old centre, who is a rookie with University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, arrived in Saskatoon having built a reputation as being one of the fiercest competitors in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League. For the past four seasons, Smith rose to prominence with her hometown Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats possessing a rare combination of skill and toughness.
    Her game hit new heights over her final two campaigns with the Wildcats, where she piled up 31 goals and 50 assists in 54 regular season games. Smith played with a physical edge that many couldn’t match, but it was also a smart physical edge. She only took 42 minutes in penalties over the past two campaigns making her an almost perfect power forward.
    Arriving in Saskatoon in late August to join the Huskies, Smith, who stands 5-foot-7, became teammates with many players she used to battle against in the midget AAA ranks, while also being reunited with former Wildcats teammates in Brooklyn Haubrich, Kayla Kirwan and Jasey Book. Smith is enjoying the fact she is playing beside her former rivals, but she is quick to note nothing was ever taken personally when it game to the battles on the ice.
Chloe Smith jets into the offensive zone for the Huskies.
    “We chuckle a little bit,” said Smith. “We talk about it, we talk about the games.
    “Honestly, it is fine. When you are on the ice, it is different. You are playing.
    “Off the ice, we are all friends and get along. We kind of laugh about things back in AAA. It is funny to talk about it, talk about the close games. It is good too.”
    Smith was quick to add she played with a number of her current Huskies teammates in Saskatchewan’s provincial team program and the bonds remain from those days. Off the ice, Smith is personable and outgoing, and she also exudes a presence in a good way wherever she is. On the ice, her competitive side dominates, and she doesn’t hide what type of player she strives to be.
    “I want to be strong,” said Smith. “I don’t want to be known as the kid that gets knocked off the puck easy.
Chloe Smith built a reputation for being a fierce competitor.
    “I want to get in there and make things happen. That creates offence when you are winning your battles, and you are strong. I’m not going to lay down to no one.
    “I try my best to get involved and to make contact. I grew up playing boys hockey, so that helps me out a little bit.”
    Smith took up hockey at the novice level playing on boys’ teams when her family still resided in Paradise Valley, Alta. She kept playing the sport when her family relocated to Swift Current when she was in Grade 3.
    When her family moved to Swift Current, Smith continued playing on boys’ team until her first year in bantam, when she actually played for the city’s female midget AA team. As 14-year-old bantam aged player, she made the Wildcats as an underage player. Smith glows when she talks about her four seasons with the Wildcats.
Chloe Smith looks to make a pass.
    “Those were the times of my life,” said Smith. “I had so much fun with that time.
    “The community was awesome. They always supported us, and we all did events for them every year. We got along really well with the school.
    “We had good fans coming out and supporting our games. We would do the same for the school teams. It was really fun.”
    During her second season with the Wildcats, Smith became well-known across the SFMAAAHL for one play that occurred on March 10, 2015. The Wildcats were in Saskatoon facing the host Stars in Game 1 of a best-of-five SFMAAAHL semifinal series.
    Smith knocked out Stars star forward Nara Elia, who would later go on to play for Canada’s under-18 women’s team, with a hit. For that collision, Smith received a major penalty for a head hit, a game misconduct and had to sit out a one-game suspension. Reflecting on what happened, Smith said the hit happened by accident.
    She said she skating backwards at first as her Wildcats were regrouping in their own zone for a breakout, and Elia swung through the Swift Current zone on the forecheck. As Smith turned to skate forward, she saw Elia at the last second coming towards her and the two collided. Smith braced for the collision in order to protect herself, and Elia had her head turned and didn’t see she was about to run into Smith.
    The two ended up being teammates in Saskatchewan’s provincial team program. Smith said they talked about what happened and have become good friends. Besides the competitive part of the game, Smith said she loves making friendships in the sport, and she has done that easily with every team she has been part of.
Chloe Smith sets up position on the forecheck.
    While Smith became known for that collision with Elia, she had a decent campaign offensively in her second season with the Wildcats netting 10 goals and nine assists in 28 regular season games. As a result, Smith became a figure to watch in the SFMAAAHL going into her 16-year-old season, and she closed out her midget AAA career by exploding offensively.
    “I got a lot more confident with the puck, and that was actually huge,” said Smith, who was the Wildcats captain in her final season with the team. “I started carrying it more and shooting it more.
“I realized that I actually maybe have a shot of playing high level hockey.”
    Huskies head coach Steve Kook saw Smith’s hit on Elia, and while the images of that play were ingrained on his mind, the bench boss was impressed with how well the Wildcats star played afterwards. Kook went to work on the recruiting front and succeeded in getting a commitment from Smith.
    “Chloe fits our style the way that we want to play,” said Kook. “She is physical. She is skilled. Smitty skates well.
Chloe Smith, left, is always ready to battle in the corners.
    “She needs to get up to speed a little bit here, but that will come as she gets more games under her belt and gets used to the program and the league. She shoots the puck so well. The grittiness of her it fits who we are.”
    On Saturday afternoon at the ancient Rutherford Rink, Smith wasn’t able to get on the scoresheet, but she was a presence during a 2-0 pre-season win against the MacEwan University Griffins of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
    Centring a line with Shyan Elias and fifth-year veteran Kori Herner on the wings, Smith skated with a lot of energy and intensity. It seemed like she didn’t lose any battles in the corners.
    In the third period, she created two solid scoring chances. On the second of those changes, she drove hard to the net, and the play ended with her having a stare down against two Griffins players before the officials directed everyone away.
Chloe Smith has befriended old rivals upon joining the Huskies.
    Smith wants to keep playing for as long as she can. She admits she would love to get a chance to be part of Canada’s national team program one day but adds that a lot of things have to materialize for that to happen.
    She wants to get her education degree, but also plans to keep doors open to get into firefighting, when her time with the Huskies concludes. For now, she is focused on enjoying every moment of her rookie campaign and believes her Huskies can make noise in the Canada West Conference and the overall U Sports ranks.
    “We’re fast, (and) we’re smart with the puck,” said Smith. “We still have a lot of improvement that is coming.
    “I think we’re going to be real competitors in the league this year. I think we have a good team, good goaltending.
    “Everyone is getting along. I think it is going to be a good year for us.”
    In Saturday’s win over the Griffins, sophomore forward Bailee Bourassa scored with 20 seconds to play in the second period to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead, and she assisted on a third period goal from defender Madison Colbow.
The Huskies celebrate their 2-0 pre-season win on Saturday.
    Chloe Marshall turned away 14 shots to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Huskies, who finish their pre-season schedule posting a 5-1 record. Sandy Heim turned away 25 shots to take the setback in goal for the Griffins.
    The Huskies are now off until Oct. 6, when they open their regular season schedule hosting their provincial rivals the University of Regina Cougars at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

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Friday, 22 September 2017

Blades deliver stirring tribute to Gordon, Broncos leave with opening night win

Chris and Bruce Gordon embrace during a Blades pre-game ceremony.
    The Saskatoon Blades gave a spectacular night to former captain Bruce Gordon and brought a work ethic that was a fitting tribute to the retired 28-year member of the Saskatoon Police Service.
    The work ethic on the ice wasn’t enough to deliver a victory on the opening night of the WHL regular season. The visiting Swift Current Broncos displayed their battle toughness from last season’s playoff run, where they went to a deciding Game 7 in a second round series before bowing out to the Regina Pats.
    Swift Current entered the second period of Friday’s clash training 2-1 and rolled off four straight goals – including two into an empty net – to come away with a 5-2 victory.
    Broncos 17-year-old left-wing Riley Stotts netted the equalizer at the 3:43 mark of the third converting a pass from star right-winger Tyler Steenbergen that came across the face of the Saskatoon net to force a 2-2 tie. At the 12:21 mark, Broncos right-winger Kaden Elder slipped a pass from the deep right corner of the Saskatoon zone to overage centre Conner Chaulk in front of the net. Chaulk promptly buried what turned out to be the winning goal giving the Broncos a 3-2 lead.
Bruce Gordon shakes hands with current Blades captain Evan Fiala.
    Swift Current captain Glenn Gawdin and Russian defenceman Artyom Minulin each scored empty-net goals to complete the Broncos third period surge.
    The Broncos prevented the Blades from putting a sweet cap on what was a special night, but the night was still special for the host side despite the final outcome of the contest.
    A total of 7,460 spectators came to the SaskTel Centre, and it was pretty apparent they came to pass along a thank-you to Gordon, who is battling terminal Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. When it came time to start the 25-minute pre-game tribute to Gordon, pretty much everyone was in their seats.
    Gordon came to the Blades in a trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers early in the 1980-81 campaign, and the grinding winger became the club’s captain in 1981-82, which would be his final campaign in the major junior ranks.
Bruce Gordon drops the puck for the ceremonial faceoff.
    He moved on to build a distinguished career with the Saskatoon Police Service starting out on regular patrol, becoming a detective sergeant in the sex crimes unit and then to major crimes. Gordon became well-known for cracking cases that appeared to be unsolvable.
    At age 50, he retired from policing to study law at the University of Saskatchewan with the goal to become a defence lawyer. Gordon graduated from law school last spring, but on June 8, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. On June 29, a special ceremony was held at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon to call the 54-year-old to the bar.
Chris Gordon, left, speaks to the crowd at the SaskTel Centre.
    This ceremony is traditionally held in autumn, but an exception was made in Gordon’s case to hold the ceremony earlier due to his cancer diagnosis.
    Gordon was never the most talented player on the ice, but he stood out due to his hard work, determination and his ability to step in and protect his teammates. In 112 regular season games with the Blades, Gordon collected 17 goals, 53 assists and 552 penalty minutes.
    Winnipeg Jets play-by-play voice Dennis Beyak was the Blades assistant general manager during Gordon’s years, and he returned to Saskatoon emcee the pre-game ceremony. A total of eight former teammates paraded out to centre ice wearing the Blades tradition Pac-Man logo and blue and gold colour scheme the team returned to on a full-time basis this season.
The Blades push home a greasy goal to go up 2-1.
    Also on hand was former Blades coach and general manager Daryl Lubiniecki and former Blades owner Jack Brodsky.
    Once all the alums were introduced, Gordon made his way on to the ice along with his wife, Chris, son, James, and daughter, Jillian Bodnar. When Gordon appeared, the crowd immediately rose to their feet to deliver a warm standing ovation.
    Former teammate Brian Skrudland, who went on to have a lengthy playing career in the NHL, and Saskatoon Police inspector Patrick Nogier, who was a former WHL goalie with the Kamloops Blazers and Broncos, both delivered heartfelt speeches.
    After Skrudland and Nogier were done speaking and a rousing ovation went up from the crowd, Chris Gordon came up to the podium to deliver a thank you to the crowd on behalf of the family. Originally, the plan for the tribute ceremony was to allow the members of Gordon’s family to enjoy the festivities without having to speak to the crowd.
Tyler Steenbergen set up the goal that sparked a Broncos’ rally.
    Due to the warm emotional atmosphere, Chris went on to thank the crowd for making that night special, and she told everyone to live life to the fullest.
    The pre-game ceremony concluded with Brodsky and current Blades owner Mike Priestner presenting the Gordon family with a framed jersey, a “Be Like Bruce” banner was unveiled in the rafters of the SaskTel Centre, and Bruce dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff. Bruce actually felt well enough that he and his family remained at the game until about the midway point of the second period, which turned out to be one of his longest outings in public in recent days.
    On the ice, the current day Blades took the cue. They controlled much of the first period and exited the frame with a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from right-winger Caleb Fantillo, who scored on a knuckleball shot.
    After Gawdin scored 58 seconds into the second period to tie things up at 1-1, Blades 19-year-old right-winger Brad Goethals batted the puck into the Broncos goal off a greasy battle in front of the net to put the hosts up 2-1. That set the stage for the Broncos rally in the third period.
Conner Chaulk celebrates his winning goal for the Broncos.
    Joel Hofer turned away 23 shots to earn the win in goal for the Broncos.
    Ryan Kubic stopped 27-of-30 shots to take the loss in the Blades net.
    The Broncos return to action on Wednesday, when they travel to Regina to take on the Pats (7 p.m. local time, Brandt Centre).
    The Blades are off until Friday, Sept. 29, when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.
    While the Broncos came away with the win on Friday night, the Blades can feel proud they delivered a special night to a former captain in Bruce Gordon, who will forever be a community hero in Saskatoon.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Battle hardened Broncos provide big challenge for Blades

Division rivals open WHL regular season at SaskTel Centre

Blades head coach Dean Brockman oversees a team practice.
    Dean Brockman knows his Saskatoon Blades are going to have their hands full opening the regular season against a battle hardened division rival.
    The Blades face the Swift Current Broncos in the regular season opener for both teams on Friday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. Last season, Saskatoon posted a 28-35-7-2 record to finish fifth in the East Division, ninth overall in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and five points back of the Calgary Hitmen (30-32-8-2) for the conference’s second and final wildcard berth.
    The Broncos posted a 39-23-4-6 mark to finish third in the East Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. After eliminating the Moose Jaw Warriors in a tough seven-game series in the first round of the WHL playoffs, they went to a series deciding Game 7 in the second round against the Regina Pats before bowing out of the post-season with a 5-1 loss in that contest.
    Swift Current returns a number of players from their team last season, and Brockman, who is the Blades head coach, knows it is tough to face any club that gains experience from a strong playoff run.
    “It is always a challenge,” said Brockman. “We know that their top two lines and their back end will be as good as any of the contenders in our division.
    “Certainly when they have the Hepos (Aleksi Heponiemi) and the Gawdins (Glenn Gawdin) and those types of guys, you have to be aware of them. I think certainly they are a great challenge, and they will be a challenge throughout the year.
    “The experience that they got last year with their playoff run just makes them more hungrier for this year. For us, it is going to be definitely be a battle right from the start.”
    Gawdin is the Broncos captain, and the 20-year-old centre potted 26 goals and 33 assists in 52 games last season. Heponiemi is a high-flying 18-year-old Finnish winger who piled up 28 goals and 58 assists appearing in all of the Broncos 72 regular season games.
    Swift Current’s most dangerous offensive player is likely 19-year-old winger Tyler Steenbergen, who topped the Broncos in scoring with 51 goals and 39 assists.
    On defence, the Broncos are anchored by 19-year-olds Colby Sissons and Russian Artyom Minulin. Minulin became an effective power-play quarterback piling up eight goals and 42 assists in 70 regular season games.
Goalie Joel Grzybowski takes part in a drill at Blades practice.
    Of course, the Broncos acquired overage netminder Logan Flodell from the Blades in a trade on Wednesday. Flodell was a second team WHL Eastern Conference all-star last season posting a 22-20-4 record, a 2.81 goals against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts.
    While the Broncos have a number of dangerous players, Brockman said his Blades have to focus on their own performance.
    “I think every game is a measuring stick whether you show up or you don’t show up, (and) how good were you and how bad were you,” said Brockman. “We don’t want to use Swift as the measuring stick.
    “We want to be playing hard, you know a hard working hockey team. We just want to have those trademarks right from the start. We want to be a team that makes it difficult for them to play here and make it hard and try and match their work ethic and do better.”
    Like last year, the Blades will start the season without the services of star centre Cameron Hebig, but under different circumstances. Hebig missed all of last season due to injury.
    The local product starts his overage season sitting out Saskatoon’s first two games due to a league imposed suspension for receiving a checking from behind major penalty and a game misconduct in the Blades final pre-season game last Saturday, which was a 2-1 victory over the Oil Kings in Edmonton. Hebig had five goals and an assist in four pre-season games.
    Overage winger Braylon Shmyr topped the Blades in scoring with 35 goals and 31 assists in 66 regular season games. Saskatoon is loaded with a number of strong young forwards in 17-year-olds Michael Farren and Chase Wouters and 16-year-old Kirby Dach, who the Blades selected in the first round and second overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
    On defence, the Blades are anchored by overage captain Evan Fiala and Czech import Libor Hajek. Fiala was returned to the Blades on Tuesday after attending training camp with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. Hajek was at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s NHL training camp, and he was assigned back to the Blades on Thursday.
    Saskatoon starts the season with a new goaltending tandem in 19-year-old Ryan Kubic, who was acquired in a trade with the Vancouver Giants on Wednesday, and 18-year-old rookie Joel Grzybowski. Kubic was the Giants starting goaltender for the past two seasons, and Grzybowski had a stellar campaign last season in the junior A ranks with the Battlefords North Stars.
    “We definitely have some young guys that are going to be really good players in our league,” said Brockman. “Hopefully, we’ve insulated them enough with some of the older guys.
Blades assistant coach Bryce Thoma keeps things loose with humour.
    “As your guys take progressions and steps, some guys have to take bigger steps than others. It is a good mix. We’ll find out whether the chemistry is there to get that mix over the top or not.
    “Time will tell. Our group is always learning and always working.”
    The Blades will be trying to make the post-season for the first time since 2013. Brockman said he is aware of the importance of the overall view of the campaign, but in order to get to the playoffs, he said his team’s focus has to be on the present.
    “You have to look big picture, but again, I want to look right what is in front of us,” said Brockman. “If you get looking too far ahead, you’ll be looking behind.
    “You have to make every day count and every game count. If you look at it in away last year, I think we missed it by five. If you get a point per month (extra), you are in the playoffs.
    “We have to really, really focus on what we have in front of us and not look too far ahead.”

Engele puts meaning behind the Pac-Man

Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele speaks are a presser on Monday.
    The Saskatoon Blades have created a real buzz, when they officially announced in late August they were returning to their famed Pac-Man logo and look on a regular basis.
    The Blades used the Pac-Man look throughout the 1980s and in the early 1990s. Even when it was not in use, it was still the signature look that was associated with the Blades. The team also had the majority of its most successful and memorable seasons wearing that look.
    Besides drawing approval from fans, the return of the Pac-Man look has been warmly received by the team’s alumni. During a press conference on Monday to announce the Blades would be honouring former captain and long-time Saskatoon Police Services officer Bruce Gordon before Friday’s home opener, veteran assistant coach and retired Saskatoon Police Services officer Jerome Engele spoke about what the Pac-Man logo meant.
    Engele’s words carried pretty good weight and meaning, when you consider he played five seasons for the Blades as a defenceman from 1966 to 1971, was the team’s head coach in 1979-80 and has been an assistant coach for a number of stints starting in the 1989-90 season.
    “We strive very hard to teach our young people coming here about integrity, honesty, hard work and with that responsibility that comes along with it outside of this arena,” said Engele. “Like our police world, you’re wearing a badge.
    “That badge we’re held at another level through the Police Act that we are responsible to, so we are held at a level higher that what the public is. Our Blades are also held at that level away from the rink. We expect them to treat everybody with respect.”

Future wedding bells to ring for Howe and Parkinson

Davis Parkinson, left, and Corey Howe at the SaskTel Centre in Sept. of 2016.
    While the Saskatoon Blades will honour their former captain Bruce Gordon before Friday’s home opener, a year ago the team honoured the Saskatoon area’s greatest sporting hero ever in the late hockey icon Gordie Howe, which produced an interesting tidbit.
    A year ago, Howe’s ashes and those of his late wife, Colleen, were interred at the base of the Gordie Howe statue that sits in front of the SaskTel Centre. During the festivities to honour Howe, the Blades helped play up the love story between grandson Corey Howe, who was raised in Ohio, and a young woman named Davis Parkinson, who was raised in Saskatoon.
    In April of 2016, Corey moved to Saskatoon, because he wanted Parkinson in his everyday life. The connection made for a cute story in the local media, and off camera, the two chuckled when they talked about how Blades president Steve Hogle played things up.
    Out of the obscure pieces of information that seem to come my way, I discovered that the young couple had gotten engaged. They are slated to be married on Aug. 25, 2018.
    If you have ever seen Corey Howe and Davis Parkinson together, they make a really sweet and cute couple, and both have a great sense of humour. Here is hoping they have a spectacular wedding day, and they make a lifetime of wonderful memories together.

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Blades come out looking good with goalie moves

Ryan Kubic takes part in his first practice with the Blades.
    You never want to trade an all-star netminder, but sometimes the business of major junior hockey pushes you to make that move.
    On Wednesday, the Saskatoon Blades acquired 19-year-old goalie Ryan Kubic from the Vancouver Giants in exchange for a second round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. Right after that move, the Blades dealt overage puck stopper Logan Flodell, who was a second team WHL Eastern Conference all-star last season, to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for a fifth round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft and a second round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.
    Moving Flodell allowed the Blades to get down to the Canadian Hockey League limit of three overage players. The 20-year-olds who remain on Saskatoon’s roster include high-scoring forwards Cameron Hebig and Braylon Shmyr and defenceman Evan Fiala, who is also the club’s captain.
    The loss of Flodell, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 170 pounds, is a big one. He played a key part in helping the Blades get close to earning a playoff berth last season posting a 22-20-4 record, a 2.81 goals against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts.
    Saskatoon put together a 28-35-7-2 record to finish ninth overall in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and five points back of the Calgary Hitmen (30-32-8-2), who locked up the conference’s second and final wildcard berth.
Blades GM Colin Priestner speaks with reporters.
    Kubic, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 186 pounds, has played his entire WHL career with the Giants appearing in 109 regular season games posting a 32-58-12 record, a 3.53 goals against average, a .895 save percentage and five shutouts. The St. Andrews, Man., product has been in Vancouver on a full-time basis for the past two seasons, where he accumulated 106 of his career starts.
    The Giants have been in the midst of rebuilding during Kubic’s career and have finished second last in the entire WHL in each of the past two campaigns. Last season, Vancouver posted a 20-46-3-3 mark, which was the third worst record in franchise history dating back to when the Giants started in 2001.
    Kubic has been shelled over the past two campaigns, and he made a club record 1,681 saves for the season in 2016-17 posting a 15-32-6 record, a 3.67 goals against average, a .895 save percentage and one shutout. He was named the Giants rookie of the year in 2015-16 and played for one of the Canadian entries at the World under-17 Hockey Challenge held in November of 2014 in Sarnia, Ont.
    During his time in the WHL, Kubic played behind weak defensive units, but he still managed to keep his stock up as a strong goaltender. He became expendable, when the Giants decided to go with a younger tandem in goal in sophomore David Tendeck, who turns 18 in November, and rookie Todd Scott, who is a 17-year-old Albertville, Minn., and is pegged with having a huge upside.
    When you are a general manager in major junior hockey, it is always prudent to kick tires and figure out all your options on the trade front.  Blades general manager Colin Priestner has to be given big credit for doing the background work to make the moves he did on Wednesday.
    This season, there is a glut of players on the 20-year-old front in the WHL, where every club has at least three overage players and most teams need to shed players to get down to the league limit of three. Due to that fact, it is not easy to move an overager to another team.
Ryan Kubic gets set in goal during a drill in practice.
    WHL clubs have until Oct. 10 to cut down to three overage players, and the Blades could have been in a spot where they might have had to waive one of the four overagers they had on that day.
Priestner knew he had to take advantage of an opportunity, if one presented itself.
    “They were difficult deals to make, because any way we went with the four (overage) guys we were going lose a great player in one of the four,” said Priestner. “I wanted to get ahead of this before the season started and the pre-season ended and just have it shored up and have our 20-year-olds know that these are our guys.”
    Now Priestner has a capable starting netminder playing behind a defensive unit that was stronger than the one in Vancouver and can potentially suit up for two complete seasons. The Blades get to keep Fiala, who is the heart of the defensive unit and one of the club’s best ambassadors in the community.     
    They will also benefit from having the talents of Hebig and Shmyr, who are both top end forwards that will likely put up strong offensive numbers.
    The Blades scored the second fewest goals as a team in the league last season at 190, so it is always prudent to keep players like Hebig and Shmyr, who both have a history of putting up points. The presence of Hebig and Shmyr will allow the Blades to gradually work their younger forwards into bigger roles.
Logan Flodell had an all-star season in 2016-17 with the Blades.
    “This gives us a chance to have Shmyr and Hebig together on that first line,” said Priestner, whose Blades face the Broncos on Friday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre in the regular season open for both sides. “It is shaping up to be one of the best lines in the league and a line that we can throw up against anybody.
    “I just didn’t feel comfortable rushing those (younger) guys into first line roles. I knew they would battle and they’d bring everything they have, but I think they are going to be able to thrive under those circumstances. I think we are a much more well-balanced team now.”
    With Flodell arriving in Swift Current, the Broncos might be looking to cut the overage netminder they currently have in Taz Burman, who has put up good numbers playing for three different teams in his WHL career but has never been a starter for a full campaign. The Broncos still have a trio of overage forwards on their roster in Glenn Gawdin, Arthur Miller and Conner Chaulk. Swift Current has the potential of being one of the WHL’s stronger teams this season.
    As for the Blades, they have their overage question settled, because Priestner made the best out of what was a tough situation on that front. Had he held on to Flodell, the Blades could have had a bigger hole to fill on their roster when Oct. 10 rolled around.

Pats top CHL pre-season rankings despite departures

Sam Steel and his Pats top the CHL’s pre-season rankings.
    In what has to be viewed as a bit of a surprise, the Regina Pats, who will host the Memorial Cup this coming May, topped the Canadian Hockey League’s pre-season top 10 poll.
    A panel of NHL scouts selects the CHL top 10 rankings, and they must think that everyone else’s rosters in major junior hockey has been shuffled as much or more than the Pats roster has this past off-season.
    Regina finished first overall in the WHL last season posting a 52-12-7-1 record and advanced to the WHL Championship series. The Pats fell in the best-of-seven WHL title series 4-2 to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
    The fact the Pats topped the CHL pre-season poll is a curious one, when you consider they lost a number of quality players. Captain Adam Brooks, who was arguably one of the top three forwards in the league, was lost to graduation as was winger Dawson Leedahl and defenceman Chase Harrison.
    Imports Sergey Zborovskiy and Filip Ahl are both heading on to careers in the professional ranks in North America and Europe respectively, and they would have ate both import and overage spots had they returned. Overage defenceman Connor Hobbs appears to be a lock to play in the system of the NHL’s Washington Capitals this year. Overage winger Austin Wagner is a question mark, because he is slated to miss the first half of the season due to shoulder surgery.
    Backup goaltender Jordan Hollett was traded to the Medicine Hat Tigers, and star 18-year-old winger Nick Henry is expected to miss an extended span of time due to shoulder surgery.
    The top CHL ranking should also be questioned due to the fact a WHL club has won only one of the last nine Memorial Cup championship tournaments with the Edmonton Oil Kings victory back in 2014. In the last Memorial Cup tournament held in May in Windsor, Ont., the Thunderbirds lost all three of their games and were outscored 18-3 in the process.
    Until teams from the WHL start doing better in the Memorial Cup tournament like winning the event on a little more of a frequent basis, the top team in the CHL rankings should be either from the Ontario Hockey League or the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Teams from the OHL have won five of the last nine Memorial Cup tournaments included the last three in a row.
    In August, I wrote a column that said the Pats might stumble out of the gate, and it can be found right here.

Borbandy to stay with Huskies

Walk on defender Teagan Borbandy will stick with the Huskies in 2017-18.
    Defender Teagan Borbandy will be sticking with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team for the 2017-18 season.
    Huskies head coach Steve Kook passed on confirmation on Monday that Borbandy had earned a spot on the team. She was trying out for the Huskies as a walk on.
    The Langdon, Alta., product, who is celebrating her 20th birthday today, is entering her third season of U Sports eligibility having played the past two campaigns with the Red Deer College Queens women’s hockey team in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference ranks. In 29 career regular season games with the Queens, Borbandy, who is a defensive defender that stands 5-foot-4, has two assists and 22 penalty minutes.
    She helped the Queens win an ACAC title in the 2015-16 campaign. Before joining the Queens, Borbandy played three seasons with the De Winton, Alta., based Rocky Mountain Raiders female midget AAA team from 2012 to 2015, and finished her time with the Raiders as captain.
    The Huskies are 3-1 in pre-season play having posted 6-0 and 2-0 victories this past Saturday and Sunday respectively over the Mount Royal University Cougars in Calgary.
    The Dogs continue their pre-season schedule this coming Friday, when they host the MacEwan University Griffins at 7 p.m. at the ancient Rutherford Rink. The two teams go at it again this coming Saturday at 2 p.m. at Rutherford.
    U of S opens the regular season on Oct. 6 hosting the U of Regina Cougars at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Back in the Express with Willoughby named captain

Huskies star forward Kaitlin Willoughby takes the puck from an opponent. 
    I was back in the pages of the Saskatoon Express this week with a story about Kaitlin Willoughby being named the captain of the Huskies women’s hockey team.
    The 22-year-old forward is entering her fifth and final year of eligibility with the Huskies. The Prince Albert product first turned heads in the U Sports ranks being named the rookie of the year for women’s hockey in the 2013-14 campaign.
    She scored the double overtime winner in a series deciding Game 3 of the 2014 Canada West conference championship series against the U of R Cougars to give the Huskies their first conference championship. The Huskies proceeded to win a bronze medal at that season’s U Sports nationals.
    In 106 career regular season games, Willoughby has piled up 41 goals and 51 assists. She is on the verge of being the fourth player in the history of the Huskies women’s to score 100 career points.
    The story on Willoughby becoming captain can be found right here.

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Monday, 18 September 2017

Blades set to hit another homer with home opener

Team to honour former captain with return of the Pac-Man

Dave Chartier, left, speaks to reporters about Bruce Gordon.
    On an emotional level, the Saskatoon Blades appear to be set to match the spectacle of last year’s home opener at this year’s home opener.
    Almost a year ago, the Blades opened the 2016-17 campaign with “Thank You, Mr. Hockey Day” where the club saluted hockey icon in the late Gordie Howe and interred his and the ashes of his late wife, Colleen, at the base of the Gordie Howe statue that resides in front of the SaskTel Centre.
    This year in a campaign where the Blades return to their famous Pac-Man look from the 1980s to the early 1990s, the club will honour a former captain who wore that logo and made a lasting impact on Saskatoon after his hockey days. 
    When the Blades open their regular season schedule on Friday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre against the Swift Current Broncos, the blue and gold will honour Bruce Gordon, who was well-known for his career with the Saskatoon Police Service that spanned 28 years, in a pre-game ceremony.
One of the Blades team pictures featuring Bruce Gordon.
    The Marsden, Sask., product came to the Blades in a trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers early in the 1980-81 campaign, and the grinding winger quickly became the Saskatoon club’s captain. He would leave the major junior ranks following the 1981-82 campaign having collected 17 goals, 53 assists and 552 penalty minutes in 112 regular season games with the Blades.
    Following his time playing hockey, Gordon moved on to build a distinguished career with the police starting out on regular patrol, becoming a detective sergeant in the sex crimes unit and then to major crimes. Gordon became well-known for cracking cases that appeared to be unsolvable.
    At age 50, he retired from policing to study law at the University of Saskatchewan with the goal to become a defence lawyer. Gordon graduated from law school last spring, but on June 8, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. On June 29, a special ceremony was held at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon to call the 54-year-old to the bar.
    This ceremony is traditionally held in autumn, but an exception was made in Gordon’s case to hold the ceremony earlier due to his cancer diagnosis.
Bruce Gordon’s old Blades uniform on display.
    The Blades announced their plans to honour Gordon, who also coached minor hockey and volunteered at local road races, during a press conference on Monday at the SaskTel Centre. A fitting trio of characters who have character were brought in to speak at the presser who all have links to both the Saskatoon Police Service and the WHL.
    The trio included Dave Chartier, who was one of Gordon’s former teammates with the Blades and a former partner with the police service, and he talked about his deep friendship with the hard-working forward. Long time veteran Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele, who was a former Blades defenceman from 1966 to 1971 and built his own distinguished career with the Saskatoon Police Service, also delivered a short but heartfelt tribute. Both Chartier and Engele are retired from the police service.
    The third member to speak was Patrick Nogier, who played goal for two seasons in the WHL from 1985 to 1987 split between the Kamloops Blazers and Broncos and is still an inspector for the Saskatoon Police Service, and he spoke about Gordon’s never give up characteristics.
    Chartier was a 17-year-old rookie defenceman when he became teammates with Gordon in 1981-82, when the latter was embarking on what would be his final season in junior hockey. They developed a lifelong friendship and actually live next door to each other in the current day.
Inspector Patrick Nogier speaks about Bruce Gordon.
    Chartier will be one of a number of former teammates on hand for Friday’s festivities including Brian Skrudland, Daryl Stanley, Todd Strubey, Roger Kortko and Ron Dreger. Dennis Beyak, who is the voice of the Winnipeg Jets and the Blades assistant general manager during Gordon’s years, will be the emcee for the ceremony. Jackie McLeod and Daryl Lubiniecki, who both had long runs in the roles of head coach and general manager of the Blades, will also be on hand.
    During the presser, Chartier recalled one of the many recent talks he had with Gordon.
    “I asked him if he was scared,” said Chartier. “He said he was not scared.
    “He was just sad. He was sad for things that he won’t see his grand kids (and) his great relationship with his wife (Chris). It doesn’t surprise me one bit that he said he is not scared.
    “As a young guy going to training camp, I saw the determination and the lack of fear that he had as a leader for the Blades.”
    Engele spoke about how members of the police service are held to a higher standard than what is expected of the general public and that the Blades players are expected to hold themselves at a higher level away from the rink and treat everyone with respect. 
Long time Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele talks about Bruce Gordon.
    He said Gordon fit those expectations perfectly.
    “Bruce (Gordon) was a very good example of that as a police officer,” said Engele. “You couldn’t ask for a better person to work with - a harder working person.
    “I would call him a police officer on the ice. He was a hard-nosed hockey player who did his job and worked extremely hard.
    “You would put him more in terms of a plumber level player when he was on the ice. When he was on the ice, he carried a lot of respect.”
    Nogier, whose son Nelson played defence for the Blades from 2012 to 2014, worked with Gordon in the sex crimes unit for a couple of years. The former netminder spoke that the members of the police service think of Gordon when evaluating potential new officers noting the former Blades captain’s integrity and work ethic.
    “When we are looking to hire new prospective young individuals that want to join our police service, we are looking for people that bring certain characteristics with them,” said Nogier. “We look for the person that we know is going to be put into a situation and take those situations on head on.
Blades president Steve Hogle outlines the festivities for Friday night.
    “I heard that there was only six degrees of separation from talking about the sporting world and the policing world. What I’ve learned that when it comes to hockey there is only 1.5 degrees of separation when it comes to that.
    “When I met Bruce (Gordon), I knew quite quickly that this was an individual that for obvious reasons had all those characteristics.”
    Besides former teammates, police officers from Saskatoon and Regina will be attending Friday’s game along with lawyers, triathletes and cross fit athletes. Gordon completed as a triathlete and also took part in ironman competitions.
    During Friday’s game, the Blades will be raising money for cancer research at the Royal University Hospital with the auction of a Kelly Chase signed jersey, the sale of “Be Like Bruce” t-shirts and the proceeds from the night’s 50/50 draw.
A display of some of the Blades Pac-Man jerseys.
    “He (Gordon) exemplified at the rink what a teammate was all about,” said Chartier. “He didn’t want any glory.
    “He took care of each and every one of us. I think we all owe him the respect of coming back this Friday and saying thank you.”
    Blades president Steve Hogle expects few tears will be shed during the festivities on Friday night for Gordon.
    “Everybody he came into contact with was absolutely blown away about how he put others first,” said Hogle.
    “The impact he has had on people is made obvious to us by the reaction that we’ve seen with the alumni, with the police, with the triathlon community, with the legal community, with the cross fit community and they are all rallying and coming out on Friday night.”
    The tribute for Gordon is more than justified. You would be hard pressed to find anyone else that wore the team’s old Pac-Man logo that went on to have bigger impact on the Saskatoon community than Gordon did.

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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Hilltops defence crushes Colts

Tom Schnitzler and the Hilltops defence had a big day Sunday in Calgary.
    The Saskatoon Hilltops defence proved to be too much for the Calgary Colts to handle.
    On Sunday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, the Hilltops forced a number of turnovers resulting in 18 points, and they put Colts quarterback Bailey Wasdal under pressure all afternoon. When the dust settled, the Hilltops came away with a convincing 41-9 victory.
    The Canadian Junior Football League clash between the two sides was a tight one until the Hilltops pulled away after halftime. The points Saskatoon piled up off turnovers really changed the complexion of the contest.
    Early in the first quarter, the Hilltops built a 9-0 lead on a three-yard touchdown run from star running back Logan Fischer and forcing the Colts to concede a safety. Calgary cut the gap to 9-6, when Colts kicker Jaden Sheilan hit a 34-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter and 12 yard field goal at the start of the second quarter.
    At that point, Hilltops standout middle linebacker Cameron Schnitzler came up with an interception for the visitors thanks to pressure applied by Hilltops star defensive lineman Tom Schnitzler on Wasdal. Saskatoon’s offence quickly turned that turnover into points on the ensuing series, when quarterback Jordan Walls hit fifth-year receiver Ryan Turple with a 38-yard touchdown pass to put the visitors up 16-6.
    Sheilan hit a 44-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter to cut the Hilltops lead to 16-9 at halftime.
    The turnover parade continue in the second half. Early in the third quarter, Tom Schnitzler recovered a fumble from a Colts player on a punt return to set the Hilltops up on the Calgary 18 yard line. Saskatoon punched that gift quickly into the end zone, when Walls hit fourth-year receiver Jason Price on an eight-yard touchdown strike to put the visitors up 23-9.
Ryan Turple had a big TD catch for the Hilltops.
    The Toppers defence proceeded to recover another Colts fumble. The turnover resulted in the Hilltops going up 26-9 on a 16-yard field goal from safety-kicker James Vause.
    Tom Schnitzler then came up with an interception for the Toppers, and the visitors got a single from a 27-yard missed field goal from Vause to give Saskatoon a 27-9 lead entering the fourth quarter.
    Early in the fourth quarter, Walls hit fourth-year receiver Sam Mike with an eight-yard touchdown pass to surge ahead 34-9. Vause rounded out the rest of the scoring in the contest hitting field goals from 45 and 23 yards out. In between those two made field goals, Vause scored a single from and 18-yard missed field goal.
    Defensive lineman Riley Pickett wreaked havoc on the Colts passing game sacking Wasdal three times, while also being part of a gang that brought Wasdal down on another occasion. Defensive back Jared Giddings had a late fourth-quarter interception.
    The 18 points scored off turnovers was a welcome site for the Hilltops. The Topper are used to piling up points on takeaways, but failed to do just that on two takeaways in their previous outing, which was a 29-26 setback to the Regina Thunder on Sept. 9.
    With the win over the Colts, the Hilltops improve to 4-1 to sit in a tie for second place in the Prairie Football Conference with the 4-1 Thunder. The Hilltops and Thunder split their two head-to-head meeting, but Saskatoon holds the standings tiebreaker outscoring Regina 63-49 over those two contests.
    The Edmonton Huskies sit first in the PFC with a 5-0 mark.
    The Colts fall to 1-4 sit fifth in the PFC. After making the last three straight PFC championship games, the Colts are in big danger of missing the post-season all together in 2017.
    The Winnipeg Rifles sit fourth and hold the PFC’s final playoff berth with a 3-2 record with three weeks to play in the regular season. The Rifles hold the standings tiebreaker with the Colts taking the only schedule encounter between the two sides this season 42-22 back on Sept. 2 in Winnipeg.
    The Hilltops return to action this coming Sunday when they host the Rifles at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

Rams’ Picton joins 8,000-yard club and other notes

Noah Picton has passed for over 8,000 yards in his Canada West career.
    University of Regina Rams star quarterback Noah Picton hit a big milestone in his team’s 28-18 victory over the U of Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.
    Picton became the eighth quarterback in the history of the Canada West conference to surpass 8,000 yards passing for his career. The fourth-year signal caller completed 30-of-42 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Rams victory over the Golden Bears.
    With that performance in the books, Picton has 8,318 career yards passing to sit fifth in conference history. He trails Greg Vavra (8,401) who played for the U of Calgary Dinos, Billy Greene (8,626) who played for the U of British Columbia Thunderbirds, Darryl Leason (8,800) who played for the Dinos and Rams and Teale Orban (9,449) who played for the Rams.
    Picton has been on fire this season completing 78-of-114 passes for 969 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in leading the Rams to a 2-1 start.
    Cousin and receiver Mitchell Picton, who is a draft selection of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, hauled in seven passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. The fifth-year pass catcher has 19 career touchdown receptions to equal Jason Clermont for second on the Rams all-time career list during the team’s time in the U Sports ranks. Chad Goldie sits first on the Rams all-time career list during the team’s time in the U Sports ranks with 21 touchdown catches.
    The Golden Bears drop to 0-3 with the loss.
  • Regina Thunder quarterback Sawyer Buettner is establishing a reputation for mastering the end of the game two-minute drill drive. On Saturday night in Regina with the Thunder trailing the visiting Winnipeg Rifles 24-23 with under two minutes to play at Mosaic Stadium, Buettner drove the hosts 97 yards in 10 plays culminating in a seven-yard touchdown run by Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette with 34 seconds to play. The score gave the Thunder a 29-24 victory. Buettner finished the contest completing 25-of-42 passes for 382 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • The U of C Dinos are showing their 39-3 pre-season loss to the U of R Rams in Medicine Hat, Alta., meant nothing. The Dinos have jumped out to a 3-0 start in the regular season outscoring the opposition 177-69 looking like the NFL’s 2007 New England Patriots running rough shot through the Canada West Conference. On Saturday, the Dinos traveled to Winnipeg and crushed the host U of Manitoba Bisons 76-17. At the moment, it appears there won’t be a demise for the defending Canada West champs.
  • The UBC Thunderbirds re-established their status as a U Sports powerhouse dumping the visiting U of Saskatchewan Huskies 31-10 on Saturday night in Vancouver. After falling in Week 1 to the U of R Rams 36-20 in Regina, the Thunderbirds have continued to improve over the course of two straight wins in building a 2-1 record. Having won the Vanier Cup in 2015 and guided by head coach Blake Nill, the Thunderbirds might find themselves back in the Canada West final for a third straight year. UBC drew 9,542 spectators to their win over the Huskies.
  • The U of S Huskies are regrouping after dropping to 2-1 falling in convincing fashion to the Thunderbirds. UBC held a slim 10-7 edge at halftime before blowing the game open in the second half. The Thunderbirds piled up 684 yards of total offence. Injuries are piling up at linebacker for the Huskies, which is creating challenges on defence. The Huskies lost third-year linebacker Ben Whiting to an arm injury in their Week 2 win over the U of Alberta Golden Bears and fifth-year linebacker Justin Filteau was injured before the start of the regular season. It is also common knowledge in Saskatoon’s football community that Filteau’s injury is season ending. The injuries are forcing players like first-year linebacker Thomas Whiting to learn on the fly.
    Chloe Marshall in action during her midget AAA days in 2015.
  • On the hockey front, it appeared that Jasey Book and Jessica Vance were going to enter the season as goalies A and 1A for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team. That was before Chloe Marshall entered the picture. Marshall, who is from Neilburg, Sask., transferred to the U of S after playing one season for Northland College in Ashland, Wis. In Saskatchewan hockey circles, Marshall was best remembered for playing two seasons with the Battlefords Sharks of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League from 2014-16, where she put up a career .914 save percentage. During her time with the Sharks, Marshall, as the old cliché goes, saw more rubber than a dead skunk on the Trans-Canada Highway due to the fact the midget AAA club wasn’t that strong. Marshall has won both her exhibition starts for the Huskies giving up just one goal, which includes a victory over the defending U Sports champion U of Alberta Pandas. It is conceivable she may emerge as the successor to the now graduated Cassidy Hendricks as the Huskies starting goaltender.
  • The WHL regular season begins on Friday with eight games across the circuit. In Saskatoon, the Blades open against the Swift Current Broncos at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. That contest will mark the first time the Blades hit the ice for a regular season contest with their classic Pac-Man jerseys as their regular look since 1994. Saskatoon was 4-2 during the pre-season.

Tweet of the day goes to Clermont

    The Tweet of the day has to go to former U of Regina Rams receiver Jason Clermont, who was a CFL star with the British Columbia Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders from 2002 to 2011.
    Upon hearing Mitchell Picton tied him for second all-time on the Rams career touchdown receptions list at 19 for the team’s time in the U Sports ranks, Clermont, who is the Rams vice-president of marketing, wrote this little piece below.

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