Friday, 20 January 2017

Thunderbirds withstand Huskies' fight

UBC's Haneet Parhar (#12) battles U of S's Elizabeth Salyn (#3) for the puck.
    In what may have been one of their most intense performances of the season, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team deserved a way better fate.
    On Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Huskies showed the grit and character that is currently being displayed by the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. Facing the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds who top the U Sports women’s hockey top 10 rankings, the Huskies didn’t back down anywhere and took the fight to their foes, which at times meant literally. The squads engaged in a few post-whistle scrums.
    When the dust settled, the Thunderbirds, like any top ranked club, found a way to pull a victory out of what was an extremely hot fire. Playing in a three-on-three double overtime period, the Thunderbirds broke in on a two-on-one break, when the Huskies were still trying to change a couple of players.
Huskies forward Kaitlin Willoughby wins a battle for a loose puck.
    Mathea Fischer, who is from Oslo, Norway, fed a nice pass past a Huskies defender to lineman Nicole Saxvik, and the fifth year forward buried her ninth goal of the season to deliver the Thunderbirds to a 2-1 victory. The Thunderbirds improved to 18-3, while the Huskies fell to 11-7-3.
In defeat, the Huskies showed the potential they have.
    The Thunderbirds started the contest with a mini momentum spurt, before things turned in favour of the home side. At the 7:19 mark of the opening frame, speedy forward Kaitlin Willoughby set up Elizabeth Salyn for her third goal of the season on just the Huskies second shot of the contest.
    From that point, the Huskies came at the Thunderbirds in waves. UBC rookie goalie Amelia Boughn stood on her head to ensure the Huskies didn’t get ahead by more, as U of S had a 10-7 edge in shots after 20 minutes.
Huskies forward Danielle Nogier fights for the puck along the boards.
    In the second, the Huskies created more scoring chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Willoughby set up fifth-year forward Rachel Johnson in the slot with a nice pass through traffic. Johnson didn’t get all of the puck on her shot, and Boughn came up with the stop.
    With their effort, there were times the Huskies were a little too aggressive, which resulted in the Thunderbirds getting four straight power-plays in the second frame. On the third of those opportunities, Fischer beat Huskies netminder Cassidy Hendricks with a high looping shot to tie things up at 1-1.
    In the third, the Huskies really kept bringing the pressure. Right off the opening faceoff, Willoughby blew in on a breakaway and wired a shot that just missed the top corner of the UBC goal.
    A short time later, fourth-year forward Kori Herner found herself on a breakaway, but she was denied by Boughn. The UBC goalie gave up a rebound on Herner’s shot, which allowed Johnson a scoring chance, but she was also stopped.

The Thunderbirds, left, celebrate their overtime winning goal.
    Following those opportunities, Willoughby, who was playing with as aggressiveness similar to former Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Chris Schlenker, found herself on another breakaway, but Boughn came up big again for the Thunderbirds.
    Near the end of the third, rookie forward Bailee Bourassa, who used to pile up the goals for the Weyburn Gold Wings midget AAA team, had two chances in close but was unable to find the go-ahead tally.
    After the two teams played through a scoreless four-on-four overtime period, that set the stage for the Thunderbirds to get the winner in the second extra frame.
    Boughn made 27 mostly extremely hard stops for the Thunderbirds. Hendricks turned away 23 shots in net for the Huskies.
    The Huskies biggest hurt came from the fact they went 0-for-5 on the power play. So far this season, they have converted on just 10.8 per cent of their chances with the one person advantage.
    The two teams go at it again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Woytowich honoured in Play for a Cure

Hailey Woytowich, centre, drops the puck for a ceremonial faceoff.
    Tonight’s Huskies game was a big one for my family as my young cousin Hailey Woytowich dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff as part of the Huskie Play for a Cure game.
    Woytowich graduated from Bethlehem Catholic High School last June, while fighting cancer. At one point in time, she had a big lump on her neck, while fighting the disease. She had surgery over the summer and was declared cancer free.
    With that bit of news, she became the first person in my family that I know of to survive a battle with cancer. Cancer has taken the lives of many members of my family.
    Woytowich was brought to centre ice by another one of my young cousins in Danielle Nogier, who is a rookie forward with the Huskies, and fifth-year defender Alyssa Dobler, who is Woytowich’s neighbour and a long time best friend.
    Woytowich, who was nervous about the puck drop, made quick work of the formalities quickly dropping the puck between Huskies captain Lauren Zary and Thunderbirds captain Stephanie Schaupmeyer. Following the game, Woytowich also got Nogier’s game jersey as a keepsake.
    Since I moved back to Saskatoon in the summer of 2014, I still have a hard time keeping track of all my family members. I believe I speak for everyone in thanking the Huskies for the special night.

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