Saturday, 11 February 2017

Bourassa finds groove with Huskies

Rookie forward brings clutch playoff history from Weyburn

Bailee Bourassa, left, smiles after scoring for the Huskies.
    When Bailee Bourassa joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, she came with a playoff pedigree.
    The 18-year-old rookie forward will always be remembered in her hometown of Weyburn, Sask., for scoring the winning goal in the championship game of the 2014 Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament. Her tally helped her hometown Weyburn Gold Wings top the Edmonton Thunder 2-1 at the Gateway Ice Centre in Stoney Creek, Ont.
    With that goal, Bourassa cemented herself with hometown hero status by helping deliver a national championship to her community.
    “That was probably one of the best experiences of my entire life,” said Bourassa. “It was one of the best teams I have ever been a part of.
    “The girls were great. That was one of my best years of hockey. It was just an unreal experience being there and like how big of a deal it actually was.
    “Being the underdogs to come out on top was just an awesome feeling.”
Bailee Bourassa circles past a couple of defenders in the offensive zone.
    As a rookie with the Huskies, Bourassa has experienced the typical learning curve that comes with joining the U Sports level. She also exited the regular season on a high.
    On Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, Bourassa wired home a setup from fifth-year defender Alyssa Dobler on the power-play shortly before the midway point of the second period in a match against the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns. The goal gave the Huskies a 2-0 edge that ultimately held up as the final outcome in a contest that closed the regular season for both sides.
    In that one moment, Bourassa displayed the scoring prowess that allowed her to net 21 goals and nine assists in 26 regular season games with the Gold Wings in her final midget AAA campaign in 2015-16.
    “It felt awesome, because our line was kind of on a dry streak,” said Bourassa, who stands 5-foot-8. “We finally put one in there, and it felt really good.”
    During her rookie campaign, Bourassa appeared in 25 regular season games with the Huskies netting four goals and five assists.
Bailee Bourassa bursts into the offensive zone for the Huskies.
    In the 12 games the Huskies played since returning from the Christmas break, Bourassa found the back of the net three times and collected a couple of helpers.
    While adjusting to the university game, Bourassa quickly found a high comfort level with the Huskies.
    “I love it so far,” said Bourassa. “All the girls are awesome, and they are welcoming.
    “That was one thing I was kind of nervous about was like meeting new people. Honestly, I don’t think this could have been a better group of girls to be with.”
    In four seasons in the midget AAA ranks, Bourassa appeared in 107 regular season games with the Gold Wings piling up 40 goals and 43 assists.
    She was even more prolific in the playoffs picking up 19 goals and 10 assists in 35 career Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League post-season games. When she came to the Huskies, she knew she wasn’t going to step in and be the standout right away.
Bailee Bourassa looks for a shooting lane.
    “It is definitely different, because you go from being one of the top players to like having to start at the bottom and work yourself back up,” said Bourassa. “It has been a really good experience so far, and I am enjoying it.”
    Now Bourassa will get her first taste of post-season action at the post-secondary level. The Huskies (15-10-3) finished fourth in the Canada West conference and will host their provincial rivals the U of Regina Cougars (14-13-1) in a best-of-three first round series. Game 1 is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.
    In that clash, Bourassa will be trying to score on former Gold Wings teammate in Cougars netminder Jane Kish. Kish, who is also from Weyburn, turned away 29 shots for the Gold Wings in their 2014 Esso Cup championship game win.
    Bourassa is expecting her first her first university playoff series to be a battle.
    “I think that it is going to be a fairly even matched series,” said Bourassa. “Our games against them all year were pretty tight.
    “It is going to be whoever works harder is going to win the game.”
    On Saturday against the Pronghorns, the Huskies went up 1-0 in the first period when star forward Kaitlin Willoughby converted a beauty setup pass from linemate Courtney Cormack. The tally gave Willoughby a new career high for goals in a season at 11. She recorded 10 goals in each of her first three seasons with the Huskies.
The Huskies celebrate their win over the Pronghorns.
    Fifth-year veteran goalie Cassidy Hendricks started the game between the pipes for the Huskies and turned away three shots in one period of work. She was the goalie of record when she was pulled before the start of the second period and picked up her 57th career regular season win. The North Vancouver product is the Huskies all-time career leader in victories and is third all-time in the Canada West conference in career wins.
    Jasey Book played the final two frames in relief for the Huskies and stopped all 10 shots she faced.
    Alicia Anderson was stellar in goal for the Pronghorns turning away 40 shots to keep her side in the game. The Pronghorns finished last in Canada West with a 4-21-3 record.
    When the Huskies and Cougars clash in the playoffs, it will be their first meeting in the post-season since the 2014 Canada West championship series. The Huskies won that best-of-three series, when Willoughby scored the winner in double overtime to give the U of S a 2-1 victory in a series deciding Game 3.

Huskies men’s team eliminates Pronghorns

Wyatt Johnson scored twice on Saturday for the Huskies.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team ended the regular season by helping end the post-season hopes of the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns in Lethbridge.
    Powered by a goal and two assist performance from defenceman Tyler Borstmayer, the Huskies slipped past the Pronghorns 5-4. The Huskies built a 3-0 lead and never trailed in the contest despite a spirited Pronghorns comeback attempt.
    Wyatt Johnson scored twice for the Huskies, while Jaimen Yakubowski and Michael Sofillas had singles. Daniel Wapple made 29 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Dogs, who finished the regular season topping the Canada West standings with a 21-5-2 mark.
    Jay Merkley scored twice for the Pronghorns, who received singles from Justin Valentino and Ryan Chynoweth. Garret Hughson turned away 24 shots to take the loss in the U of L goal.
    With the setback, the Pronghorns finished seventh in Canada West with an 11-14-3 record. U of L was officially eliminated from the playoff picture, when the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds downed the Mount Royal University Cougars 2-1 on Saturday night in Calgary.
    The Thunderbirds improved to 12-13-3 and passed the Pronghorns for sixth place and the final playoff berth in Canada West. UBC opens the Canada West playoffs taking on the U of Calgary Dinos (18-9-1) in a best-of-three first round series in Calgary.
    The Huskies have a bye into the semifinal round of the Canada West post-season thanks to their first place finish.

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