Saturday, 25 February 2017

McVeigh’s winner gives Huskies sweep of Cougars

U of S to defend Canada West title, earns berth to nationals

Logan McVeigh, top, celebrates scoring for the Huskies.
    Even in the confines of a short series, Logan McVeigh was looking to eliminate any little voices of doubt that might be lurking.
    The sophomore centre led the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team in scoring during the course of a 28-game regular season netting 13 goals and 18 assists. Along with third-year winger Michael Sofillas and fourth-year winger Josh Roach, McVeigh was on a forward unit that became the team’s top line.
    In the Huskies 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their Canada West semifinal series against the Mount Royal University Cougars on Friday at the ancient Rutherford Rink, McVeigh’s line was unable to get on the scoreboard.
    With the Huskies locked in a 2-2 draw with the Cougars late in the second period in Game 2 on Saturday night at Rutherford, McVeigh’s unit was still searching to get on the scoreboard.
Logan McVeigh, left, finishes a check for the Huskies.
    That all changed with 3:39 to play in the second, when McVeigh took a pass from Sofillas, sped down the left wing and roofed home a shot to put the Huskies up 3-2. That tally stood up as the winner in a 3-2 final, which allowed the Huskies to sweep a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series 2-0 and advance to the best-of-three conference championship series.
    “Our line was struggling a little bit to start that game,” said McVeigh. “To get that goal, that game winner, it is huge for us going into next weekend.
    “Just to see that puck go into the back of the net is huge for confidence. We’re looking forward to next weekend.”
    For the second straight year, the series victory allows the Huskies to lock up a berth to the University Cup national championship tournament, which runs March 16 to 19 at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. Before nationals rolls around, the Huskies will attempt to win the Canada West championship for a second year in a row.
    The Huskies open the best-of-three Canada West championship series this coming Friday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford against the U of Alberta Golden Bears. The Golden Bears advanced to the Canada West final downing the U of Calgary Dinos 3-2 in Game 2 of their Canada West semi in Edmonton, which allowed U of A to sweep the set 2-0.
    The Huskies and Golden Bears met in last year’s final, which saw the Huskies pull out a 2-0 series sweep.
Winger Michael Sofillas circles in the offensive zone for the Huskies.
    At the University Cup last year, the Huskies finished fourth, and McVeigh was pumped his club had another trip locked up to that event. The Huskies will make their fifth appearance at nationals in the last six years.
    “It is exciting for sure,” said McVeigh. “We have a big job here to do next weekend against U of A.
    “Going back to nationals is huge for our organization, our team. We are excited to get out there (to nationals). We have to take care of Canada West first.”
    Against the Cougars in Game 2, the Huskies showed their resiliency. At the 5:55 mark of the first, Cougars captain Matthew Brown got in alone on Huskies star netminder Jordon Cooke and slipped home the opening goal of the game to give the visitors a 1-0 edge.
Levi Cable (#10) blasts home the Huskies first goal on Saturday.
    Just 49 seconds later, the Huskies responded with the equalizer to force a 1-1 draw when second-year winger Levi Cable blasted home a shot from the front of the Cougars goal past netminder Cam Lanigan.
    At the 13:49 mark of the second, Devin Gannon tucked home the Cougars second goal of the contest past Cooke to put the visitors up 2-1. Just 26 seconds later, sophomore forward Andrew Johnson one-timed a setup pass from rookie linemate Connor Gay to allow the Huskies to tie the contest up at 2-2.
    That set the stage for McVeigh to net his winner.
    “Our team moto is never say die,” said McVeigh. “We always think we have a chance to win no matter what the score is.
    “A tie game like that, we are going for win. We are not going for the tie or overtime.”
Cam Lanigan makes a stop in goal for the Cougars.
    The Cougars came out hard in the third outshooting the Huskies 13-5 in the frame. Cooke stood on his head stopping a breakaway chance from Gannon and another from David Stephens.
McVeigh wasn’t surprised by Mount Royal’s push back.
    “They have a solid team,” said McVeigh. “They work hard every shift.
    “It seems like they are always coming at us. We play defensively very well and of course, we have our MVP goaltender that stood on his head for a couple of breakaways and that helps.”
    Cooke made 29 stops to earn the win in goal for the Huskies. Lanigan turned away 23 shots to take the loss in goal for the Cougars.
    Mount Royal finished fourth in Canada West with a 15-11-2 record, but lost nine of its last 11 games including action in both the regular season and playoffs.
Jordon Cooke, right, makes a breakaway save for the Huskies.
    The Huskies now turn their attention to their forever rivals in the Golden Bears. The Dogs topped the Canada West standings with a 21-5-2 record and are rated second in the U Sports top 10 rankings.     The Golden Bears finished second in Canada West with an 18-8-2 mark and are rated fifth in the U Sports top 10 rankings.
    During the regular season, the Huskies took three out of the four matches against the Golden Bears.
    “We go against U of A every year it seems like,” said McVeigh. “It is a big goal of ours to take care of Canada West first and then go out to nationals and try to win that. For sure, we are going to try and do that.”
    Game 2 of the Canada West championship series is set for Saturday, March 4 at 7 p.m. at Rutherford. If a Game 3 is necessary, it will be held Sunday, March 5 at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Johnson, Hendricks keep Huskies women’s team alive

Rachel Johnson, (#19) scored the goal that kept the Huskies alive.
    Rachel Johnson and Cassidy Hendricks made certain their U Sports careers would live to see one more day with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team.
    On Saturday night in Vancouver, Johnson, who is a fifth-year forward, scored at the 2:56 mark of the opening period on a setup from rookie linemate Bailee Bourassa, and Hendricks, who is a star fifth-year netminder, made 23 saves to power the Huskies to a 1-0 victory over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. Rookie Amelia Boughn turned away 17 shots to take the loss in the Thunderbirds goal.
    The Huskies victory in Game 2 of the best-of-three Canada West semifinal series with the Thunderbirds forces a series deciding Game 3 Sunday afternoon in Vancouver. UBC took Game 1 of the series 2-0 on Friday in Vancouver.
    The Thunderbirds went into the series as heavy favourites finishing first in Canada West with a 23-4-1 mark and being rated first in the U Sports top 10 rankings. The Huskies finished fourth in the conference with a 15-10-3 record, but they split the four head-to-head regular season meetings with UBC.
    The winner of Game 3 advances to a best-of-three championship series against the U of Alberta Pandas. The Pandas swept the other Canada West semifinal series 2-0 downing the U of Manitoba Bisons 3-2 in Game 2 of that series on Saturday in Edmonton.
    Besides advancing to the Canada West championship series, the winner of Game 3 between the Huskies and Thunderbirds earns a berth to the U Sports women’s national championship tournament to be held March 16 to 19 at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

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