Friday, 24 February 2017

Thomas comes up clutch for Huskies with two key goals

U of S downs Cougars 4-3 in opener of Canada West semi

Parker Thomas, left, hugs Jaimen Yakubowski after scoring on a breakaway.
    Parker Thomas seems to love playoffs.
    The third-year winger is developing a habit of delivering in big moments for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team in the post-season. At the U Sports national championship tournament held in March of last year in Halifax, N.S., Thomas scored a quadruple overtime winner to deliver the Huskies to a 3-2 quarter-final victory over the Carleton University Ravens.
    On Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, Thomas delivered two big goals in two big moments to help power the Huskies to a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their best-of-three Canada West semifinal series with the Mount Royal University Cougars. The Huskies will attempt to go for the sweep when they host Game 2 on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.
    “It is huge,” said Thomas about the win. “It is the first game of playoffs. It is only a three-game series.
    “To get that first one out of the way was big.”
Parker Thomas speeds up ice for the Huskies.
    Thomas’s first goal came with 16 seconds to play in the first period, when he cut across the face of the Mount Royal goal and tucked the puck home to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. The goal helped break some momentum the Cougars had built. Mount Royal held a 14-7 edge in shots on goal over the first 20 minutes thanks to working on a couple of power play opportunities.
    Following Thomas’s first goal, the Huskies proceeded to build a 3-0 lead with singles coming from the sticks of Kohl Bauml and Levi Cable early in the second period.
    Before the second frame ended, Mount Royal answered back with a power-play goal coming from forward Jamal Watson, who tipped home a point shot from Emerson Hrynyk, to cut the Huskies lead to 3-1. Just 1:54 into the third, the host’s edge shrank to 3-2, when Cougars defenceman Maddison Smiley blasted home a power-play goal top left corner through a screen from the point.
Parker Thomas wins a battle in the corner for the Huskies.
    When it seemed the Cougars had all the momentum on their side, Thomas came through in another key moment just before the midway part of the frame. Third year defenceman Jordan Fransoo sprung Thomas on a breakaway with a beauty stretch pass coming from the U of S zone.
    Thomas showed the finesse that made him one of the top scorers in junior A playing for the Selkirk Steelers in Manitoba from 2010 to 2014 faking Cougars goalie Cam Lanigan to the ground and tucking in the puck around the right side of the netminder. The goal gave the Huskies a 4-2 lead and stood up as the winner.
    The Cougars proceeded to throw a scare into the Huskies down the stretch, when third year forward Cam Maclise scored an unassisted goal with 3:31 to play in the third to cut the Huskies lead to 4-3. Shortly after that goal, the Cougars wired a potential equalizer off the crossbar of the U of S net.
    Star netminder Jordon Cooke made 38 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies. Cam Lanigan turned away 17 shots taking the loss in goal for the Cougars.
Netminder Jordon Cooke snags one of his 38 saves in goal for the Huskies.
    The Cougars came off winning a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series 2-1 last weekend in Calgary against the University of Manitoba Bisons. The Huskies, who are rated second in the U Sports top 10 rankings, had a bye into the semifinal thanks to finishing first in the conference standings with a 21-5-2 record. The Cougars were fourth in Canada West with a 15-11-2 mark.
    Thomas, who was close a couple of times to netting a hat trick, was pleased to pick up a couple of goals, but was more focused on the bigger picture.
    “It was nice, but the win was better,” said Thomas, who didn’t think the shots on goal were indicative of the play Friday. “They are still into it a bit.
    “I think we started well. It is didn’t look like we had a couple of weeks off there.”
    The 23-year-old Winnipeg product was also glad to see his team stayed out of some of the extra-curricular sparring and talking that occurred after the whistle.
    The Cougars had the top power play in Canada West this season clicking at 23.1 per cent, and it looked like there was a visible effort to draw the Huskies into penalties.
Winger Jaimen Yakubowski played a high energy game for the Huskies.
    Thomas’s line containing rookie centre Jordan Tkatch and sophomore winger Jaimen Yakubowski also came through with a number of aggressive and high energy shifts throughout the game that seemed to get the Huskies on track, when they were in a lull. Tkatch and Yakubowski drew assists on Thomas’s first goal, and the trio was arguably the Huskies’ best forward unit on the night.
    “We have a couple of big bodies, so we like to crash and bang,” said Thomas. “We were matched up against one of their bottom lines, so it was good.”
    Including the regular season, the Huskies have now won four of the five head-to-head meetings with the Cougars in the 2016-17 campaign. If the Huskies aren’t able to close out the series on Saturday, they will have another chance on Sunday if necessary in a series deciding Game 3 set for 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Huskies women’s team falls in series opener with Thunderbirds

Netminder Cassidy Hendricks made 17 saves Friday night for the Huskies.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team were blanked in Game 1 in their best-of-three Canada West semifinal series opener on Friday night in Vancouver.
    In a tight checking battle, the host University of British Columbia Thunderbirds slowly pulled out a 2-0 win. Second-year forward Mathea Fischer scored at the 7:31 mark of the opening frame, and Madison Patrick scored early in the third to give the host side a two-goal edge. Patrick is the older sister of Nolan Patrick, who is a superstar with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and is pegged as the potential first overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in June.
    Fifth-year veteran netminder Cassidy Hendricks turned away 17 shots taking the loss in goal for the Huskies. Rookie netminder Amelia Boughn turned away 14 shots to pick up the shutout win in the Thunderbirds goal.
    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.
    Game 2 of the series is set for Saturday night in Vancouver, and the Huskies need to win to stay alive in the series. If a series deciding Game 3 is needed, it will be held Sunday afternoon in Vancouver.

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