Thursday, 23 February 2017

What if both Huskies hockey teams go all the way?

Home Ice Campaign would get a big push to the finish

The Huskies men’s team celebrates a win earlier this season.
    So what happens if both University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey teams go all the way?
    You would have to think that would be a golden situation for the Home Ice Campaign, which is trying to raise funds to build a new twin pad rink on campus called Merlis Belsher Place. Actually, you would have to think that should give the finishing push to secure the final $5-million in funds for that project.
    The Huskies hockey program has long links to the Saskatoon community. The men’s team dates back to 1910, and the women’s team has been around in some form since 1912.
    If both Huskies teams won nationals, the emotional rallying point from alums and supporters from the community would be great.
    The respective journeys to get to that point would really pull some heartstrings. Both squads are pretty good at engaging the community either through coaching at camps or making various community event appearances, so most people in Saskatoon and the surrounding area would be pretty pumped for both teams, if they won it all.
The Huskies women’s team celebrates a playoff series sweep over U of R.
    With that said, the odds of one school winning both U Sports national titles in hockey in the same year are long. The last time one school took both U Sports hockey titles came back in 2006, when the University of Alberta Golden Bears claimed the University Cup for men’s supremacy and the U of Alberta Pandas captured U Sports women’s title.
    Actually, U of A is the only program to claim the men’s and women’s hockey titles in a single season also pulling off that feat one other time in 2000.
    The Huskies only national championship in hockey came back in 1983, when the men’s team won it all under head coach Dave King and captain Willie Desjardins. Considering how good both Huskies teams have been over the years, the fact only one national title has been claimed shows how hard it is to win it all.
    Both Huskies teams have the ability to go all the way. With how competitive their respective leagues are, their post-season runs could end in their respective Canada West semifinal series this weekend. Each Huskies team will earn a berth to their respective national championship tournaments if they pull out series wins this weekend.
Huskies netminder Jordon Cooke is the best goalie in U Sports.
    Both Huskies squads also have strong coaching staffs to guide the way on the playoff trail with head coach Dave Adolph leading the men’s side and interim head coach Robin Ulrich steadying the women’s side.
    The Huskies men’s team is one of the favourites to make a possible appearance in the University Cup title game. The University Cup runs March 16-19 at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
    U of S’s men’s team is rated second in the U Sports top 10 rankings and finished first in the Canada West conference with a 21-5-2 record. They host the Mount Royal University Cougars (15-11-2) in a best-of-three series this weekend at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    Games 1 and 2 are set for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night respectively. If a series deciding Game 3 is needed, it will be held on Sunday at 7 p.m.
    The Huskies men’s team has it all from stellar starting goaltending, a forward unit that runs four lines deep and as solid of a defensive unit you will find anywhere in the country. Netminder Jordon Cooke is the best goalie in U Sports and is arguably one of the best goalies in Canada in the amateur ranks from the junior age level upwards.
Kaitlin Willoughby has been unreal for the Huskies.
    Cooke matched his own person record for most wins in a season by a Huskies goalie at 19 posting a 19-4-2 record, a 1.94 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and four shutouts. The Leduc, Alta., product first set his wins record winning 19 games in a regular season in the Huskies Canada West championship campaign last season.
    Up front, the Huskies have a forward unit where everyone can put the puck in the net. Their most potent line was the character unit of second-year centre Logan McVeigh, third-year winger Michael Sofillas and fourth-year winger Josh Roach.
    McVeigh topped the Huskies in scoring netting 13 goals and 18 assists. Sofillas picked up career highs with 13 goal and 14 assists, and Roach also netted career highs with eight goals and 18 assists.
    On the blue-line, the Huskies have a unit that is big and mobile. Third-year Waldheim, Sask., product Jesse Forsberg, who stands 6-feet and weighs 226 pounds, had a breakout year becoming the Huskies top offensive defenceman. He topped all defencemen in Canada West in scoring piling up 11 goals and 16 assists.
    Fellow third-year veteran Jordan Fransoo, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 210 pounds, also had a strong year offensively netting four goals and 10 assists. Captain Kendall McFaull, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 210 pounds, is an anchor as a defensive defenceman, and he can also chip in the offence when called upon.
    The Huskies women’s team sits in an underdog role heading into their Canada West best-of-three semifinal series against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, who topped the conference standings with a 23-4-1 record and are rated first in the U Sports top 10 rankings. U of S finished fourth in Canada West with a 15-10-3 mark.
    During the regular season, the Huskies and Thunderbirds split their four head-to-head meetings, and U of S could have conceivably won three out of those four matches. A Thunderbirds victory is not a given.
Jesse Forsberg has quarterbacked the Huskies back end.
    The Huskies women’s team lacks overall offensive depth finishing fifth in the eight-team Canada West conference in goals scored. They do have enough pieces that make them capable of beating anyone and making to and winning the women’s nationals that run March 16 to 19 at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
    Star forward Kaitlin Willoughby has been a one-person wreaking crew for the Huskies at both ends of the ice, and she has taken her game up to an all-world level since returning from the Christmas break. She missed four games to help Canada’s women’s team win silver at the FISU Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan, earlier this month and still topped the Huskies in scoring with 11 goals and 10 assists in 24 regular season games. The Prince Albert product’s goal total was a career high.
    In a quarter-final series sweep of the University of Regina Cougars, Willoughby almost picked up enough offense by herself sniping four goals in two games to win the series. Willoughby is able to lift her teammates to another level, which makes the Huskies play beyond their abilities.
You wonder if she can keep delivering these spectacular outings game after game, and it looks like she can.
    In goal, Cassidy Hendricks backstopped the Huskies to a Canada West title in 2014 and a bronze medal win at nationals. The North Vancouver product is in her final season and appears set to back her team on one last lengthy playoff run.
Cassidy Hendricks has been money in goal for the Huskies.
    During the regular season, Hendricks posted an 11-9-3 record, a 1.67 goals against average, a .928 save percentage and two shutouts. In the sweep of the Cougars, Hendricks turned away 59-of-63 shots sent her way. She flat out has the ability to steal games.
    If the Huskies can get some extra offense from either fifth-year veterans like Lauren Zary or Rachel Johnson or talented rookie forward Bailee Bourassa, they will really be in business. Defensively, they have a group headed by fifth-year veteran Alyssa Dobler, sophomore Morgan Willoughby and rookie Kayla Kirwan that can shut down anyone.
    On their runs, the Huskies will run into times when it feels like things might be too tough. During those times, all they have to do is remember a catch phrase Desjardins often says in the coaching career he moved on to after playing with the Huskies. He said this phrase guiding the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers to two WHL titles, the Texas Stars to an AHL championship and now behind the bench of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
    When the going gets tough for the Huskies teams, Desjardins would likely say, “Guys and gals, it is all going to come down to one thing – how bad do you want it?”
    Expect these Huskies teams to display an effort worthy of wanting to win it all.

Huskies hoops team open playoff runs with wins

Sabine Dukate (#5) dishes the ball inside for the Huskies.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies basketball teams opened their respective post-seasons on winning notes at the Physical Activity Complex.
    In Game 1 of a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series, the Huskies women’s team downed the Abbotsford, B.C., based University of Fraser Valley Cascades 78-55. The Huskies led 25-18 after the first quarter and cruised to victory from there. The Huskies were 15-5 in the regular season, while the Cascades were 12-8.
    Point guard Sabine Dukate led the way for the Huskies with 21 points, while guard Madeline Humbert chipped in 10 points. Forward Shayna Litman topped the Cascades with 21 points.
    The Huskies will try to sweep the series in Game 2 set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday night at the PAC. If necessary, Game 3 will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the PAC.
Summer Masikewich (#11) plays tough on defence.
    The Huskies men’s team slipped past the U of Winnipeg Wesmen 85-84 in Game 1 of their Canada West quarter-final series. U of S was 14-6 in the regular season, while U of W posted a 12-8 mark.
    Forward Shane Osayande topped the Huskies with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Lawrence Moore, Trevor Severinski and Matthew Forbes all hit double digits in scoring for the Dogs netting 15, 13 and 10 points respectively.
    Guard Narcisse Ambanza led the Wesmen with 24 points, while Forward Sean Tarver added 18 points.
    The Huskies will try to sweep the series in Game 2 set for Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the PAC. If necessary, Game 3 will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the PAC.

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