Friday, 3 March 2017

Golden Bears X-factors put Huskies on the ropes

Dogs fall 4-3 in exciting Canada West final opener

The Golden Bears celebrate Taylor Cooper’s second goal.
    You wish these forever rivals could go at it in best-of-seven final.
    On Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and the University of Alberta Golden Bears staged another classic match in the opening game of their best-of-three Canada West championship series. Both sides had their spots where they carried momentum would have been pleased with their play at certain times. The also would have been disappointed in how other areas in their game went.
    When the dust settled, the Golden Bears cashed in on a couple of more positive bounce breaks and came away with a 4-3 win to put the Huskies, who are the defending Canada West champions, on the ropes in the short set. The Golden Bears will look to close out the series in Game 2 on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford. If a Game 3 is necessary, it will be played on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Ruthy.
    U of A took the game relying on three X-factors in the line of Taylor Cooper, Cole Linaker and Lucas Nickles, who powered the visitors combining for three goals and six assists. Cooper and Linaker are both rookies, while Nickles is in his second year of eligibility.
Connor Gay paced the Huskies with two goals and an assist.
    During the regular season, they weren’t a trio U of A relied on for offence. Cooper, Linaker and Nickles played a combined 66 regular season games recording six goals and nine assists.
    The Golden Bears came out flying in Friday’s contest getting the first 10 shots on goal. They finally put a puck past Huskies star netminder Jordon Cooke with their 12th shot on net coming at the 10:44 mark of the opening frame, when the X-factors went to work.
    Cooper and Nickles got the puck to Linaker who cut to the U of S goal and tucked a shot home to give the visitors a 1-0 edge.
    A short time later, the Huskies thought they tied a game, but a goal by winger Levi Cable was called off due to the officials ruling he scored knocking a puck home with a high stick. The hosts did exit the opening frame forcing a 1-1 tie on a goal from rookie winger Connor Gay.
U of A goalie Brendan Burke makes one of his 31 saves.
    At the 7:21 mark of the second, Cooper scored his first of two of the night to put the visitors up 2-1. The goal came after the Huskies turned the puck over in their own end.
    That lead lasted only 38 seconds as Gay broke in to the U of A zone on an individual effort, cut into the right slot and roofed home a shot past Golden Bears rookie goalie Brendan Burke.
    Momentum shifted back to the visitors at the start of the third. Cooper tipped in his second goal of the game on a chance that seemed to come out of nowhere, and defenceman Graeme Craig blasted home an insurance goal from the point to put U of A up 4-2 with 11:24 to play in the frame.
    The Huskies didn’t go away as rookie forward Wyatt Johnson scored down low with 5:39 to play in the third to cut U of A’s lead to 4-3. Gay picked up an assist on that tally for a three-point night. The local product and graduate of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades had the best game of his university career, but his effort was overshadowed by the end result on the scoreboard.
The Huskies try to find an equalizer in the dying seconds of the third period.
    In the dying seconds of the third, the Huskies tried to find the equalizer on a scramble around the Golden Bears net, but the officials blew the play down, when the puck was loose and open by the left side of the U of A net. It was a bitter pill for the Huskies to swallow along with the packed crowd of 845 people that were in the rink.
    Cooke made 28 saves to take the loss in goal for the Huskies, who entered the contest rated second in the U Sports top 10 rankings. Burke made 31 stops to earn the win in goal for the Golden Bears, who are rated fourth in the U Sports top 10 rankings.
The Golden Bears celebrate their Game 1 Canada West final win.
    The Huskies topped the Canada West standings with a 21-5-2 record, while the Golden Bears finished second with an 18-8-2 mark. Both teams already have spots locked up at the University Cup national championship tournament, which will run March 16 to 19 at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, but you would never know it by the way they played on Friday.
    Both the Huskies and Golden Bears played for keeps, and it will likely be no different in Game 2 on Saturday. The Huskies are hoping to capitalize on a couple of extra positive bounces on Saturday to force a series deciding Game 3 on Sunday.

Huskies women’s hoops team earns berth at nationals

Point guard Sabine Dukate (#5) drives to the hoop for the Huskies.
    Head coach Lisa Thomaidis and her coaching staff have worked wonders again, and they have their young U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team heading back to nationals.
    Last year, the Huskies won their first U Sports national championship title, but that squad graduated four extremely key fifth-year players. Entering this season, the Huskies, who have six first-year and four second-year players on their roster, appeared to be a long shot to return to nationals.
    On Friday night at the Physical Activity Complex, the Huskies, who are rated eighth in the U Sports top 10 rankings, trailed the U of Alberta Pandas, who are rated ninth in the U Sports top 10 rankings, 29-26 in a semifinal match at the Canada West women’s final four tournament. The Huskies proceeded to rally with a huge second half to pull away with a solid 72-62 victory.
Huskies guard Megan Ahlstrom, centre, drives through the Pandas defence.
    Second-year point guard Sabine Dukate, who is the only returning starter from last season, led the way with 25 points. Second-year guard Megan Ahlstrom and rookie post Summer Masikewich each netted 13 and 10 points respectively to power the host side.
    Fifth-year guard Maddie Rogers led the Pandas with 19 points.
    On Saturday at 7 p.m. at the PAC, the Huskies will try to win their second straight Canada West title in a rematch of last year’s conference final with the U of Regina Cougars. The Cougars took the other semifinal match 81-70 over the U of Winnipeg Wesmen. The Wesmen and Pandas will face each other in a bronze medal match set for 5 p.m. on Saturday at the PAC.
    The Huskies and Cougars will advance to the U Sports championship tournament which will be held March 9-12 at the University of Victoria.

Stars down Wildcats in Game 1 of SFMAAAHL semi series

Grace Shirley had a goal and an assist Friday for the Stars.
    The Saskatoon Stars outlasted a spirited effort by the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats to take Game 1 of a best-of-five Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League semifinal series between the two squads on Friday night at the Agriplace Arena.
    The Stars led 3-2 after two period of play and pulled away for a 5-2 victory. Grace Shirley and Joelle Fiala both had a goal and an assist to pace the Stars, who received big efforts from what seemed like everyone on their roster. Jayda Sachs, Mackenna Parker and Jordyn Gerlitz all netted singles for Saskatoon.
    Chloe Smith, who has been recruited to join the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team in the fall, and Janessa Fournier paced the Wildcats offence each picking up a goal and an assist.
    Jordan Ivanco made 21 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Stars. Harper Davey turned away 21 shots taking the loss in the Wildcats net.
    The Stars and Wildcats have a bit of a break before going at it again for Game 2 on Wednesday in Swift Current. Game 3 is set for Saturday, March 11 at the Agriplace Arena.
    Saskatoon and Swift Current met in last year’s SFMAAAHL championship series, and the Stars took the best-of-five set 3-1.

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