Saturday, 4 March 2017

Yakubowski pushes Huskies into series deciding Game 3

Canada West final with Golden Bears tied 1-1

Jaimen Yakubowski, right, celebrates his first of two goals.
    It is Jaimen Yakubowski’s world, and the University of Alberta Golden Bears are living in it.
    On Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the second-year winger scored both of that night’s goals for University of Saskatchewan Huskies to deliver them to a 2-0 victory over U of A in Game 2 of the Canada West men’s hockey championship series. 
    With the win, the Huskies, who are the defending conference champions, tie the best-of-three series 1-1 and force a series deciding Game 3 for Sunday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.
    Both teams already have berths locked up at the University Cup national championship tournament, which runs March 16 to 19 at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
    Besides hitting the scoresheet offensively, Yakubowski played his feisty forward role perfectly. The 22-year-old competed hard and did his part to agitate U of A players with some verbal jabs during and after the play. The Dalmeny, Sask., product also absorbed some shots like a butt end to the face in the third period when he wasn’t able to draw any penalties.
Jaimen Yakubowski brought a feisty edge to the Huskies game.
    “In the moment, I am just here to contribute in whatever way I can,” said Yakubowski. “I don’t really think about it at that moment. It definitely does feel good to get on the scoresheet and muck it up at the same time.”
    The Golden Bears roster contains players that have reputations of being able to trash talk and pull a few physical jabs to draw penalties. A number of U of A players have been trying to do just that in both games of the series so far with the Huskies.
    Yakubowski’s forward line, which also contains centre Jordan Tkatch and winger Parker Thomas, have been the Huskies counter point to that aspect of the Golden Bears game. Yakubowski, Tkatch and Thomas have at times struck first and initiated getting under the skins of the Golden Bears, but the tactic has been something that has come in the moment.
    “I wouldn’t say it was planned or anything,” said Yakubowski, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 205 pounds. “We’ve been a very disciplined team. It started since last year.
The Huskies and Golden Bears engaged in a number of scrums.
    “I think we understand that in order to put ourselves in the best position to win we don’t need to take those stupid penalties. At the same time, we have to stand up for ourselves and for our teammates.
    “(You are) just riding the line that you try not to go over it so much. We’ve been really good at that all playoffs.”
    Besides being feisty, Yakubowski showed the packed rink of 845 spectators that he has some pretty good skill. After the Huskies came out of the gate with a strong first period, Yakubowski got the puck in close of the U of A goal just three minutes into the second, and he tucked his first marker past Golden Bears goalie Brendan Burke. Thomas and offensive defenceman Jesse Forsberg combined to get the puck to Yakubowski down low.
    At the 8:59 mark of the third, Wyatt Johnson and Forsberg combined to get the puck to Yakubowski down low again, and he put a backhand shot past Burke after a deke move to give the Huskies a 2-0 edge.
Jesse Forsberg (#5) had two big assists for the Huskies.
    During the regular season, Yakubowski had four goals and six assists in 20 games for the Huskies. While he wasn’t one of U of S’s top scorers, Huskies head coach Dave Adolph wasn’t surprised to see the feisty winger score twice noting Yakubowski had 32 goals and 18 assists in 66 regular season games with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes as an 18-year-old in 2012-13.
    In 247 career WHL regular season games with the Hurricanes, Seattle Thunderbirds and Moose Jaw Warriors, Yakubowski picked up 67 goals, 56 assists and 507 minutes in penalties.
    “He is hard to play against,” said Adolph. “He has been (hard to play against) his whole career in the Western League, and he has here.
    “He had a bit of a shoulder issue, when he first got to us. He has always had the ability to score.
    “That second goal he scored, those are nice hands. That was a goal-scorer’s goal.”
Huskies goalie Jordon Cooke makes one of his 26 saves in a shutout win.
    Star netminder Jordon Cooke made 26 saves to earn the win in goal for the Huskies, who are rated second in the U Sports top 10 rankings. Burke turned away 40 shots taking the loss in net for the Golden Bears, who are rated fourth in the U Sports top 10 rankings.
    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.
    On Sunday, the Huskies will try to repeat what they did when they hosted the 2012 Canada West final against the U of Calgary Dinos. In that year, the Huskies lost the opening game and rallied back to take the series 2-1.
    The Huskies won Game 3, when Brett Ward scored at the 6:33 mark of the third overtime period to give U of S a 2-1 victory.
The Huskies celebrate their Game 2 victory.
    Yakubowski didn’t want to venture a guess who could possibly be the Game 3 goal-scoring hero for the Huskies this year against the Golden Bears.
    “I’m hoping my linemates each get one,” said Yakubowski. “That is the best-case scenario.
    “I don’t care who gets them as long as somebody does, and we put up a good battle tomorrow. That is all we are looking forward to.”

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