Thursday, 7 December 2017

Tigers clash with Raiders a stellar display for WHL

Max Gerlach (#16) centres a pass for the Tigers.
    The WHL got a gem of a game on Wednesday night at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.
    Before 1,750 spectators, the host Raiders fell 5-4 after a tiebreaking shootout to the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers in a thrilling contest where both sides jetted up and down the ice. 
    In the immediate aftermath, you miss the fact WHL games are no longer shown on Shaw across Western Canada, because Wednesday’s contest between the Raiders and Tigers was a prime example of how great and entertaining that major junior circuit can be.
    The 2017-18 campaign was supposed to be the final season Shaw showed WHL games under a contract the two bodies had, but the television network bought itself out of showing games in what is now the current campaign.
Goalie Jordan Hollett had a stellar game for the Tigers.
    While the Raiders versus Tigers game wasn’t on television, it should be referred to as a selling feature of how great games in the WHL can be. Whether news of the game spreads by word of mouth or by fans over social media channels, it was a game that is worthy of water cooler chat.
    That contest had so many turning points you could point to almost anything in being the difference in the game.
    Besides the teams getting up and down the ice, the biggest talking point would have been the goalies, who were both outstanding. Ian Scott, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 168 pounds, had a solid night making 34 saves over 65 minutes before the game went to a shootout, where he was beaten twice. The quality of saves Scott made were high, and the Calgary product showed he is one of the circuit’s elite goalies.
Ian Scott of the Raiders showed he is one of the WHL’s elite goalies.
    Tigers netminder Jordan Hollett, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 210 pounds, was even better turning away 49 shots over 65 minutes and both shooters he faced in the shootout. The Langley, B.C., product, who was the Regina Pats backup goalie last season, proved he is ready for a primetime starting role.
    If video of Hollett’s performance made it down to Regina, you would likely have some Pats fans gripping the 18-year-old puck stopper should have been the goalie the Pats kept in a season where that team hosts the Memorial Cup this coming May.
    The star players came out to play on both sides. Overage centre Jordy Stallard, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 179 pounds, potted a pair of goals to continue to lead the Raiders in scoring with 21 goals and 20 assists in 29 games. Stallard’s play was complimented by Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid post-game.
Jordy Stallard tops the Raiders in scoring.
    “He (Stallard) plays quality minutes,” said Habscheid, whose team is 11-11-5-2 so far this season. “He plays a lot of minutes, but he responds.
    “He has scored some big goals for us, and he has been a good player for us.”
    Tigers overage captain Mark Rassell, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 186 pounds, scored twice, picked up an assist and potted his team’s first goal in the tiebreaking shootout. He leads the Tigers in scoring with 27 goals and 12 assists in 29 games. Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston said Rassell has been another one of those skilled and speedy players the team seems to constantly find that overlooked.
    “He is such a great story for so many young players, and we’ve had a few of them,” said Clouston, whose team is 17-11-1. “He is the next guy who didn’t play at (age) 16.
    “He wasn’t drafted. He was a list player and undersized. He just happened to grow, and now he is one of our bigger guys.
    “He just stayed the course, stayed positive. He was in and out of the lineup at 17 and became a full-time player at 18 and then at 19 tore it up. He has picked up where he left off last year and even taking it up a notch.”
    There were key performances by others. Eric Pearce, who is a 16-year-old rookie centre, tipped home the Raiders fourth goal of the game.
Captain Mark Rassell has been lighting it up offensively for the Tigers.
    The Raiders showed they have a couple of players that can move the puck well from the defence in Vojtech Budik and Max Martin.
    Tigers rearguard David Quenneville might be the best offensive-defenceman in the WHL. The 19-year-old veteran picked up his 10th goal of the season on Wednesday to go with his 24 assists in another outstanding campaign.
    Right-winger Max Gerlach showed he still has one of the best shots in the league, when he wired home the shootout winner.
    No matter who you cheered for on Wednesday night, the clash between the Raiders and the Tigers was a showstopper, and it is always worthy of discussion.

Goalies rule Canada West women’s hockey

Huskies goalie Jessica Vance has a .955 save percentage so far  this season.
    The goalies have to be give their due in the Canada West Conference in U Sports women’s hockey.
    With a little over half of the regular season now in the books, goal scoring has been a challenge for the eight teams in the Canada West Conference. Only star forward Venla Hovi of the University of Manitoba Bisons is averaging a point a game with four goals and eight assists in 16 appearances.
    On the other end, five of the conference’s goalies have a save percentage that is .950 or better. Kelsey Roberts of the University of Calgary Dinos has the best save percentage in the conference at .959 to go with her 6-7-1 record, 1.46 goals against average and five shutouts.
    The goalies are straight out just getting it done.
    The Dinos are tied with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for giving up the fewest goals in the conference at 23.
    The Huskies have three second-year goalies who have combined for six shutouts. Jessica Vance has three shutouts, Chloe Marshall has two shutouts and Jasey Book has one shutout.
Vance has the third best save percentage in Canada West at .955 to go with her 4-2 record and 1.18 goals against average.
    To further show just how tough it has been to score in Canada West, Kaitlin Willoughby, who is the third all-time leading scorer in the history of the Huskies, has five goals and five assists in 14 appearances, but sits only four points back of Bisons forward Jordyn Zacharias for the conference’s scoring lead.
    There are a tonne of good goalies in the Canada West Conference in women’s hockey and right now they are a step ahead of the conference’s point producers.

Kish makes a step up with Cougars

Jane Kish has brought her game up another level playing for the Cougars.
    Jane Kish is one of those elite performers who keeps getting better.
    The third-year goalie with the University of Regina Cougars women’s team has brought her game up another level from the previous season. While she had a great campaign in her sophomore season, Kish, who stands 5-foot-4, had a tendency to go down a little early playing the butterfly style and due to her short height, the top part of the net was exposed.
    The book to beat Kish was to shoot the puck high and put it over her shoulders.
    This season, Kish is still playing the butterfly style but is staying upright to take away the top part of the net. Now, the Weyburn, Sask., product has become that much more of a difficult goalie to beat.
    During the Cougars last two games against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, Kish was beaten only once by a gritty net scramble power-play goal. She turned back 54-of-55 shots in those two contests.
    On the season, Kish has posted a 6-4-1 record, a 1.26 goals against average, a .951 save percentage and two shutouts. Her goals against average is the third lowest in the conference and her save percentage is the fourth highest.
    Back in 2014, Kish backstopped her hometown Weyburn Gold Wings to an Esso Cup title for female midget AAA hockey national supremacy. She has the mental toughness to take a team all the way. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she repeated what she did in midget AAA at the university level.

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