Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Expect Golden Bears and Huskies to play for keeps

“Forever Rivals” battle in Canada West final once again

The Huskies and Golden Bears will renew their rivalry.
    Don’t expect the participants in the Canada West Conference championship series to coast into the University Cup.
    For the third straight year, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team will face the University of Alberta Golden Bears for the Canada West title. The Huskies won the conference title in 2016, while the Golden Bears took the conference crown last year.
    As has been the case for the previous three years, the two participants in the Canada West final automatically earned berths into the U Sports national championship tournament the University Cup.   
    The University Cup runs March 15 to 18 and is being hosted by the defending U Sports champion University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in Fredericton, N.B., for a second straight year.
    While the Huskies and Golden Bears knew they had berths locked up at the University Cup each of the past two years, they still played for keeps when they met in the Canada West final. In case anyone has forgotten, this is an old school pure sports rivalry.
    These two teams do have some respect for each other, but there is also a healthy dislike for one another that goes along with that respect. The dislike becomes obvious in the head-to-head encounters.
Jesse Forsberg had another stellar season on the Huskies back end.
    Unlike the past two years, the Canada West championship series this year won’t be held at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    On the strength of finishing first in Canada West with a 23-4-1 record, the Golden Bears will host this year’s best-of-three series at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, Alta., with Game 1 set for Friday. The Golden Bears are rated second in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    The Huskies, who finished second in Canada West with a 20-7-1 mark, will be the underdogs. They are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    Fans in Edmonton love getting into this rivalry, and it is expected the Golden Bears will do their best to cram over 2,500 spectators into their home rink.
    The Huskies are also beat up on the injury front. Star netminder Jordon Cooke is on crutches and is out for the rest of the post-season. On Wednesday, he was named Canada West’s goalie-of-the-year for a third straight year.
    The team’s first line of Michael Sofillas, Josh Roach and Logan McVeigh are all battling injuries along with sophomore forward Wyatt Johnson.
    Johnson, who has a concussion, isn’t expected to be available. Roach has the highest likelihood of being ready for Game 1 out of the trio from the injured first line.
Luke Philp topped Canada West in scoring.
    The Golden Bears have all their top players at their disposal. Sophomore forward Luke Philp topped Canada West in scoring with 11 goals and 29 assists. He was named Canada West’s player-of-the-year.
    Fellow sophomore forward Trevor Cox was fourth in Canada West scoring with seven goals and 27 assists.
    Fourth-year forward Stephane Legault was fifth in conference scoring with eight goals and 22 assists. Centre Steven Owre, who was named Canada West’s rookie-of-the-year, sat ninth in Canada West scoring with 17 goals and 11 assists.
    Defensive forward and captain Riley Kieser had another solid campaign appearing in 25 regular season games recording five goals, eight assists and a plus-14 rating in the plus-minus department.
    Jason Fram, who was named Canada West’s defenceman-of-the-year, is the quarterback on the power play for the Golden Bears netting nine goals and 14 assists appearing in all 28 regular season games to lead all defencemen on his team in scoring.
    Sophomore Brendan Burke is expected to carry the load in goal for U of A. In 15 appearances in the regular season, Burke posted an 11-2-1 record, a 2.03 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts.
    Burke combined with goaltending partner Zach Sawchenko to take Canada West honours as the due with the lowest goals against average at 2.14.
    Roach, who was named Canada West’s sportsmanship and ability award winner, topped the Huskies in scoring collecting 13 goals and 24 assists in 27 regular season games to finish second in scoring in Canada West. Jesse Forsberg had another strong season for the Dogs recording five goals, 15 assists and a plus-15 rating to further cement his reputation as an elite offensive defenceman.
Huskies D Tanner Lishchynsky, left, tracks Golden Bears F Taylor Cooper.
    Due to all their injuries, the Huskies will have to rely on their character guys to carry the load. Their gritty forward unit of fifth-year centre John Lawrence, fourth-year right-winger Parker Thomas and rookie left-winger Alex Forsberg has turned heads as being the line that can play physical and provide offence.
    Forsberg, who has quite a bit of offensive skill, finished third in team scoring for the Huskies posting 11 goals and 12 assists in 24 regular season appearances. Thomas, who is the most gritty player on the unit, had career highs in goals (seven) and assists (10) appearing in 27 regular season games. Lawrence, who is known as a defensive forward, had eight goals and eight assists to go along with a plus-15 rating appearing in all 28 of the Huskies regular season games.
    The Huskies do have depth up front and will look to get scoring by committee from the likes of Kohl Bauml, Levi Cable, Collin Shirley, Carson Stadnyk and Connor Gay.
    Captain Kendall McFaull, who was named the winner of Canada West’s student-athlete community service award, anchors a steady defensive back end.
The Golden Bears hold up Huskies centre John Lawrence.
    Taran Kozun, who was the WHL goaltender of the year in the 2014-15 campaign when he was with the Seattle Thunderbirds, will carry the load in goal for the Huskies in relief of the injured Cooke. Kozun posted a 4-0-1 record, a 2.00 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and one shutout in five regular season appearances in his rookie campaign. In the playoffs, Kozun has a 2-1 record, a 2.09 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
    During the regular season, the Golden Bears won three out of the four head-to-head meetings with the Huskies, and U of A will be sizable favourites to take the Canada West championship over a U of S side that is hampered by injuries.
    Don’t expect the Huskies to go quietly. They have shown their perseverance so far in the post-season, and they will put in the effort to ensure there are no guarantees of the final outcome of this series.
    Due to the intensity of this rivalry, there will likely be some unpredictable plot twists. Expect to see some compelling must-watch drama in these encounters.
    NOTE - University of British Columbia Thunderbirds head coach Sven Butenschon took home honours as the Canada West coach-of-the-year, while the Mount Royal University Cougars won the Canada West Fair Play Trophy as the team with the fewest penalty minutes during the regular season at 312.

Vance named Canada West MVP

Huskies G Jessica Vance was named the Canada West MVP.
    Jessica Vance couldn’t have been shutout from capturing the highest individual honour in Canada West women’s hockey.
    On Wednesday, the 20-year-old netminder for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team was named the most valuable player of the Canada West Conference. Vance posted a 14-3-1 record, a 0.77 goals against average, a .964 save percentage and nine shutouts.
    She tied for the second most individual shutouts posted in one regular season in the history of the Canada West Conference equaling the nine put up by former U of Alberta Pandas netminder Stacey McCullough in the 2000-01 campaign. Former U of Alberta Pandas goalie Lindsey Post holds the Canada West record for most shutouts in one regular season at 10 set back in the 2014-15 campaign.
    Thanks to Vance’s effort, the Huskies set a new team record for most wins in one regular season at 19 finishing second in the conference with a 19-7-2 record.
    In the post-season, the Huskies will play the U of Manitoba Bisons in a best-of-three Canada West championship series that beings win Game 1 on Friday in Winnipeg, Man. Game 2 and if necessary Game 3 will be held Saturday and Sunday respectively in Winnipeg.
    The Bison finished first in Canada West with a 22-5-1 record.
    The Herd is rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, while the Huskies are rated eighth.
Bisons G Lauren Taraschuk was named the Canada West rookie-of-the-year.
    U of M netminder Lauren Taraschuk was named the Canada West rookie-of-the-year on Wednesday. The 18-year-old Winnipeg, Man., product appeared in 12 regular season games posting a 10-2 record, a 0.71 goals against average, a .961 save percentage and five shutouts. Taraschuk has become the Bisons main starter in goal for the post-season.
    Bisons head coach John Rempel was named the Canada West coach of the year for a second straight year.
    Third-year Defender Mikayla Ogrodniczuk of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds won Canada West’s student-athlete community service award.
    Both the Huskies and Bisons have berths lock up at the U Sports nationals, which run March 15 to 18 in London, Ont., and are hosted by the University of Western Ontario Mustangs.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 24 February 2018

#24 shines brightly on Huskies in thrilling Game 3 playoff win

Carson Stadnyk reacts to scoring his Game 3 series winning goal for the Huskies.
    When the dust settled, it seemed like the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team was ordained to win their final playoff game at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    On Saturday night, the Dogs were locked in a 1-1 tie late in the third period with the University of Calgary Dinos in a series deciding Game 3 of a Canada West best-of-three semifinal set. Inside of the final 30 seconds, Huskies offensive defenceman Jesse Forsberg flipped a smart pass into the Dinos zone to spring sophomore left-winger Carson Stadnyk on a breakaway.
Carson Stadnyk (#16) pots his series winning goal for the Huskies.
    Stadnyk broke towards the U of C goal and flipped a shot past Dinos rookie goalie Jordan Papirny with exactly 24 seconds remaining to play in the frame to give the Huskies a 2-1 edge. Third-year right-winger Levi Cable added an empty-net goal with three seconds to play to round out a 3-1 victory for the Huskies.
    The win allowed the Huskies to take the best-of-three series with the Dinos 2-1.
    “I just blacked out,” said Stadnyk about his series winning goal. “I didn’t even know what was going on.
    “Jesse (Forsberg) just flicked it to the middle, and it just went off my hand twice. It just quickly went past their D-man. I had no time to shoot, so I just flicked it.
Carson Stadnyk rushes up ice for the Huskies.
    “Just from there, I had no idea what happened.”
    U of S advances to the best-of-three Canada West championship series to face the defending conference champion University of Alberta Golden Bears. Game 1 of that series is expected to start on Friday in Edmonton, Alta. That means all futures Huskies men’s hockey playoff games will be held at Merlis Belsher Place, which is the new twin pad rink being constructed at the U of S.
    The Huskies, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, also earned a berth in the U Sports national championship tournament, which runs March 15 to 18 and is being hosted by the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in Fredericton, N.B.
    When Stadnyk scored, the time remaining in the third period matched the #24 worn by the late Cody Smuk, who was the Huskies hard-working, glue guy and heart and soul forward who passed away from cancer in June of 2015.
Alex Forsberg scored the first goal on Saturday for the Huskies.
    Only four players remain on the Huskies roster that were teammates with Smuk during his final season in 2013-14 in captain Kendall McFaull, Connor Cox, Josh Roach and John Lawrence.
    Smuk would have definitely smiled seeing the current Huskies enjoying a final playoff Rutherford memory.
    After Stadnyk scored, he was buried under a dogpile by the four other Huskies skaters on the ice.
    “I just remember running to Jesse (Forsberg), and I had no idea,” said Stadnyk. “I just got pounded on, and it was awesome.
    “Even coming to the bench, we were all loving it.”
    Alex Forsberg scored for the Huskies at the 2:52 mark of the first period to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. A tight checking and very physical contest ensued from that point with both teams throwing a number of big hits.
The Game 3 clash between the Huskies and Dinos was physical.
    When centre Logan Fisher scored for the Dinos at the 6:38 mark of the third to tie things up at 1-1, it appeared Saturday’s clash could head for overtime. All that tally did was set up the dramatics at the end of the third period.
    “They have a hell of a team over there,” said Stadnyk. “It just came down to one play, and we were on the right side of the one play.
    “We got the luck there. We’re a tight group of guys here. It was just awesome to win that and just go from here now with these guys.”
    Rookie netminder Taran Kozun made 23 stops to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies. The Nipawin, Sask., product has been playing in place of star netminder Jordon Cooke, who was injured early in the Huskies 6-4 victory over the Dinos in Game 1 on Thursday.
Goalie Taran Kozun catches a high dump in for the Huskies.
    Cooke is on crutches and his return during the rest of the Huskies playoff run is uncertain.
    Kozun, who was named the WHL goaltender of the year in the 2014-15 campaign when he was with the Seattle Thunderbirds, was solid playing in relief of Cooke.
    “It is a huge opportunity and a huge win,” said Kozun. “I’ve battled with Cookie all year (in practice).
    “He is one hell of a goalie, (and) one hell of a leader. Everything I’ve done out there today is all from watching him all year (like) how calm he stays all the time.
    “I’m just trying to do my best to be like him. I just have to thank the boys for stepping up big too. They made my night a lot easier just playing hard every night.”
    Papirny turned away 29-of-31 shots to take the setback in goal for the Dinos, who are rated 10th in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    Huskies head coach Dave Adolph had some fun in the post-game media scrum saying his team designed the dramatic finish.
Netminder Jordan Papirny makes a stop for the Dinos.
    “A good NFL coach they run it down,” said Adolph. “They run the clock down to the last 10 seconds and work it inside the five yard-line and make sure the opposition doesn’t have any time left on the clock to run a play, and that is what we did.
    “That was our plan was to get the rolling bouncing puck to Connor McDavid, and then watch him dribble it in.”
    On the more serious front, Adolph said depth was key in helping his Huskies get past the Dinos. The Huskies entire first line of Michael Sofillas, Roach and Logan McVeigh were all out due to injury along with sophomore centre Wyatt Johnson.
    The U of S bench boss hopes to have a few of his injured players back by the time U Sports nationals comes around, but he was pleased with how the team’s talented reserves filled in.
The Huskies celebrate an empty-net goal from Levi Cable (#10).
    “Guys step up,” said Adolph. “Carson Stadnyk stepped up.
    “I thought Collin Shirley had a great night. Kozie (Taran Kozun) is a really good player. Man does he handle the puck.
    “Sam Ruopp stepped in tonight. That is what it is all about. It is all the unsung heroes that now get an opportunity to see what it is all about.”
    Adolph said another big thing that helped the Huskies was the return of one of his long time assistant coaches who stepped away at the end of last season.
    “We brought Troy Walkington back,” said Adolph. “Nobody ever talks about that.
    “He wasn’t going to coach this year. He was just going to be around. We asked him to come back and run our power play, and our power play has been spectacular the last three weeks.
    “There are a lot of guys that deserve an awful big thank you.”
The Huskies celebrate their Canada West semifinal series win.
    Now the Huskies turn their attention to the next step in the playoff trail. Stadnyk said his team can be excited about earning a berth at U Sports nationals, but the squad’s first focus has to be the Canada West Conference championship series.
    “We still have one more series to go here,” said Stadnyk. “We are going to go there as hard as we can and be a tight knit group and do what we do best.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Huskies send Thunderbirds packing in intense rivalry clash

Chloe Smith is mobbed by her linemates after scoring the series winning goal for the Huskies.
    It was a game that possibly foreshadowed a passing of the torch.
    In an intense rivalry clash against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, the leader of today and maybe the leader of the future gave the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team an emotional and hard fought victory at the ancient Rutherford Rink on Saturday afternoon.
    Captain Kaitlin Willoughby and rookie centre Chloe Smith deliver clutch second period goals to erase a 1-0 deficit and deliver the Huskies to a 2-1 victory in Game 2 of a Canada West semifinal series.
Kaitlin Willoughby had a big power-play goal.
    With the win, the Huskies sweep the best-of-three set 2-0. They advance to the best-of-three Canada West Championship series to play the winner of the other conference semifinal between the host University of Manitoba Bisons and the defending U Sports national champion University of Alberta Pandas. The Pandas lead that best-of-three series 1-0 going into play today.
    Between the regular season and playoffs, the Huskies won all six head-to-head meetings with the Thunderbirds.
    The Huskies also earn a berth into the U Sports national championship tournament to be held March 15 to 18 hosted by the University of Western Ontario Mustangs in London, Ont.
    “It feels pretty good,” said Smith. “Words can’t do it justice right now.
    “I think we are all pretty excited. We got in the spot that we wanted to be this year in second place. We battled through and finished off UBC, so I think everyone is pretty excited right now.”
    The Huskies victory over the Thunderbirds on Saturday was similar to a rivalry game from the Western Hockey League in the 1980s. There were all sorts of battles all over the ice, big hits, beaks and dives from the visitors.
    “We actually talked a bit before the game about our mental attitude,” said Willoughby about dealing with the intensity of the rivalry. “We have to stay positive.
    “Every so often we just have to check our emotions on the bench and say, “How are we feeling right now?” We have to make sure that we are staying positive, because when you think positive, I’m a believer that positive things will happen.
Saturday’s clash between the Huskies and Thunderbirds had a few hits.
    “That was our saying constantly. We just had to help each other out. From the beginning, we did that, and that is how we got through today. It was a battle out there. That was probably one of the hardest hockey games I’ve ever playing in my life.”
    Despite all the extra-curricular activities, the Thunderbirds, who won the last two straight Canada West titles, came out flying in the opening 15 minutes of the first period. At the 10:38 mark of the opening frame, Thunderbirds fifth-year defender Alexa Ranahan scored with a point shot through a screen to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
    With 8:33 to play in the first, the Thunderbirds held an 8-3 edge in shots on goal. The Huskies started to build momentum near the end of the frame working on a four-minute power play due to the fact Thunderbirds fifth-year left-winger Kathleen Cahoon received a double minor for butt ending a U of S player with her stick.
Jessica Vance made 27 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies.
    The Huskies didn’t score on that power play but held and 11-9 edge in shots on goal after the frame.
    Smith said the Huskies coaches settled things down in the first period.
    “I think everyone just had a lot of nerves,” said Smith. “We were up one game.
    “UBC was kind of getting under our skin a little bit. Our coaches came in and told the girls look, just calm down and play our game. We know how to play and that is what we did, so that is what changed for the second period and the third.”
    In the second, Willoughby and Smith delivered their heroic moments.
    At the 11:20 mark of the second, Willoughby one-timed a power-play goal from the left wing boards past Thunderbirds netminder Amelia Boughn to make the crowd at the Rutherford erupt. The Prince Albert, Sask., product’s goal tied things up at 1-1.
Emma Nutter had a big third period hit for the Huskies.
    Just over three minutes later, Smith drove into the offensive zone and blew home what would turn out to be the winning goal to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
    In the final seconds of the second, Huskies netminder Jessica Vance robbed Thunderbirds right-winger Cassandra Vilgrain to preserve the one-goal edge for the host side.
    “That first period was not a good period for us hockey wise and mental wise,” said Huskies head coach Steve Kook. “They pulled it together.
    “We have a heck of leadership group over there. Whatever they said and whatever they found within themselves to calm down or just play hockey. That is the female game.
    “You can get wrapped up in a whole bunch of stuff, but if you take care of the puck, then things generally work out, and that is what we did.”
    The intensity hit big heights in the third, but Vance held the fort making 27 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies. Fourth-year netminder Amelia Boughn turned away 25 shots to take the setback in goal for the Thunderbirds.
A scrum breaks out at the end of the game in front of the Huskies goal.
    The physical play kept up as Thunderbirds fourth-year centre Logan Boyd hit Huskies fifth-year defender Kira Bannatyne early in the third, and Huskies physical third-year defender Emma Nutter wiped out Cahoon near the midway point of the frame.
    As the clock ticked to zero, a huge scrum developed in front of the Huskies goal, which included Willoughby exchanging words with Thunderbirds centre Mathea Fischer.
    Smith said the Huskies received huge leadership from their captain.
    “Kaitlin (Willoughby) has been leading our team all season long,” said Smith. “She is an unreal captain.
    “She is hands down unreal on the ice. She always creates plays and helps out our team. On and off the ice, she is always a voice in the dressing room and gets our spirits up.
The Huskies alums cheer on the current Huskies.
    “She is a fantastic captain, and it is nice to have her on our side.”
    Willoughby was happy to see Smith net the game winner.
    “It was awesome,” said Willoughby. “I love seeing girls like that score.
    “Everyone is a great contribution to our team, and they are the reasons that we are here. Chloe (Smith), she has had lot of chances in the games, and I was so glad that she could capitalize on that tonight.”
    Willoughby is one of four players remaining on the Huskies that was part of the Canada West championship winning team from the 2013-14 campaign that also won a bronze medal at U Sports nationals.
The Huskies celebrate their series sweep over the Thunderbirds.
    The others include Bannatyne, who had a number of shot blocks and broke up a few scoring chances on Saturday, and checking centre Kennedy Harris and speedy right-winger Kori Herner.
    The Huskies captain is looking forward to what is ahead.
    “It feels amazing,” said Willoughby. “I think it feels even better than the first time.
    “I think it feels even better than the first time. I’m so excited. Emotions are high right now, but it is all settling in, and I couldn’t be happier right now.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 23 February 2018

Dinos bite back to force Game 3 with Huskies

Adam Kambeitz (#9) celebrates scoring the winning goal for the Dinos.
    For much of Friday night, the University of Calgary Dinos men’s hockey team mimicked the NHL’s New Jersey Devils during the era when the Devils won Stanley Cups.
    Needing a win to stay alive in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series against the host University of Saskatchewan Huskies at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Dinos clutch, grabbed, held and trapped their opponents. The tactics worked as the Dinos grinded out a 2-1 victory to even the series up at 1-1.
    A series deciding Game 3 will be held between the two sides on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.
Netminder Jordan Papirny makes one of his 27 saves on Friday.
    In order to survive Friday’s elimination game, the Dinos, who are rated 10th in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, elected to start rookie Jordan Papirny in goal in place of sophomore Matthew Greenfield. Papirny comes to the Dinos as no ordinary rookie carrying a pedigree from his WHL days as being a money goalie come playoff time.
    The Edmonton, Alta., product won nine playoffs series during his time in the major junior ranks, backstopped the Brandon Wheat Kings to an appearance in the WHL championship series in 2015 and to a WHL title in 2016. As an overager last season, Papirny almost powered the Swift Current Broncos to a surprising second round upset of the Regina Pats forcing the Pats to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to take the set in a deciding Game 7.
Dinos LW Ryan Graham (#23) ties up Huskies D Tanner Lishchynsky.
    Papirny’s calm was evident in the Dinos goal, and he was solid making 27 saves. While Papirny did his part, the skaters in front of him ensured the netminder had to just be solid and not spectacular to get the win.
    The Dinos started out grinding down the contest in the opening 20 minutes holding a slim 7-6 edge in shots on goal. In that frame, they utilized a lot of clutching, grabbing and tight checking tactics to prevent the Huskies from getting up ice with speed. The first period was full of little one-on-one hand fighting matches between the two sides.
    With 46 seconds to play in the first period, Dinos fifth-year centre Chris Collins circled around from behind the Huskies net and roofed a shot to the top left corner of the U of S goal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Huskies D Jordan Fransoo (#6) battles Dinos D Dylan Busenius for the puck.
    In the second period, it appeared the Huskies, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, were going to take over the game. Just 13 seconds into the frame, left-winger Alex Forsberg ripped a shot off the post of the U of C goal.
    From that point, the Huskies were constantly in the Dinos zone during the second period holding a 14-4 edge in shots on goal. At the 6:37 mark of the frame, third-year right-winger Levi Cable knocked home a gritty power-play goal from in front of the Dinos net to tie things up at 1-1.
    After Cable scored, Papirny ensured the Huskies weren’t able to jump ahead. Late in the frame, he made a huge glove stop to deny Huskies centre Jordan Tkatch on a breakaway. The save on Tkatch came during a period of time when the Huskies were coming at the Dinos in waves.
Netminder Taran Kozun stops a high shot for the Huskies.
    In the third, the Dinos gained the upper hand by playing the trap for most of the frame. They were able to get the puck deep in the Huskies zone, sent in one forechecker and had their other four skaters clog up all the space in the centre ice zone.
    The visitors broke through with the winning goal to go up 2-1 at the 7:53 mark of the third, when fifth-year centre Adam Kambeitz scored after getting about two or three whacks at the puck in front of Huskies netminder Taran Kozun.
    Following Kambeitz’s goal, the Huskies appeared to be fighting to get out of quicksand, when they attempted to work their way up ice. The hosts turned the puck over a number of times in the third allowing the Dinos to hold a 12-8 edge in shots on goal.
    The Huskies had a chance to regroup with an extended 16-minute timeout to replace a broken pane of glass in the Dinos end with 3:23 remaining in the third. The pane of glass broke when Huskies captain Kendall McFaull missed a hit and his elbow shattered it.
Levi Cable scored a power-play goal for the Huskies.
    When play resumed, the Dinos continued to successfully muddy of the centre ice zone to prevent the Huskies from getting the equalizer.
    Kozun had a solid outing making 21 saves to take the setback in goal for the Huskies. The Nipawin, Sask., product played admirably in place of injured starter Jordon Cooke.
    Cooke went down in the first period of the Huskies 6-4 win over the Dinos in Game 1 on Thursday when he was hit by a scrum of players. He is on crutches forcing the Huskies to dress U of S student Brett Lewchuk of the Kenaston Blizzard of the Sask Valley Hockey League as the backup goalie. The Sask Valley Hockey League is a rural senior league.
The Dinos celebrate their Game 2 win over the Huskies.
    In the end, goaltending didn’t make the different in Friday’s encounter. The Dinos won, because they did a better job of executing their overall team game plan.
    The best part of the Canada West Conference in U Sports men’s hockey is all the teams are mostly made up of standout former WHLers as well as stars from the junior A ranks. These players are good at making adjustments, so there is never a certainly a result will repeat on a following night.
    In a series deciding Game 3, the deciding factor will likely hinge on who wants the game more.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Puck luck finally falling in favour of Huskies’ Haubrich

U of S grinds out victory in Canada West semifinal opener

Brooklyn Haubrich scored win winning goal for the Huskies.
    Brooklyn Haubrich slammed a gorilla off her back.
    The third-year feisty centre with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team is finally having some luck around the net after going through a goal drought of just over two years in length. On Friday afternoon at the ancient Rutherford Rink, Haubrich completed a tick-tack-toe passing play from linemates Emily Upgang and captain Kaitlin Willoughby to score for the Huskies.
    Haubrich’s goal put the Huskies up 1-0 with 6:24 to play in the first period in Game 1 of a Canada West semifinal series against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
    Willoughby centred a pass from behind the UBC net perfect to Haubrich in front of the goal, and she wasted no time in burying her tally. The Hodgeville, Sask., product’s marker held up as the winner as the Huskies blanked the Thunderbirds, who have won the last two Canada West titles, 2-0.
The Huskies celebrate Brooklyn Haubrich’s first period goal.
    “Honestly, I feel like I’m having good contact with the puck,” said Haubrich. “Obviously, that shot was a shot I just didn’t even thing.
    “I just tried to bury it, and I did. I feel good. I feel like I can put pucks to the net.
    “It is a good feeling going into playoffs.”
    With the win, the Huskies lead the best-of-three series 1-0. They will look to close out the set in Game 2 on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Rutherford.
    Between the regular season and playoffs, the Huskies have won all five head-to-head encounters with the Thunderbirds in 2017-18.
Huskies C Brooklyn Haubrich rubs a UBC player off in the boards.
    Haubrich’s only regular season goal in the 2017-18 U Sports campaign came on February 10, when she scored into an empty net to cap a 3-0 victory over the Mount Royal University Cougars in Calgary. That contest was the Huskies last game before playoffs.
    Before that goal against the Cougars, Haubrich’s previous tally came in her rookie season with the Huskies, when she scored in a 3-1 win on January 29, 2016 against the University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg.
    In her rookie campaign in 2015-16, Haubrich appeared in all 28 of the Huskies regular season games recording four goals and three assists. Last season, she was limited to 18 regular season games due to battling a concussion injury around midseason. She had three assists in that campaign playing on a checking line.
Captain Kaitlin Willoughby drives a shot on goal for the Huskies.
    This season, Haubrich has centred the Huskies top line with Upgang and Willoughby. The high-energy forward, who stands 5-foot-4, appeared in all of the Huskies 28 regular season games recording one goal, nine assists and a plus-13 rating in the plus-minus category.
    While she didn’t find the back of the net until the last regular season game, Haubrich said Upgang and Willoughby were always behind her no matter what happened.
    “It got a little frustrating, when they would set me up point blank, and I couldn’t bury for them,” said Haubrich. “They’ve been so good this year, and they’ve been kind of carrying me along for the ride I guess you could say.
Emily Upgang picked up an assist in the Huskies win on Friday.
    “They are so skilled. My goal was all kudos to them. They did all the work for it.
    “They’ve been awesome. I can’t be happier to play with anyone else.”
    Huskies head coach Steve Kook was pleased to see Haubrich come through on the scoreboard and believed his snakebitten by extremely hard-working centre would find the back of the net. Kook was happy to see Haubrich score against the Thunderbirds on Friday.
    “She (Haubrich) was in the right spot at the right time,” said Kook. “We talked about being in the right spot and arriving on time.
    “If being on time and doing things right is feisty, then that is good. We don’t know when she is going to pot the goal, but she generates a whole lot of chances for us.”
Kira Bannatyne (#20) lets out a yell after scoring for the Huskies.
    In the win over the Thunderbirds, the Huskies had one of their best performances of the season. Just past the halfway point of the third period, they received a key insurance marker form fifth-year defender Kira Bannatyne.
    Taking the puck from left-winger Bailee Bourassa, Bannatyne went coast-to-coast and beat Thunderbirds sophomore netminder Tory Micklash with a smart mid height shot blocker side.
Micklash made 30 saves to give the Thunderbirds a chance to win the game.
    Star sophomore netminder Jessica Vance, who is a first team Canada West all-star, turned away 22 shots to pick up the shutout in goal for the Huskies in her first career U Sports post-season start.
    The Thunderbirds had their chances to score. Early in the second period, fourth year left-winger Emily Costales rang a shot off the post.
Netminder Jessica Vance made 22 saves to pick up a shutout for the Huskies.
    Late in the third period, the Thunderbirds pulled Micklash while working on a power play in a push to try and tie the game.
    While Vance had a strong game, she had help from her defence. Third-year defender Morgan Willoughby had a couple of key shot blocks in the third and she broke up another potential scoring chance in the third in front of the Huskies goal.
    Kook was pleased with his side’s overall performance.
    “I thought for the first 10 minutes we were pretty good at handling what they were chucking at us,” said Kook. “They came at us full force there.
    “We knew that the first 10 minutes was going to be a little bit of a whirlwind. I thought we handled that pretty good. We calmed down and started to play our game a little bit.
The Huskies celebrate their Game 1 victory over the Thunderbirds.
    “The last five minutes for us was outstanding. We just played with a lot of composure. I think that was the difference maker for us.”
    Haubrich said her team will face a big challenge in trying to eliminate the Thunderbirds, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, from the post-season on Saturday.
    “We know this team is going to come out flying, and I think we have to be able to match their level,” said Haubrich, who is a former captain of the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats female midget AAA team. “Hopefully, we can come out on top and beat them in two.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Resilient Huskies rally past Dinos 6-4

Star goalie Cooke leaves Game 1 of playoff series with injury

Jordan Tkatch, second from left, celebrates a short-handed goal.
    For a moment, it looked pretty dark for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.
    On Thursday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Dogs found themselves trailing the University of Calgary Dinos 3-0 at the 14:01 mark of the first period in Game 1 of a best-of-three Canada West semifinal playoff series. On the Dinos first goal, a scrum of players crashed into Huskies netminder Jordon Cooke, who was recently named a first team Canada West all-star for a third straight year.
    Cooke had to be helped to the dressing room after stopping 6-of-7 shots sent his way, and Leduc, Alta., product didn’t look to be in very good shape. He didn’t return to the game. It seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong for the U of S side.
Jordan Tkatch scored twice for the Huskies on Thursday night.
    After falling behind 3-0, the Huskies proceeded to catch fire, rolled off five straight goals to go ahead 5-3 and took the opening game of their playoff series with the Dinos 6-4. U of S will try to close out the series in Game 2 on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Rutherford.
    “Your starting goalie goes down and not much worse can happen,” said sophomore Huskies centre Jordan Tkatch, whose team is rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. “We showed our character.
    “When we play our game, that is all that matters. When we play our game, we know what we can do, and it showed tonight.”
    Fifth-year defenceman Brayden Sherbinin scored the Dinos first goal at the 6:59 mark of the opening frame to give the visitors a 1-0 edge. Cooke was injured after Sherbinin’s goal went into the Huskies net.
Parker Thomas scored 23 seconds into the second to spark the Huskies.
    U of C’s edge increased to 3-0 when centre Chris Collins potted his first of two markers in the contest and right-winger Riley Sheen added a single.
    With 3:16 to play in the first period, Tkatch tipped home a point shot from Huskies captain Kendall McFaull to cut the Dinos edge to 3-1.
    Just 23 seconds into the second period, right-winger Parker Thomas potted the rebound from an Alex Forsberg shot to further trim U of C’s lead to 3-2. Just 57 seconds after Thomas’s goal, fifth-year right-winger Josh Roach scored for the Huskies to force a 3-3 tie.
    At that point, the Dinos, who are rated 10th in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, called timeout to try and halt the host side’s momentum.
    Tkatch said the Huskies hit another gear after Parker scored.
Goalie Jordon Cooke, centre, is helped off the ice after being injured.
    “Everyone talks about momentum in playoff hockey,” said Tkatch. “We didn’t stay too high.
    “We kept going. When we got the third goal, we thought we had the game in control, and we just kept it all the way through.”
    The Huskies surge kept going. At the 6:24 mark of the second, Huskies star offensive defenceman Jesse Forsberg worked a give and go in the centre ice zone to get sprung on a breakaway. He beat Dinos goaltender Matthew Greenfield on a deke to give the Huskies a 4-3 lead.
    At the 8:59 mark of the second, Tkatch scored his second of the contest blowing home a short-handed goal to the top left corner of the U of C net to give the Huskies a 5-3 lead.
Jesse Forsberg celebrates his second period goal for the Huskies.
    “It was a two-on-two and the puck kind of poked back, and I was the late trailer and picked it up,” said Tkatch. “I just walked the blue-line and I shot through a screen, and it happened to go in.”
    Greenfield was pulled from the game after Tkatch’s short-handed goal turning away 22-of-27 shots to ultimately take the setback in the Dinos net. Rookie Jordan Papirny stopped all nine shot fired his way playing the rest of the way in relief for the Dinos.
    Shortly after entering the game, Papirny stopped Tkatch on a breakaway.
    Tkatch admitted he would have liked to have scored a hat trick marker on that play.
    “Obviously, who wouldn’t want to score another one,” said Tkatch. “At the end of the day, you can’t let that hold you back.
    “You just have to keep going and just worry about the game. We got the “W,” and that is all that mattered.”
The Huskies and Dinos engage in a third period scrum.
    Collins scored his second of the contest at the 6:30 mark of the third to cut the Huskies lead to 5-4 to create some suspense for the rest of the contest. Left-winger Alex Forsberg scored an empty-net goal for the Huskies with 96 seconds to play to seal the final outcome.
    Huskies rookie netminder Taran Kozun was beaten on the first shot faced taking over in the U of S goal after Cooke’s departure. Kozun found his groove and had a solid rest of the game turning away 19-of-22 shots fired his way to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies.
    Cooke’s status for Friday and possibly the rest of the U Sports men’s hockey playoffs, which conclude on March 18, is uncertain.
Taran Kozun made 19 saves to back the Huskies to victory.
    Tkatch was proud that his Huskies rebounded after their disastrous start on Thursday.
    “You can take that part of the game and go one way, and our team decided to go the other way,” said Tkatch. “Koz (Kozun) went in and we probably left him dry for the couple first goals against.
    “I think it was after the second goal our team really turned around and showed our character.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Monday, 19 February 2018

Huskies women’s hoopsters aim for more post-season glory

Head coach Lisa Thomaidis, left, and her Huskies continue to impress.
    It has become a special late February to the middle of March tradition in the sports scene of Saskatoon.
    Guided by head coach Lisa Thomaidis, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team is winning games in the post-season, and they will make a serious push for a Canada West Conference title and a U Sports national title. It seems like every generation that plays for the Huskies is hard working, talented and extremely likable.
    Fans can take the current generation of players to heart like group that won the program’s first U Sports national title in the 2015-16 campaign headed by fifth-years Laura Dally, Dalyce Emmerson, Kelsey Trulsrud and Taja Keujer. The same goes for the generations of players that came before the national title win under Thomaidis’s watch.
    Last year, the Huskies were supposed to take a step back due to having a younger squad with the turnover of the fifth-years that powered the team’s first national championship win. After posting a 15-5 record in the regular season in 2016-17, the Huskies won a second straight Canada West title, which wasn’t expected by most observers outside of the program.
    This season, the Huskies 17-3 regular season record was good enough to ensure the team was the seeded second in the Canada West playoffs. The Huskies are also rated seventh in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    In a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen held at U of S’s Physical Activity Complex, the Huskies took Game 1 last Thursday 76-58 but were given a slight scare after the Wesmen took Game 2 a day later 93-85.
Guard Sabine Dukate (#5) can do it all for the Huskies.
    In a series deciding Game 3 last Saturday, the Huskies showed the scare was minimal. They jumped out to a 28-14 lead after the first quarter and stormed to a 52-29 edge by halftime. The Huskies cruised to a 97-64 victory.
    Third-year guard Sabine Dukate, who is the only remaining starter from the national championship team, hit 6-of-11 shots from three-point range to lead the Huskies with 21 points. Star sophomore post Summer Masikewich added 17 points to aid the host side.
    Third-year guard Megan Ahlstrom and fifth-year forward Megan Lindquist chipped in 11 and 10 points respectively. Standout sophomore point guard Libby Epoch dished out eight assists to round out a strong night from the starting five.
    Third-year guard Maya Olynyk came off the bench to pitch in 12 points for the Huskies. Rookie post Kyla Shand and sophomore guard Kelsey Lalor added eight and seven points respectively play reserve roles as well for the host side.
    Teams that go far in the post-season usually get key contributions from everyone at different times, and the Huskies seemed to get contributions from everyone they dressed to prevail by a convincing margin in an elimination game.
    It is believed the win was the 400th overall victory for Thomaidis as head coach of the Huskies in matches against U Sports opponents. The Huskies have won five Canada West titles with Thomaidis as head coach.
    In players like Dukate, Epoch, Masikewich, Lalor, Ahlstrom and Shand, the Huskies have a core that is going to be good for two to three more seasons.
Kelsey Lalor (#12) is one of the many stellar young players on the Huskies.
    While the Huskies core is young, the future is now for this team as well.
    Their next task is to get past the Trinity Western University Spartans in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series. The Spartans will provide a big test finishing the regular season with a 16-4 record, and they are rated ninth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    Game 1 of that series is set for this coming Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Physical Activity Complex on the U of S campus. The Huskies and Spartans split their two regular season meetings.
    If the Huskies win that series, they will advance to the Canada West title game for a fifth straight year and earn a berth at U Sports nationals for a fifth straight year.
    Odds are high that the Huskies will add to what is becoming a storied playoff legacy.

Playoff opponents set for Huskies hockey teams

The Dinos and Huskies men’s hockey teams will meet in the playoffs.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey teams found out who their respective playoff foes will be over the weekend.
    Both Huskies squads earned byes to host best-of-three Canada West semifinal series thanks to respective second place finishes in the conference standings.
    On the men’s side, the Huskies, who were 20-7-1 in the regular season, will take on the U of Calgary Dinos, who had a 12-13-3 regular season record to finish fifth in Canada West. The Dinos forfeited their first six games in October due to using an ineligible player, which they self-disclosed as an error on their part.
    The Huskies took three out of the four head-to-head meetings with the Dinos, and none of those results came via forfeit.
    Game 1 of the series between the Huskies and Dinos is set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the ancient Rutherford Rink. Game 2 will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Rutherford, and if necessary, Game 3 is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Rutherford.
The T-birds and Huskies women’s hockey team will meet in the playoffs.
    The Huskies women’s hockey team will battle the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series in what should be a heated rivalry type encounter. This will mark the third time in the last five years the Huskies and Thunderbirds have met in the post-season.
    The Huskies posted a 19-7-2 record for 58 points in the standings to sit second in Canada West, while the Thunderbirds recorded a 19-5-4 record for 56 points in the standings to sit third in Canada West.
    In the Canada West women’s hockey standings, teams earn three points for regulation wins, two points for extra time wins and one point for extra time losses. The Huskies earned their 58 points on 18 regulation wins, one extra time win and two extra time losses. The Thunderbirds earned their 56 points on 14 regulation wins, five extra time wins and four extra time setbacks.
    Game 1 between the Huskies and Thunderbirds is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink. Game 2 is slated for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Rutherford, and if necessary, Game 3 will be held on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Rutherford.
    The winners of the Canada West semifinals will advance to their respective best-of-three Canada West Conference championship series and earn berths in their respective U Sports national champion tournaments.

Kustra delivers OT win in Edmonton to Blades

Jake Kustra had the overtime winner for the Blades on Monday night.
    Jake Kustra ensured his Saskatoon Blades concluded their four-game road trip on a winning note and with a winning record.
    On Monday night in Edmonton, the 18-year-old defenceman scored at the 1:37 mark of overtime on a beauty setup pass by overage winger Braylon Shmyr to lift the Blades to a 3-2 victory over the host Oil Kings in a WHL regular season match before 9,913 spectators at Rogers Place. The tally was Kustra’s fourth goal and second game-winner of the season.
    Shmyr scored late in the third period and centre Chase Wouters tallied at the 7:20 mark of the third to give the Blades a 2-0 lead.
    The Oil Kings received singles from Kobe Mohr at the 11:58 mark of the third and Trey Fix-Wolansky at the 16:44 mark of the third to force a 2-2 tie and send the contest to overtime. That set the stage for Kustra to come through with his heroics.
    Nolan Maier turned away 13 shots to pick up his 22nd win of the season in goal for the Blades.
    Todd Scott turned away 18-of-20 shots starting in goal for the Oil Kings. He was forced to leave the game after being injured trying to stop Wouters’ goal. Josh Dechaine turned away two-of-three shots in relief for the Oil Kings, who saw their record move to 18-33-6-2.
    The Blades won three out of the four games on their road trip. They improved to 31-27-2-1 to hold the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with an eight-point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (23-25-9-2). The Raiders have two games in hand on the Blades.
    Saskatoon is two points behind the Brandon Wheat Kings (31-23-3-2) for the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wheat Kings have two games in hand on the Blades.
    The Blades have 11 games remaining on their regular season schedule, and they will play seven of those games at home. They return to action taking on the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre on Friday.
    A fundraising effort is underway to have Blades play-by-play voice Les Lazaruk sing the national anthem before that encounter with the Pats. Funds being raised will be donated to the Saskatchewan Red Cross to support Pink Day, which is set for February 28, and the anti-bullying initiatives backed by that program. Anyone looking to support that cause can do so by clicking here.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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