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.”

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