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.

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