Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Upbeat and personable Herner closes out time with Huskies

Kori Herner celebrates scoring a goal for the Huskies.
    Kori Herner admitted the finality of the fact her U Sports career is nearing an end has become more real to her.
    The fifth-year speedy winger for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team has taken in the 2017-18 campaign in similar fashion to her first four seasons with the team. 
    With the Huskies about to play their first game at the U Sports final eight national championship tournament in London, Ont., the Kindersley, Sask., product said things felt different knowing she has at most three games to play in her university career.
    “It actually just settled in (on Saturday) that these last couple of practices are my last practices ever,” said Herner. “It gives me more motivation to be the best I can be out there and finish my hockey career strong.”
Kori Herner (#10) wins a battle for the puck
    The Huskies, who are seeded seventh, face the second seeded Saint Mary’s University Huskies, who won the Atlantic University Sport conference title, in the first of two quarter-final games on Thursday. The tournament semifinal games are slated for Saturday and the bronze and gold medal games are set for Sunday. The tournament winner will capture the Golden Path Trophy.
    For Herner, it seems like yesterday she was a rookie helping the U of S Huskies win a Canada West title and a bronze medal at the U Sports nationals, which were held in Fredericton, N.B., in March of 2014.
    “We were watching the video of Can West on the bus,” said Herner, who stands 5-foot-5. “It literally seems like it was a couple of days ago that we were in that final.
    “It is just surreal how fast time actually goes like from being a rookie and hearing the fifth-years saying like just take it all in and enjoy every moment, because time does go by fast. It flies by.”
Kori Herner (#10) makes her way to the Rutherford Rink ice surface.
    The 22-year-old is one of four fifth-year players on the Huskies this season including star captain Kaitlin Willoughby, checking centre Kennedy Harris and defensive defender Kira Bannatyne. Herner has always been an uplifting presence in the Huskies dressing room and viewed as one of the squads most approachable players among her teammates.
    With that said, she added it was strange being one of the older players on the team this past season.
    “It is weird, because you always have those girls you look up to that are older than you, and now it like our time,” said Herner, who had five goals and five assists appearing in all of the Huskies 28 regular season games. “We are the ones being looked up to compared to the young girls on the team.”
Kori Herner zips into the offensive zone with the puck.
    The former captain of the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team was arguably the Huskies best player when it came to interacting with children and young fans. During summer breaks, Herner could usually be found coaching children in summer hockey activities or softball.
    “I’ve always coached kids and worked with kids, and that is what I am planning to do in the future is become a teacher,” said Herner. “I get along with them well and love to make them laugh and have fun with them.”
    Herner said she enjoyed working the Huskies summer hockey camps and goofing around with the kids and making them laugh. Some of those fun sessions included having kids drag on her arms as she skated around the rink.
Kori Herner is hugged by teammate Chloe Smith.
    Coaching has allowed Herner to be move involved in the life of her younger sister Jessie, who is a defender with the Prince Albert Northern Bears female midget AAA team. Kori has been involved coaching Jessie for about the last seven years in hockey and the last five years in softball.
    Jessie, who wears #10 like her older sister, turned 16-years-old in early January and has two more seasons of midget AAA eligibility to use.
    “She (Jessie Herner) wants to follow through and play with Huskies, so I think that is pretty cool,” said Kori. “Seeing her developing and coaching her, it is a lot different seeing her come up.
    “I think she can be a better hockey player than me.”
    Herner said it is an adjustment going from midget AAA to the university level. Playing two seasons for the Stars from 2011 to 2013, Herner appeared in 56 regular season games collecting 23 goals and 38 assists. In 125 regular season games with the Huskies, she netted 18 goals and 14 assists.
Kori Herner sets to make a pass in the offensive zone.
    “I guess I don’t have the puck luck like I used to like I’ve had with a couple of spurts here and there,” said Herner. “Goaltending is better.
    “The hockey girls are better. It is just harder hockey.”
    There have been times with the Huskies that Herner turned back the clock to her Stars days. In her final regular season home game on Feb. 3, she scored two beauty goals in a 3-2 victory over the University of Alberta Pandas. 
    On her second goal of that night, Herner blew down the left wing past a Pandas defender, cut to the front of the U of A goal and tuck home a shot between the legs of netminder Dayna Owen.
    Herner hopes to create some magical moments like that at nationals.
    “I hope I pot a couple of goals to get the team on top,” said Herner. “I just want to play my best, and hopefully, our team ends up winning.”
    She said it will be hard to hang of the skates for good as far as playing competitive hockey is concerned when nationals comes to an end.
    “(I will miss) the team aspect and being around the girls all the time,” said Herner. “I think it will be weird not coming to the rink every day.
    “(I will miss) a little bit of the competition wise with hockey. There is no more competitive hockey for me anymore.”
Kori Herner sets up to fire a shot on goal.
    At nationals, the Huskies will be led by Willoughby, who topped the team in scoring with nine goals and 10 assists in 26 regular season appearances. 
    Over her five seasons, the Prince Albert, Sask., product has cemented her legacy as one of the Huskies most dynamic players ever.
    Bannatyne and third-year defender Emma Nutter topped the Huskies blue-liners in scoring each netting two goals and four assists appearing in all of the squad’s 28 regular season games.
    Canada West player-of-the-year and first team all-Canadian all-star Jessica Vance was sensational in goal posting a 14-3-1 record, a 0.77 goals against average, a .964 save percentage and nine shutouts in 18 regular season appearances.
Kori Herner gets ready to drive a shot on goal.
    The Huskies finished second in the Canada West standings with a 19-7-2 record and were 2-2 in the Canada West playoffs.
    Fifth-year forward Breanna Lanceleve topped Saint Mary’s University in scoring recording 10 goals and 18 assists in 24 regular season games. 
    Fourth-year defender Hannah Askin led all Saint Mary’s University defenders in scoring with three goals and 13 assists in 23 regular season appearances.
    Rebecca Clark is expected to start in goal for Saint Mary’s University, and she posted a 14-3-1 record, a 1.15 goals against average, a .945 save percentage and six shutouts in 19 regular season appearances.
    Saint Mary’s University posted a 20-3-1 record during the regular season and a 4-1 mark in the AUS playoffs.

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