Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Huskies had great season but still get in their own way

Levi Cable, left, and Taran Kozun celebrate a Huskies win.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team had a great season in 2018-19, which will overshadow the hiccups at the end of the campaign.
    Still, it feels like some of the Huskies players in the generation after the era of Derek Hulak and the late Cody Smuk like to get in their own way a little too often. Under head coach Dave Adolph, the Huskies players in the current generation have improved on cutting down the self-inflicted wounds.
    Unfortunately, the self-inflicted errors seem to pop up at the worst times possible, and those times often involve games with their “forever rivals” the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
    The most recent round of Huskies having “oops” moments came at the David Johnston University Cup, which wrapped up Sunday in Lethbridge, Alta. The majority of the “oops” moments came in a semifinal game of the U Sports national championship tournament on Saturday between the Huskies and the Golden Bears, which was the 512th overall meeting between the two sides.
Carter Folk (#13) threw a bad hit in a U Sports semifinal game.
   The first error came when Huskies sophomore right-winger Carter Folk nailed Golden Bears super pest Trevor Cox from behind into the boards at the Enmax Centre. Folk received a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct.
    While the Golden Bears didn’t score on the five-minute power play due to the Huskies outstanding penalty killing, Folk’s penalty helped swing the momentum of the game in U of A’s favour.
    The Huskies played strong in a scoreless first period and had a 16-13 advantage in shots on goal. After Folk’s penalty, the Golden Bears held an 18-5 advantage in shots on goal in the second period and a 32-17 advantage in that department over the final 40 minutes of the contest.
    Folk is a physical forward who plays on the edge, and sometimes goes over that edge. The replays of his hit on Cox looked bad.
    With the period about to end, it was a hit that didn’t need to be delivered. With Cox being an agitator, one was left to wonder if Folk couldn’t resist getting in an extra shot on a player that had been a thorn in the side of the Huskies.
    No matter what, it wasn’t a smart play.
Taran Kozun had a costly misadventure with the puck.
    After the teams played through a scoreless second, Golden Bears captain Riley Kieser gave his side a 1-0 lead at the 1:38 mark of the third period. That set the stage for another big Huskies gaff.
    At the 10:32 mark of the third, Huskies netminder Taran Kozun, who was named the U Sports goaltender of the year, was a little too casual when he decided to backwards pass the puck behind his own net.
    Kozun passed the puck right to Golden Bears left-winger Grayson Pawlenchuk, who quickly helped set up U Sports player of the year Luke Filip to put U of A up 2-0.
    Due to the fact the Huskies weren’t able to score in that semifinal game, it could be argued that Kozun’s error didn’t cost U of S the contest. It did create a huge hill to climb as only 9:28 remained in the third period.
    If the Huskies need to score once to force overtime, it tightens up the pressure on the Golden Bears defence and goaltending for the rest of the contest. A two-goal advantage at that juncture gave the Golden Bears comfortable control of the proceedings.
    You can bet Kozun felt awful about what happened. On an obvious error like that, you hope he remembers the importance of being alert at all points of the game in future seasons.
    Of course, there were the fireworks that happened inside of the final 31 seconds of the third period. After Pawlenchuk scored an empty-net goal to cement a 3-0 Golden Bears victory, frustrations boiled over and fists started to fly as a major scrum ensued.
Captain Jesse Forsberg was involved in some rough stuff in a U Sport semi.
    From that melee, Huskies fifth-year captain Jesse Forsberg and his younger brother in Huskies left-winger Alex Forsberg both received instigator minors, fighting majors and game misconducts.
    Huskies left-winger Collin Shirley and Golden Bears defenceman Graeme Craig each received roughing minors and 10-minute misconducts. Golden Bears defenceman Sawyer Lange received a fighting major and a game misconduct.
    Right before the game ended, Huskies fourth-year centre Kohl Bauml was booted for receiving a slashing major and a game misconduct.
    When you see these penalties on a game sheet, one starts to wonder if the Huskies crossed the line and how far reaching would the suspensions be?
    When you see the video, it looks like the common scrum and everything from it would quickly blow over.
    On Twitter, a number of Golden Bears supporters and a handful of members from the Edmonton sports media fired off harsh criticisms at Huskies players and the Huskies men’s hockey program.
Alex Forsberg engaged in some rough stuff too.
    It seems to be forgotten that members of the Golden Bears like to partake in pest work that is a bit underhanded like Cox, Cole Sanford and Brandon Magee, so the U of A side can’t be dismissed as perfect angels either.
    Actually in the cases of Jesse Forsberg and Bauml, they have always been viewed as favourites by the rink staff at the Huskies former home in the ancient Rutherford Rink and their new one in the magnificent Merlis Belsher Place. It is common for them to have almost daily short visits with rink staffers and take genuine interest in how everyone’s day is going.
    Going back to his WHL days with the Prince George Cougars, Seattle Thunderbirds and Moose Jaw Warriors, Forsberg developed a reputation that he could get rambunctious, let his emotions get the best of him and ultimately cost his team.
    During his five seasons with the Huskies, Forsberg improved a tonne when it came to playing an under control game. Under Adolph and his coaching staff, Forsberg became a star offensive-defenceman and became the player he should have been in the WHL, where he was type casted to be a tough guy.
    He developed to the point he could play in the NHL, but NHL executives tend to overlook 25-year-old players from U Sports.
    Following the loss to the Golden Bears, the Huskies moved on to play in Sunday’s bronze medal game without the two Forsbergs and Folk, who were all suspended. Bauml did suit up for the Huskies on Sunday.
Kohl Bauml lost his cool in a U Sports semifinal.
    U of S showed a lot more discipline giving up only three power-play chances to the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men. The Huskies dominated play holding a 49-16 edge in shots on goal, but came out on the wrong end of a 5-1 final score.
    Fifth-year hard working right-winger Parker Thomas had the Huskies lone goal in his final U Sports game coming inside of the final minute of the third period, when the X-Men were up 5-0. Thomas, Jesse Forsberg and Huskies left-winger Michael Sofillas all exhausted their U Sports eligibility with Sunday’s setback.
    On a side note, the Golden Bears fell in the national final 4-2 on Sunday to the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.
    In the overall scheme of things, the Huskies 2018-19 season won’t be defined by what took place in their final two games at U Sports nationals. Ultimately, the only thing that will be remember from the David Johnston University Cup for the Huskies was the fact they finished fourth at that event.
    The 2018-19 campaign will be remembered for the fact the Huskies finished first in the Canada West Conference at 25-3 posting a new team record for regular season wins at 25 and standings points at 50.
Parker Thomas scored his final U Sports goal on Sunday.
    Kozun’s outstanding individual season will be a big highlight. In the regular season, the sophomore posted a 20-3 record, a 1.81 goals against average, a .926 save percentage and five shutouts. His win total was a new Huskies individual record for most victories in one regular season.
    The Huskies played with the heart and hustle that has been a trademark for the program.
    Going forward, their supporters have to hope they keep finding ways to play a little better to each situation they encounter and keep limiting the times they shoot themselves in the foot, especially when they play the Golden Bears.

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