Friday, 31 January 2020

Nutter hits special first in Huskies seventh straight win

The Huskies celebrate a power-play goal from Emma Nutter.
    Defensive defender Emma Nutter hit a milestone moment scoring one of her rare goals in her U Sports career.
    On Friday at Merlis Belsher Place, Nutter slipped home a point shot through traffic for a power-play goal for her University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team. That goal came at the 10:27 mark of the first period of a U Sports regular season game against the University of Manitoba Bisons to give the host side a 1-0 edge.
    The fifth-year veteran’s tally held up to be the game winner in a 3-0 victory for the Huskies in a contest played before 401 spectators.
    The marker was the fifth regular season goal of Nutter’s U Sports career. It was the Cochrane, Alta., product’s first game winning goal in 126 career regular season games.
Emma Nutter scored her first career U Sports game winner on Friday.
    “It feels pretty special,” said Nutter. “It is the first one.
    “It is not that common for me, but I have my team behind me. We had practised that kind of formation on the power play all week. It was working for me then.
    “I was not expecting it, but I was hopeful that would happen.”
    Nutter’s goal pushed the Huskies winning streak to seven games as they improved to 16-6-2-1. They have 49 points to sit third in the Canada West Conference standings coming on 14 regulation wins, two extra time wins and three extra time setbacks.
    In Canada West women’s hockey, teams earn three points in the standings for winning in regulation, two points for extra time wins and one point for extra time setbacks.
Emma Nutter is best known for playing physical in her own zone.
    The Huskies trail the U of Calgary Dinos by one point for second in the conference. The Dinos dropped a 2-1 double overtime decision to the Mount Royal University Cougars on Friday in Calgary.
    With that result, the Dinos saw their record move to 16-7-1-2. They have 50 points in the standings coming off 15 regulation wins, one extra time win and three extra time setbacks.
    The Huskies have a game in hand on the Dinos that will be made up on Saturday, when the U of S side goes at it again with the Bisons at 5 p.m. at Merlis.
    The U of Alberta Pandas (18-7) top the Canada West standings with 53 points coming on 17 regulation wins and one extra time win.
Emma Nutter is one of eight fifth-year players on the Huskies.
    The Huskies, Dinos and Pandas are guaranteed to finish in the top three of the Canada West standings and the first and second place squads will have byes to host best-of-three Canada West semifinal playoff series.
    With the Huskies having just three regular season games left on their schedule, Nutter said she knows her squad is close to sitting in a position to gain a playoff bye, but she doesn’t try to get caught up in the possible math involving the standings. She just focuses on winning each game as it comes.
    “Without sounding uninterested, I don’t tend to look at the stats a lot,” said Nutter. “I think for me every game is as important as the next.”
    Individually, Nutter has two goals, two assists and a plus-one rating in the plus-minus department appearing in all of the Huskies 25 regular season games in the current campaign. Both of her goals this season have come on the power play.
Emma Nutter has scored both her goals this season on the power play.
    She is one of eight fifth-year players who are skating through their final campaign with the Huskies. Rounding out the group of eight is captain Brooklyn Haubrich, forwards Elizabeth Salyn, Shyan Elias, Rachel Lundberg and Courtney Cormack and defenders Leah Bohlken and Morgan Willoughby.
    Willoughby is Nutter’s regular defensive partner.
    “It hasn’t hit me yet, and I don’t know when it will,” said Nutter about the notion she is playing through her final season. “I know that when it does it is going to hit me hard, and that is not going to be fun for me.
    “This whole experience I honestly don’t have any words for it. It has been so rewarding in that I get to play alongside 23 or 24 of my best friends. This team this year I would consider pretty close.
Camryn Drever made 22 saves in a shutout win for the Huskies.
    “The group of eight of us is very close. It is going to be sad, when we part ways. It has been a special year this year for sure.”
    On her power-play goal, Nutter said she just trying to get her point shot on net looking for one of her teammates to get a stick on the puck to deflect it home.
    “I tend to shoot pretty low and on the ice just for either a rebound so someone in front can get it or someone can get a stick on it for sure,” said Nutter, who is best known for overpowering opponents in the defensive zone with her physical play. “We worked with that in practice.
    “(Huskies head coach) Steve (Kook) kind of said to me we want you to be the shooter on that side. I was hitting them in practice.”
Jordyn Holmes scored her first U Sports regular season goal on Friday.
    Nutter’s goal was the highlight of a first period controlled by the Huskies, who outshot the Bisons 10-3 in the frame.
    The Bisons made a push back in the second outshooting the Huskies 9-8, but the Huskies exited the stanza still holding their 1-0 edge.
    With 2:58 remaining in the third, Huskies sophomore centre Kennedy Brown fired home a goal to the top left corner of the Bisons goal while being hooked down to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
    Sophomore right-winger Jordyn Holmes rounded out the scoring with an empty net tally for the Huskies. The tally was the first career U Sports regular season goal for Holmes.
    Camryn Drever stopped 22 shots to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Huskies. The sophomore more has three shutouts this season and four in her U Sports regular season career.
    Erin Fargey turned away 25-of-27 shots in goal for the Bisons, who fell to 8-16-1 to remain last in the eight-team Canada West Conference.
The Huskies celebrate their seventh straight win on Friday.
    Nutter was pleased with how Friday’s game went for her side.
    “All things considered, we could have come out a lot stronger, a lot faster and a lot quicker,” said Nutter. “As the game progressed, we put our heads down and went to work.”
    With the post-season just around the corner, Nutter said she wants to help the Huskies win a second Canada West title in team history and help the program capture its first U Sports title.
    She has a firm belief that this will be the year those things will happen for her team.
    “Between the eight of us fifth years and the rest of the team honestly, that has been the goal from day one,” said Nutter. “It always has been every year.
    “It is the same goal and same mindset. I think all the younger girls have bought in. They bought in early (and) that is a good sign.”

McVeigh’s OT winner pushes Huskies win streak to eight

Logan McVeigh scored the double OT winner for the Huskies.
    Logan McVeigh’s overtime heroics ensured the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team stayed on fire.
    On Friday at the Wayne Fleming Arena in Winnipeg, Man., McVeigh scored at the 2:26 mark of a second overtime period to give the visiting Huskies a 3-2 victory over the host U of Manitoba Bisons in a U Sports regular season contest. The fifth-year centre’s winner in the three-versus-three session allowed the Huskies to improve their winning streak to eight games and stay in the race for first place in the Canada West Conference.
    The Huskies and their “forever rivals” the U of Alberta Golden Bears both have 40 standings point to sit in the top two spots in Canada West. The Golden Bears (20-5) sit first in the conference over the Huskies (19-4-2) due to winning three out of the four head-to-head regular season meetings between the two sides.
    Both teams have three games remaining in their respective regular season schedules.
    The Mount Royal University Cougars sit third in Canada West with a 17-7-0-2 record.
Taran Kozun made 34 saves in goal for the Huskies on Friday.
    In Friday’s encounter between the Huskies and Bisons, Donovan Neuls and Carson Stadnyk netted singles for the Huskies in regulation. McVeigh picked up an assist on Stadnyk’s goal for a two-point night.
    Sean Christensen and Devon Skoleski replied with singles for the Bisons in regulation.
    Taran Kozun made 34 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies. Tyler Brown turned away 24 shots to take the extra time setback in goal for the Bisons (9-12-2-2).
    The Huskies and Bisons face each other again on Saturday in Winnipeg.

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Thursday, 30 January 2020

Huskies hockey teams hit final sprint for playoff byes

Taran Kozun leads the Huskies men’s hockey team on to the ice.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey teams are so close to earning playoff byes players could get giddy dreaming about a weekend off.
    Going into their respective final four regular season games, the Huskies men’s and women’s hockey teams are solidly in the running to claim respective top two finishes in their respective Canada West Conference standings. That type of finish would earn them byes into their respective best-of-three Canada West semifinal series.
    Both teams had moments in the campaign where it appeared a top two finish might not be possible. Both squads have gone on impressive tears to make what once looked maybe impossible possible.
    The Huskies men’s team’s defensive unit was decimated by injuries at the start of the campaign, and they stumbled out of the gates with an 0-3-1 record often missing as many as four regulars on the back end.
    Throughout the rest of the season, the injury bug kept biting the Huskies, but that didn’t stop them on going on a remarkable 18-1-1 run over their past 20 regular season games.
    With having won their last seven in a row, the Huskies sit second in the Canada West men’s standings with an 18-4-2 record. Their 38 points in the standings equals the first place U of Alberta Golden Bears (19-5), but the Golden Bears hold the standings tiebreaker winning three out of the four head-to-head regular season encounters between the two sides.
    Both teams inched a little closer to locking up positions in the top two of the Canada West standings, when the Mount Royal University Cougars downed the U of Calgary Dinos 5-4 in double overtime on Thursday in Calgary.
Collin Shirley leads the Huskies men’s hockey team in scoring.
    The Dinos sit third in Canada West with a 16-6-3 record for 35 points in the standings, while Mount Royal sits fourth with a 16-7-0-2 record for 34 points.
    If the Huskies and Golden Bears earn four more standings points over their final eight games, they will both be assured of finishing in the top two of Canada West.
    The Huskies are riding a seven-game winning streak and travel to Winnipeg, Man., to face the U of Manitoba Bisons on Friday and Saturday. The Bisons sit fifth in Canada West with a 9-12-1-2 record.
    A sweep over the Bisons would guarantee the Huskies at least a second place finish in the Canada West standings.
    The Huskies have vaulted to this point thanks to the efforts of third-year starting netminder Taran Kozun, who has a 14-3-2 record, a 1.96 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and four shutouts. Kozun became the first goalie in the history of the Huskies program to score a goal this season too.
    The Huskies scoring has been evenly spread throughout their roster this season. Third-year left-winger Collin Shirley tops the Huskies in scoring with nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points.
    Rookie centre Jared Dmytriw is second in team scoring with nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points. Fifth-year right-winger Levi Cable is third in team scoring with 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points.
    Sophomore defenceman Gordie Ballhorn tops the backend in scoring with two goals and 10 assists for 12 points.
    The Huskies men’s team have shown they can persevere, and that tangible might be the strongest it has ever been in recent campaigns.
    As for the Huskies women’s team, they looked like they might be on the outside looking in when it came to finishing in the top two of the Canada West standings posting a 6-4-2-1 record after 13 regular season games.
    At that point, the Huskies caught fire winning nine of their last 11 games including their last six in a row.
Jessica Vance (#30) is having a solid season for the Huskies women’s team.
    The Huskies have a 15-6-2-1 record. Due to the fact you earn three standings points for regulation wins in women’s hockey, the Huskies sit third in Canada West with 46 standings points coming off 13 regulation wins, two extra time wins and three extra time setbacks.
    They trail the U of Calgary Dinos by three points in the standings but have a game in hand. The Dinos have a 16-7-0-2 record for 49 points coming off 15 regulation wins, one extra time win and two extra time setbacks.
    The Dinos moved ahead of the Huskies in the standings downing the Mount Royal University Cougars 4-1 on Thursday in Calgary. That game was played in front of 10,002 spectators at the Scotiabank Saddledome, which is a U Sports record for a women’s hockey game.
    The Huskies hold the standings tiebreaker with the Dinos and have won all four head-to-head encounters between the two teams.
    The U of Alberta Pandas sit first in Canada West with a 17-7 record with 50 standings points coming off 16 regulation wins and one extra time win.
    The Huskies will try and do their best to hold serve this season weekend hosting the rebuilding U of Manitoba Bisons (8-15-1) on Friday and Saturday at Merlis Belsher Place with 7 p.m. and 5 p.m. respective start times on both nights.
    U of S has surged upward in the standings allowing the second fewest goals in Canada West at 34.
    The strength of their team is star fourth-year veteran goalie Jessica Vance, who has an 11-3-2 record, a 1.30 goals against average, a .938 save percentage and five shutouts. Vance was a member of the Canadian women’s hockey team that won silver at the FISU Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, last year.
    She has played well enough to earn invites to camps in Canada’s national women’s team system.
Bailee Bourassa leads the Huskies women’s team in scoring.
    Vance is aided by a veteran defensive unit that includes three fifth-year players in Leah Bohlken, Emma Nutter and Morgan Willoughby. Bohlken was a member of Canada’s silver medal winning team at last year’s Winter Universiade.
    She tops the Huskies in defender scoring with five goals and four assists for nine points.
    The veteran back end includes steady fourth-year defender Kayla Kirwan, who missed about 10 games earlier in the season battling the injury bug.
    The Huskies offence has been paced thanks to a strong season from fourth-year right winger Bailee Bourassa, who leads the team in scoring with 11 goals and six assists for 17 points. Bourassa’s goal and point totals are career highs.
    No matter how their respective final four regular season games unfold, the Huskies are guaranteed to start the post-season by hosting a best-of-three series. They just hope that first series will come in the Canada West semifinal round, because that gets them one step closer to their respective U Sports national championship tournaments.

Regret being jaded with Willoughby, Bohlken on social media

Morgan Willoughby anchors the back end for the Huskies women’s team.
    A social media misstep made by myself has kind of been eating at my insides for a number of weeks now.
    Back on Jan. 5, I took a break from writing posts on this blog, and I resumed my work on this site last Friday. Around the period before and after when I announced I was taking a break, I was feeling really jaded.
    In the days before and after I took my break, fifth-year defenders Morgan Willoughby and Leah Bohlken of the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team shared items on their social media channels stating TSN should broadcast the world under-18 women’s hockey championships like it does for the world juniors on the men’s side.
    Canada made the final in both tournaments, which were played earlier this month. Canada fell 2-1 in overtime in the under-18 women’s final to the United States in Bratislava, Slovakia.
    In the final of the men’s world juniors in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, Canada downed Russia 4-3 to win gold.
    Before I took my break, Willoughby shared a post on her Facebook account that said the world under-18 women’s hockey championships should have been broadcast on TSN like the men’s world juniors was.
    In the comments section, I wrote basically something that said the will wasn’t there to broadcast the world under-18 women’s hockey championships and there was a similar lack of will to cover women’s hockey at any level by mainstream media outlets. I left the impression that seeing world under-18 women’s hockey championships would be something that would never happen.
    At the start of my break, Bohlken shared a petition asking TSN to broadcast the world under-18 women’s hockey championships. I did sign and share the petition.
    I also put a jaded comment on Bohlken’s post stating I hoped that would help and noted the only two media outlets at the time that ever paid me on a freelance basis to write articles on women’s sports. I also said there wasn’t a lot of will for that sort of thing.
    With Willoughby’s shared post on Facebook, at least mostly just those on her friends list could see it. Bohlken’s shared post was on Twitter, so everyone could see that as Twitter is a public social media forum.
    In both cases I shouldn’t have made the jaded comments. I regret the comments and apologize to both ladies.
Leah Bohlken gives the Huskies an offensive spark on the back end.
    Both have sizable followings of younger players in Saskatchewan coming up through the female game, and those younger players get pumped up when Willoughby and Bohlken take a stand on something.
    In sharing those social media posts, Willoughby and Bohlken are both individually standing up for what is right. When they do that, they should be supported.
    Willoughby is from Prince Albert, Sask., and she has the same honour code as one of that community’s biggest hockey heroes in Dave Manson, who is an alumnus of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders and a long time NHLer. Her following is particularly strong in Prince Albert.
    She always seems to do the responsible thing, put others before herself and likes to ensure everyone is getting along on the social front. Willoughby can play gritty and tough on the ice, which is something the girls playing in the younger levels of hockey seem love.
    Bohlken has a lot of street cred with the female players in the younger levels of minor hockey just due to the fact she was on Canadian women’s team that won silver at the FISU Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, last year.
    The younger female players took notice when Bohlken had nine goals, seven assists and a plus-three rating in the plus-minus department in her 27 regular season appearances for the Huskies last season.
    She can also play very tough and physical on the ice.
    From what I understand, Bohlken is a big favourite among the current players that play for her former Regina Rebels female midget AAA hockey team. Her younger sister, Larissa, is a key defender for the Rebels.
    I remember the elder Bohlken made a statement once before on Twitter a couple of seasons back saying all hockey arenas should have the proper amenities for female players like male players. She noted she had to change a few times in broom closets playing on boys teams growing up.
    Again, Bohlken is totally in the right.
    When Willoughby and Bohlken want to take stands on issues on social media channels and they are in the right, I should be supporting them instead of making jaded comments.
    Of course, it is well-known how the troll aspect goes on social media forums. I shouldn’t add to that, when people are in the right.
    When university level players like Willoughby and Bohlken do take stands on social media channels and are in the right, girls playing in the younger levels of minor hockey do see it and do see those players taking stands as being more kick ass.
    For me, I should know better, and it is a lesson learned on that front.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

A big mental health challenge is learning to take a break

Picture after finishing up work in the SaskTel Centre press box.
    In the current day and age when the pressures or time seem to get continually stressed, it seems tougher to disappear and take a break.
    Eventually, everyone, even those that see themselves as being healthy, need to say “No” to life’s stresses and take a break. When you come to think about it, they will always be there.
    Since 2012, I have known I have battled with issues dealing with anxiety. Actually, I have to admit I see myself doing a lot better on that front than I did five years ago or even last year.
    Still, there is still a stigma around mental health issues, and they are unfortunately still treated as the elephant in the room in too many circles.
    I write about my experiences on the mental health front in hopes it will help others. Since 2016, I’ve kept up with a tradition where I write a post regarding mental health on Bell Let’s Talk day.
    While I view myself as being a lot more healthy in the current day than I have even just a few years ago, I find I can accidentally fire off my anxiety, if it looks like I am going to bite off more than I can chew.
A Bell Let’s Talk toque with sports items I have collected over the years.
    One of the problems I have is saying “No” when people present projects to me. Being a freelance sportswriter and photographer by trade, my first thought about when I am presented an opportunity is figuring out how to make it fit into my schedule.
    Often, the opportunities first come when the schedule is light, and I figure I can let other things I need to tend to in my life slide in order to complete the obligations of an opportunity that comes up.
    With all that said, it seems when opportunities come they come in bunches and from all sorts of directions. Often, I will try and satisfy everyone, which all of sudden crowds my schedule too much and gets the heart racing about the future.
    Ultimately, a time will come when you have to step back and call for a “timeout.”
    You have to realize there are only a certain amount of hours in a day, and even the best time managers and multitaskers reach the limits of what they can do.
    What even makes things that much more difficult in my life is the fact I live a life where I work in the sports and media world.
When you cover sports events like WHL, it becomes a lifestyle.
    Those worlds are not an environment where you work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and come home and watch television or play on Youtube the rest of the night.
    When you work and are involved in the sports and media worlds, it is lifestyle. There is no hard line between being what most regard as at work or off.
    The rare times you go catch a movie or go for dinner at a nice restaurant would likely be some of those slim moments where you are “off.”
    For me, it feels like 80 per cent of the world doesn’t understand this lifestyle, so that can be a battle too.
    One of the pluses I find from the opportunities that have come my way is the fact lots of them over the past year have come from old friends and people I have known for a long time. A lot of times, you don’t want to say “No,” because you fear you are going to let someone down.
    Over the past year, two of the most cool opportunities that I took advantage of came during the Prince Albert Raiders run to winning the WHL title and appearing in the CHL championship tournament, - the Memorial Cup – last May.
I was happy Darryl Leason took this photo of me interviewing his son, Brett.
    I got to write articles for the Prince Albert Daily Herald for the special section that outlet put out on the Raiders going to the Memorial Cup. The Daily Herald is employee owned, and I love crew there.
    I worked as a sports writer for that outlet from 2001 to 2004, and it ended up being more special than I thought being back in the Daily Herald’s pages again.
    Before last May, I also penned a reflection piece on my time at the Daily Herald as part of the publication’s 125th anniversary.
    The other opportunity from the Raiders WHL title run came from Peter Robinson getting back in touch with me. I hadn’t talked to Robinson for some time, and he oversees the creation of various publications for the CHL.
    He asked me to create the Memorial Cup program article on the Raiders, and that was a huge thrill. I enjoyed working with him again.
    Most recently, I agreed to become the communications coordinator for the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. I am still getting used to the ropes there, but they have a good bunch there.
Pictured with the Bell Let’s Talk toque at U of Saskatchewan.
    I am still finding time to pen some stories for the Davidson Leader too.
    As the last 12 months progressed, things just added up. Over summer I had to attend to a number of things in my life outside the sports and media world that I pushed off and had to be addressed.
    That came on the heels of what was a busy and fulfilling hockey season.
    Working on the items I needed to attend to bled into a very busy football season covering the CJFL’s Saskatoon Hilltops and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team in the U Sports ranks.
    When December 1, 2019 hit, I was complete drained of energy.
    I felt bad that with my brain in a state of mush that two great guys in Dan Senick and Cam Hutchinson came to me about helping them with the Davidson Leader. My mind was super clouded, and later on, I realized I couldn’t give them as big of a commitment as they hoped.
    It ended up being a much smaller commitment than they hoped. I felt bad letting them down on that front, but I felt it was the better decision for me.
    I am finding when I do say “no” to projects that people seem to be more understanding about it than I realized.
    Still, there were a number of things I wanted to cover last December, and I hit those things. When the new year hit, I finally took a break from producing anything for this blog.
    During the break, I went and saw “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” twice because I enjoyed it. 
I love working at the sports venues, but I realize it is great to take breaks.
    I think I settled my mind enough that I became comfortable in the decisions I made on what projects I took on and what I didn’t take on.
    It felt way better than I thought it would when I took my break. In the future, I will definitely look for windows to do that again, when I need to do it.
    I learned taking a break was good for me.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to My Bell Let’s Talk post from last year called “Those facing mental health challenges can still be great in all parts of life” can be found right here. A piece from 2018 called “Being content can become a mental health challenge” can be round right here. A piece from 2017 called “Recognizing and respecting triggers is key for mental health” can be found right here. A piece from 2016 called “Feeling connected calms the mental health seas” can be found right here. A piece called “My Mental Health Story” can be found here. Another post I like that I wrote in February of 2015 about my mental health journey call “Huskies hockey was good for me” can be found here.
    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Blades stun Royals with comeback OT win

Fasko-Rudas gets natural Hatty, Wouters extra time winner

Chase Wouters, right, celebrates scoring the OT winner for the Blades.
    A newcomer and the captain put on their superhero capes to save the Saskatoon Blades.
    Training the visiting Victoria Royals 2-0 early in the third period of a WHL regular season game on Tuesday night, Blades received a natural hat trick from Slovakian import right-winger Martin Fasko-Rudas to jump ahead 3-2.
    Fasko-Rudas was acquired a short time ago by the Blades in a deal with the Swift Current Broncos right before the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10.
    After the surge of goals from Fasko-Rudas, the Royals battled back to force overtime with former Blades right-winger Gary Haden netting the equalizer to force a 3-3 tie with 7:43 remaining in the third period.
Chase Wouters has three OT winners for the Blades this season.
    Just 36 seconds into overtime, Blades captain Chase Wouters received a pass from right-winger Kyle Crnkovic in front of the Victoria goal. Wouters roofed a shot to the top right corner of the Royals goal to give the Blades a 4-3 victory in front of 3,020 spectators at the SaskTel Centre.
    The marker was Wouters third overtime winner and fifth game-winner of the campaign.
    “It was pretty cool,” said Wouters, who had an assist to go with his goal. “It was the first one I’ve gotten on home ice besides that playoff one there.
    “It was really a cool experience for sure.”
    Wouters’ playoff overtime winner came in March of last year, when the Blades downed the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-2 in Game 1 of a best-of-seven first round series at the SaskTel Centre. The Blades would go on to sweep that series 4-0.
    Since that post-season overtime winner, Wouters has made a habit of scoring goals in overtime.
Martin Fasko-Rudas had a natural hat trick for the Blades on Tuesday.
    Blades head coach Mitch Love was pleased to see Wouters get his latest overtime winner. While Wouters had goals in four of his last six games, he was held scoreless in the Blades previous two outings, and Love said his captain had strong efforts but wasn’t rewarded.
    The bench boss decided to start Wouters in overtime due to another attribute and hoped a goal would result.
    “Honestly when Chase (Wouters) gets out there in overtime, it is usually to win that first faceoff, because the puck possession is so important,” said Love. “He is usually pretty good at it.
    “For him to get rewarded there, I know he has been a little bit snakebitten of late offensively. That was a big goal for him. Hopefully, that will rally him up here to kind of stay hot.”
Gary Haden had the third period equalizer for the Royals.
    The teams played through a scoreless opening period, where the Royals held a slim 10-9 edge in shots on goal. Both teams did have their chances in the first 20 minutes.
    Early in the frame, Blades rookie right-winger Colton Dach had a golden chance to score from the left slot, but he fired a shot over top of the net.
    Late in the frame, Royals star centre Brayden Tracey tried to score on a wraparound, but he was denied by Blades rookie netminder Koen MacInnes.
    The visitors broke through at the 5:14 mark of the second period, when Royals captain Phillip Schultz scored gritty goal in front of the Saskatoon net to give his side a 1-0 lead.
    The Blades had a glorious chance to even things up late in the second, but rookie 16-year-old centre Jayden Wiens was stoned close in.
    The Royals expanded their edge to 2-0 with a power-play goal coming off the stick of import right-winger Keanu Derungs. 
Captain Phillip Schultz scored in the second period for the Royals.
    Derungs took a backdoor pass at the right side of the Blades goal from linemate Brandon Cutler.
    Just when things looked down, Fasko-Rudas gave the Blades a spark.
    The 19-year-old fired home a natural hat trick in a span of two minutes and 20 seconds with the finally tally of the surge coming at the 8:33 mark of the third. The surge helped the Blades jump ahead on the scoreboard 3-2.
    At the 6:13 mark of third, he sniped home an even-strength goal from the left slot. At the 7:45 mark, Fasko-Rudas tallied his second marker on a two-man advantage converting a backdoor pass at the left side of the Victoria goal that came from defenceman Scott Walford.
    At the 8:33 mark of the third, the Slovakian netted his third goal on the remaining one-man advantage to give the Blades a one-goal edge after taking a smart in close pass from Crnkovic.
Martin Fasko-Rudas (#17) fires home his hat trick goal.
    Fasko-Rudas said he couldn’t ever remember a moment when goals went into the net that fast for him.
    “It happened to me first time,” said Fasko-Rudas. “I have to thank my teammates for great passes and great help.
    “I’m really happy for those goals.”
    Wouters almost couldn’t believe how fast the goals went into the net for Fasko-Rudas.
    “It was really exciting,” said Wouters, who leads the WHL with 625 faceoff wins. “He turned it on there for us.
    “Those were some big goals in the game for sure. It was good.”
    After Fasko-Rudas put the Blades in the lead, that set the stage for Haden to score for the Royals and force overtime and for Wouters to win it in the extra session.
    Fasko-Rudas was pumped to see his club bounce back after the Royals tied the game.
Kyle Crnkovic had three assists in the Blades win on Tuesday.
    “It was a hell of a job from the team and from the guys,” said Fasko-Rudas. “It was great that we didn’t quit, and we came back.”
    MacInnes stopped 28 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Blades (24-19-2-2). Crnkovic finished with three assists in the win.
    Adam Evanoff turned away 28 shots to take the extra time setback goal for the Royals (25-17-4).
    Love said Tuesday’s game was a big character win for his club as the Blades elected to scratch their leading scorer in centre Tristen Robins moments before warm-ups due to illness.
    “It was pretty gutsy,” said Love. “We looked pretty fatigued through 40 minutes.
    “Our execution offensively wasn’t quite there. Credit to the guys, they really stuck with it. We knew we had to really press in the third to try and generate any sort of offence against a very good defensive team.
The Blades mob Chase Wouters after his OT winner on Tuesday.
    “We generated some power plays, and that was going well for us tonight. It is a gutsy win for us.”
    The Blades are back in action on Friday when they travel to Moose Jaw to face the Warriors (7 p.m., Mosaic Place). Love expects Robins will be ready to go for that contest.
    The Royals return to action on Wednesday when they venture to Prince Albert to face the Raiders (7 p.m., Art Hauser Centre).

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Saturday, 25 January 2020

Tigers remain kings of the tiebreaking shootout

Raiders fall in fast-paced heartbreaker

The Tigers mob Brett Kemp (#21) after his shootout winning goal.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – It was a game where both sides deserved to win.
    On Saturday night, 2,577 spectators at the Art Hauser Centre saw the WHL at its best as the defending WHL champion and host Raiders went toe-to-toe with the Medicine Hat Tigers in a high paced back-and-fourth affair, where both teams transitioned quickly up and down the ice.
    The two sides exited regulation and a five minute three-versus-three overtime session locked in a 3-3 tie, which forced them to go to a tiebreaking shootout.
    In the shootout, captain James Hamblin and star right-winger Brett Kemp scored for the Tigers to give them a 2-1 victory in the tiebreaking session and a 4-3 overall victory in the game.
Brett Kemp scored the shootout winning goal for the Tigers.
    Raiders star centre Ozzy Wiesblatt, who had two assists in regulation, scored the Raiders goal in the shootout.
    The Tigers improved to a WHL best 5-1 in shootouts this season and upped their regular season record to 30-14-1-1. The Raiders fell to 1-4 in shootouts and saw their regular season record move to 24-14-5-4.
    Kemp was the final player to take shot in the shootout, and Tigers offensive defenceman Daniel Baker said his club was thankful Kemp’s shot found the back of the net.
    “It was just relief,” said Baker. “You don’t like it to come down to one shot.
    “Mads (Sogaard) has made some big saves for us and Jimmy (James Hamblin) and Kemper netted some big goals, so it was good.”
Ozzy Wiesblatt had a pair of assists for the Raiders on Saturday.
    With Prince Albert having downed the WHL Eastern Conference leading Edmonton Oil Kings 3-2 at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday night, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid was fine with how things played out for his club.
    “It was a good weekend,” said Habscheid. “We accomplished a lot of things.
    “We got our identity back. We got our foundation in place. They beat us in the skills contest tonight, so it is all good.”
    The Tigers opened the scoring 52 seconds into Saturday’s tilt as right-winger Corson Hopwo zipped down the right side of the Raiders zone and slipped in a close in shot past Raiders netminder Max Paddock. Hopwo scored on the Tigers first shot of the game.
Daniel Baker had a goal and an assist for the Tigers on Saturday.
    Just over two minutes later, the Raiders returned the favour scoring on their first shot of the game with left-winger Matthew Culling netting his sixth of the season.
    Culling had an assist to go along with his goal in a real spirited effort on Saturday.
    “He does a lot of the hard work,” said Habscheid. “He goes to the net.
    “He forechecks. He can kill penalties and play power play. He just plays the right way.”
    Before the opening frame ended, the Raiders jumped ahead 2-1 when defenceman Landon Kosior fired home a point shot through a screen on the power play.
    Kosior scored on the second part of a power play that was created when Kemp was given a double minor penalty for high sticking. 
Matthew Culling had a goal and an assist for the Raiders on Saturday.
    Kemp’s penalty will automatically be reviewed by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
    The two clubs continued to blitz up and down the ice in the second, but the only goal came when Baker fired home a point shot through a screen to even the score at 2-2 with 2:37 remaining in the frame.
    Baker, who had an assist to go with his goal on Saturday, is having a breakout season as an 18-year-old sophomore. In 45 regular season games with the Tigers, the Edmonton, Alta., product has 11 goals, 22 assists and a plus-32 rating in the plus-minus department.
    As a rookie last season, Baker had two goals and 15 assists appearing in all of the Tigers 68 regular season games.
    “He (Baker) has been big,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins. “He has certainly put up bigger numbers than last year.
Kyle McNabb had two assists for the Tigers on Saturday.
    “I think he is a guy that he always seems to find his spot to jump in the rush or do whatever. Our whole defence is good. I thought all the guys played hard.”
    Baker said he has found a higher comfort level on the ice playing through his second full season in the major junior ranks.
    “It has been really good so far,” said Baker. “The puck is going in the back of the net.
    “Our forwards do a good job of getting to the net, so it has been good.”
    Just 1:58 into the third, the Tigers jumped back out in front 3-2. Entering the Raiders zone with speed on a rush, Tigers right-winger Kyle McNabb fed a pass across the front of the Prince Albert goal to linemate Nick McCarry, who knocked home his eighth goal of the season to give the visitors the lead.
    The assist was McNabb’s second helper of the contest.
Kaiden Guhle scored the third period equalizer for the Raiders.
    The Raiders didn’t goal away. With 7:34 remaining in the third period, Raiders offensive defenceman Kaiden Guhle wired home his eighth goal of the season to force a 3-3 tie and overtime.
    Guhle potted the equalizer about four minutes after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Tigers right-winger Lukas Svejkovsky. Svejkovsky received a minor penalty for that hit.
    Habscheid thought Svejkovsky’s hit could have resulted in a stiffer penalty but noted the officials only get to see a play once in making a judgment call.
    “That was a dirty hit,” said Habscheid. “I hope the league looks at that.
    “That was just a bad hit. We don’t want that type of hit in this game. I think that if they looked at it on replay they might have called it differently.
    “They don’t get that opportunity.”
    Guhle’s equalizer ultimately set the stage for the Tigers to take the contest in the tiebreaking shootout.
Mads Sogaard makes a third period stop in goal for the Tigers.
    Mads Sogaard made 19 saves over 65 minutes in goal for the Tigers and turned away two of three shooters in the shootout. Paddock turned away 30 shots over 65 minutes in goal for the Raiders and one of three shooters in the shootout.
    Desjardins said Saturday’s contest was a tossup, where his side just happened to come out on the better end of the scoreboard.
    “I thought it was a good game,” said Desjardins. “I thought it was a playoff type game.
    “I thought both teams played hard. Obviously if you go into a shootout, the game could have gone either way.”
    While the Tigers are known for their fast-paced style of going up and down the ice, Desjardins said the Raiders are strong at playing that way too.
The Tigers celebrate their win on Saturday night.
    “They are a good team,” said Desjardins. “They can play that way as well.
    “They have some high end guys that like to skate and like to play a transition game. I think whenever you look at their game you think of them as a transition team, a speed team. I think it was probably equally suited for both teams.”
    The Tigers are back in action on Tuesday when they host the Swift Current Broncos (7 p.m. Alberta time, Canalta Centre).
    The Raiders return to play on Wednesday when they host the Victoria Royals (7 p.m., Art Hauser Centre).

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