Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Hilltops get 10 PFC all-star nods

Ben Abrook was named a PFC all-star for the first time.
    Some of the Saskatoon Hilltops biggest stars highlighted the all-star nods handed out by the CJFL’s Prairie Football Conference on Tuesday.
    The Hilltops, who finished the regular season with an 8-0 record for the second straight year, received 10 all-star selections ahead of hosting the PFC final this coming Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Edmonton Huskies at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    Tuesday’s PFC all-star selections included power running back Ben Abrook, left tackle Mason Ochs, defensive back Colton Holmes and veteran defensive tackle Jesse McNabb.
    On offence, Abrook, who is in his third year with the Hilltops and first year as the club’s full-time starter at running back, had a sensational campaign leading the PFC in rushing with 1,215 yards coming off 199 carries and scoring eight touchdowns.
    Two of the men who opened huge holes for Abrook on the Hilltops offensive line also found their way on to the all-star squad. Ochs, who attended the training camp of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, was a unanimous selection and was named an all-star for the third consecutive year.
Mason Ochs (#73) was a PFC all-star for the third straight year.
    Fifth-year left guard Ryder Klisowsky earned his first PFC all-star nod.
    Pass catchers Connor Graham and Keegan Dicks made the all-star team for the first time. Graham, who is in his fifth season, hauled in 28 receptions for 599 yards and scored six touchdowns. Dicks, who is in his third season, caught 31 passes for 494 yards and scored four touchdowns.
    McNabb, who is in his final campaign of CJFL eligibility, was named an all-star on the defensive side of the ball for a second consecutive season recording 26.5 total tackles and three sacks.
    Holmes, who also attended Roughriders training camp and was on the CFL club’s practice roster, was a unanimous selection at defensive back and took all-star honours for a second straight year. 
Jesse McNabb was a PFC all-star for the second straight year.
    He posted 17.5 total tackles, two pass knockdowns, one fumble recovery and one interception.
    Fifth-year linebacker Jadyn Pingue was named an all-star for the first time. He collected 33.5 total tackles, one pass knockdown, one fumble recovery and one interception.
    Third-year safety Brant Morrow made the all-star team as well. Morrow posted 18.5 total tackles, three interceptions, two pass knockdowns, one forced fumble and once fumble recovery. He returned one of his interceptions 113 yards for a touchdown in a 34-16 victory over the Thunder in Regina on Aug. 25.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) was named a PFC all-star as a place kicker.
    Rylan Kleiter made the all-star team at place kicker. 
    He connected on 18-of-22 field goal attempts for an 81.8 per cent success rate with a long of 42 yards.
    Kleiter kicked 33 conversion attempts, recorded one rouge and hauled in two touchdown receptions as a receiver to lead the PFC in scoring with 100 points.
    The Hilltops, who are currently 9-0 overall, advanced to the PFC final downing the Edmonton Wildcats 31-7 in a PFC semifinal contest last Sunday at SMF Field. The Huskies, who are 7-2 overall, took the other PFC semifinal last Sunday in Regina downing the host Thunder 20-17.
    That clash likely could be the game of the year in the CJFL.

Bear’s rise to the Oilers uplifting, other notes

Ethan Bear raised the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2017.
    One of the best stories at the start of the NHL season has to be the fact Ethan Bear is a full-time member of the Edmonton Oilers.
    The skilled defenceman has a huge backing from the Saskatchewan’s Ochapowace First Nation, where he is from. During his time in the WHL from 2013 to 2017, Bear starred with the Seattle Thunderbirds appearing in 264 regular season games piling up 66 goals and 126 assists for 192 points and a plus-50 rating.
    When the Thunderbirds would play road games in the Eastern Conference, a huge contingent of Bear’s family and friends followed the team over the course of the trip.
    When Seattle won the best-of-seven WHL Championship series 4-2 against the Regina Pats in 2017, it was estimated Bear had 500 supporters at each of the three games held in the Saskatchewan capital.
    The Thunderbirds clinched the series with a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 6 at the Brandt Centre in Regina, and Bear got to take a skate with the Ed Chynoweth Cup in front of his supporters.
    Now as a third-year in the professional ranks, Bear has cracked the Oilers main roster. In the Oilers first 10 games, Bear has two goals, an assist and a minus-one rating helping the Edmonton club post a 7-2-1 record.
    His supporters from Ochapowace can be noticed at Rogers Place. If Bear elevates to star status, you can expect his Oilers jersey will become one of the biggest sellers in the league.

  • The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey teams that won three straight Canada West Conference titles from 1981 to 1983 and the U Sports title in 1983 were announced as inductees to the Canada West Hall of Fame. Those Huskies squads were guided by legendary head coach Dave King and featured high-scoring star forward Willie Desjardins, who was the captain of the U Sports national title winner.
  • In the U Sports Top 10 rankings that were released on Tuesday, the U of S Huskies men’s hockey team were rated eighth with a 2-3-1 regular season record. The Huskies have battled injuries on defence, which has hampered the squad’s performance on the ice. The ranking shows the respect the Huskies program has nationally.
  • The U of S Huskies football team was rated seventh in the U Sports Top 10 rankings that were released on Tuesday. The Huskies (4-3) will face the U of Alberta Golden Bears (4-3) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium. The winner will be guaranteed at least a second place finish in Canada West and host a conference semifinal playoff game.
  • U of S Huskies women’s hockey team star netminder Jessica Vance is two wins away from becoming the third player in program history to record 30 career wins in regular season play. Vance has appeared in 44 career games with the Huskies posting a 28-11-4 record, a 1.09 goals against average, a .953 save percentage and 16 shutouts.
  • In eight overall games with the defending NCAA champion U of Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team so far this season, star forward and Saskatoon product Sophie Shirley has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points. Shirley is an alumna of the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team.
  • The new Joker movie was really good. It is a definite movie that should be seen in theatres. I have to warn you in my opinion it was messed up too in a disturbing way. You have to expect a dark script for a movie involving The Joker as a character. This one was dark but still done in an artistic way. It is the type of movie you will likely only watch once. My cousin, Justin Chomitzky, did a great review of the movie that can be found right here.
  • It was super sad to hear Aly Jenkins, who was the lead on Sherry Anderson’s curling team, died during childbirth on Sunday. A GoFundMe page has been started to help Jenkins husband, Scott, and the couple’s three children Brady, Avery and Sydney. The GoFundMe page can be found by clicking right here.
    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Monday, 21 October 2019

Huskies control destiny for elusive home playoff game

The Huskies storm on to the turf at Griffiths Stadium.
    For a moment, first place in the Canada West Conference flashed before the eyes of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team and the squads’ supporters.
    In an instant, that flash was gone.
    Last Saturday in Vancouver, B.C., results earlier in the day in the U Sports regular season play broke to give the Huskies a path that they could control for first place in Canada West. First, the Huskies needed to down the host University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
    The Huskies entered the fourth quarter holding a 37-25 lead in that contest. The Thunderbirds rallied to pull ahead 38-37. Thunderbirds kicker Garrin McDonnell hit a field goal from 11 yards out with 31 seconds to play to push the host side into the lead.
    U of S had a chance to pull out the win, but kicker David Solie wasn’t able to connect on a difficult field goal from 49 yards out. 
Nixen Voll, left, makes one of his three interceptions on the season.
    Thunderbirds running back Daniel Appiah ran the ball out of the end zone to preserve the one-point win for his side helping the Thunderbirds improve to 2-5.
    With that setback, the Huskies lost control in the race for first place. The Huskies last finished first in the Canada West standings back in 2010 with a 6-2 record.
    Still, the Huskies, who won the Canada West title last year for the first time since 2006, haven’t made it a habit in recent years to top the Canada West standings or make long playoff runs.
    That seems to still belong to the University of Calgary Dinos, who current top Canada West with a 5-2 record.
    The Huskies in the current generation are still trying to build a new tradition of success that can be linked to the team’s past. As a result, there will still be bumps in the road, especially due to the fact the Canada West Conference in football is highly competitive.
QB Mason Nyhus can guide the Huskies to a home playoff date.
    All the Huskies and their supporters could do is feel sorry for themselves for that Saturday night and move forward the next day. The sun still rose on Sunday morning.
    Currently, the Huskies, University of Alberta Golden Bears and University of Manitoba Bisons all have 4-3 records to sit tied for second to fourth in Canada West and all three squads will be part of the post-season.
    The Huskies and Golden Bears conclude their respective regular season campaigns playing each other on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon. The winner will lock up at least a second place finish in Canada West and host one of the conference’s two semifinal playoff games.
    Right now, that is what the Huskies can control. The Huskies last hosted a home playoff game in 2014, when they fell to the eventual Canada West champion Bisons 47-39.
    Since finishing first in Canada West in 2010, the Huskies have only hosted one home playoff game with that contest in 2014.
    If the Huskies were given the scenario that they could host a home playoff game if they could win their final regular season contest at the start of the campaign, they would likely take that scenario.
U of S still has an outside shot at first place. If the Huskies beat the Golden Bears this coming Saturday and the Dinos fall to the Thunderbirds in Calgary this coming Saturday, the Huskies will finish first.
Adam Machart could break the Huskies record for rushing yards in a season.
    The one thing Huskies have going for them in that Dinos clash with the Thunderbirds is Blake Nill is the UBC head coach, and teams coached by Nill do not roll over and play dead even if a playoff position can’t be obtained.
    On an individual front, Huskies supporters will be watching to see if star running back Adam Machart can break the Huskies record for rushing yards in one season in the team’s final regular season game. Machart has carried the ball 127 times for 1,107 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has caught 17 passes for 158 yards and three major scores.
    The team record is currently held by Doug Rozon from the 1999 campaign. That season, Rozon carried the ball 151 times for 1,267 yards and five touchdowns.
    Machart, who is just the third member of the Huskies to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in a season, will establish a new team record if he runs for 161 yards against the Golden Bears.
    David Stevens ran for the second most yards in one regular season in team history carrying the ball 174 times for 1,229 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2005.
    Machart would be the first to exchange any personal milestones for wins. 
The Huskies can still potentially enjoy another special season.
    With that noted, his performance has brought an extra spotlight on the Huskies in the current campaign, and it would be cool to see him break a long standing record, if he is able to do that.
    If the Huskies were 5-2 or 6-1, Machart would have a really strong chance at possibly claiming the Hec Crighton Trophy as the football MVP for U Sports. The Huskies 4-3 record does dampen the chances for possibly winning that national award.
    While the Huskies experienced a heartbreaker last Saturday and dropped a tough to take on 19-17 to the Golden Bears in Edmonton on Sept. 21, the U of S side is still sitting in a good spot.
    The Huskies still have a great opportunity in front of them to do some special things this season.

Rams have to lament the ones that got away

QB Josh Donnelly (#17) and the Rams lost too many close ones.
    The University of Regina Rams are likely doing some second guessing with how their season has gone.
    The Rams and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds will both miss the U Sports playoffs as they each currently sport 2-5 records to sit tied for fifth and sixth in the Canada West Conference. Both teams will play one last regular season game before their campaigns come to an end.
    The Rams could have been going into the final week of regular season play sitting in the thick of the chase for a playoff spot or the playoff picture. They lost three of their games by a combined total of seven points.
    On Sept. 6, the Rams dropped an 18-17 heartbreaker to the University of Alberta Golden Bears at Mosaic Stadium in Regina. On Sept. 28, the Rams traveled to Winnipeg, Man., and fell 27-26 to the University of Manitoba Bisons.
    On Oct. 4, the Rams dropped a 33-28 decision to the Thunderbirds at Mosaic Stadium.
    Had the Rams won one of those games, they would have been playing for a playoff berth this coming Friday, when they host the Bisons at 7 p.m. at Leibel Field.
    Had the Rams won two or all three of those close games, they would have been sitting in a real comfortable spot.
    The Rams season shows just how slim the margin is between having a successful season to missing the post-season entirely in Canada West.
    It is possible the Rams and Thunderbirds could both win their final regular season outings and finish with 3-5 records, which can get teams into the post-season in the majority of Canada West campaigns.

Did unexpected bye do in Thunder?

QB Blake Scherle (#14) and the Thunder lost out in a tight playoff game.
    Could the rust factor have cost the Regina Thunder?
    The Thunder fell to the Edmonton Huskies 20-17 in a PFC semifinal contest on Sunday at Leibel Field in Regina. With the setback, the Thunder were eliminated from the CJFL playoffs, while the Huskies advance to face the five-time defending CJFL champion Saskatoon Hilltops in the PFC final this coming Sunday at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The clash between the Thunder and Huskies saw two clubs with 6-2 regular season records going at it. The Thunder beat the Huskies in the only regular season encounter between the two sides 24-21 on Sept. 22 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
    The Thunder were supposed to host the Winnipeg Rifles in the final regular season contest for both sides on Oct. 13 at Leibel Field. The Rifles weren’t able to make it due to snowstorm conditions in Manitoba that close portions of the Trans-Canada Highway.
    As a result, a game cancellation couldn’t be avoided. The Thunder won that contest 1-0 via forfeit. The Rifles were on a season ending tailspin and finished off at 1-7.
    With that regular season clash cancelled, that meant the Thunder hadn’t been in game action since dumping the Calgary Colts 37-9 on Oct. 6 at Leibel Field. At the time, that was Regina’s third straight win.
    One wonders if the unexpected wait between games was enough to throw the Thunder off in the PFC semifinal against the Huskies. The Huskies jumped out to a 15-1 lead in the first quarter and were able to hold off the Thunder the rest of the way.
    The Huskies won the turnover battle 3-0, which also did not aid the Thunder’s cause.
    If the Thunder were able to play that last regular season game with the Rifles, the Regina side might have had that extra polish that could have helped them overcome the Huskies.
    When the dust settled, the Thunder were forced to look towards next year.

Fajardo signs extension with Roughriders

Cody Fajardo (#7) signed a contract extension with the Roughriders.
    The football community in Saskatchewan rejoiced on Monday afternoon, when the Saskatchewan Roughriders held a press conference in Regina, Sask., to announce they signed star quarterback Cody Fajardo to a contract extension.
    The 27-year-old signed a two-year extension with the club keeping him with the team through 2021. He signed a one-year contract with the Roughriders as a free agent in February.
    The Roughriders did not disclose financial terms of the deal, but Farhan Lalji of TSN is reporting the deal is worth approximately $450,000 per season.
    A backup for three CFL seasons from 2016 to 2018 with the Toronto Argonauts and British Columbia Lions, Fajardo has taken Rider Nation by storm this season.
    Fajardo became the Roughriders number one quarterback when Zach Collaros, who began the campaign as the team’s starter, suffered a concussion three plays into a 23-17 regular season opening loss to the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton, Ont., on June 13.
    With Fajardo at the controls, the Roughriders have posted an 11-5 record to sit second in the CFL’s West Division. The Calgary Stampeders hold first place with an identical 11-5 mark due to sweeping the Roughriders in the two head-to-head regular season games between the two sides.
    The graduate of the NCAA’s University of Nevada Wolfpack football team has put up strong numbers for the Roughriders completing 313-of-438 passes for 3,873 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
    Fajardo is the popular and likable star quarterback the Roughriders has been waiting for since Darian Durant was traded from the club following the 2016 season.
    It is safe to say most Roughriders fans believe the best part of the Fajardo era is just beginning.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Sunday, 20 October 2019

Kleiter delivers more big plays in playoff win for Hilltops

Saskatoon takes out Wildcats in PFC semifinal

Rylan Kleiter, right, celebrates one of his two TD catches.
    Rylan Kleiter seems to always be at the centre of timely big plays.
    The fourth-year receiver/kicker found himself in key moments for the Saskatoon Hilltops on Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    Kleiter made a couple of important touchdown receptions on his only two catches and booted a field goal to allow the Hilltops to down a game Edmonton Wildcats side 31-7 in a PFC semifinal contest.
    The win allowed the Hilltops to advance in the CJFL playoffs to the PFC final for a 13th straight year.
    When the game ended, Kleiter said the Hilltops, who are the five time defending CJFL champions, were happy to get the first step on the post-season trail out of the way.
    “We didn’t come out how we wanted to,” said Kleiter. “We were able to battle through and figure out what they were doing to overcome and make us a little better too.”
Rylan Kleiter makes a sliding 30-yard TD catch for the Hilltops.
    The Hilltops, who improved to 9-0 overall on the campaign, will host the PFC final this coming Sunday against the Edmonton Huskies, who are 7-2 overall, at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.
    The Huskies traveled to Regina and downed the host Thunder in Sunday’s other PFC semifinal 20-17. The Thunder finished the 2019 campaign with a 6-3 overall record.
    In the PFC semifinal clash in Saskatoon, the Hilltops entered as huge favourites over the Wildcats, who finished the 2019 campaign with a 2-7 overall record.
    The two sides were meeting for the third time in four weeks, and the familiarity between the clubs was apparent.
    The Wildcats defence gave the Hilltops offence difficulties making reads and stopping a number of plays.
Rylan Kleiter makes a 16-yard TD catch for the Hilltops.
    “Any time you play a team three times in four weeks, you know what, there are a lot of things that go against you,” said Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “We’re real proud of the effort today, because that is as good of a defence as we’ve seen all year.
    “They’re physical. They’re aggressive. They’re well coached.
    “They put their players in good spots. Ultimately, we had to be real sharp, real physical. We’re able to do that today.”
    The Hilltops broke through on the scoreboard to go ahead 7-0 at the 6:45 mark of the first quarter, when Kleiter hauled in a 16-yard touchdown reception from fifth-year quarterback Tyler Hermann.
    The drive that resulted in Kleiter’s first quarter major was set up by a fumble recovery by Hilltops defensive back Jared Giddings.
    In the second quarter, the Hilltops extended their edge to 14-0, when star power running back Ben Abrook ran home a touchdown from a yard out.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) boots a 25-yard field goal for the Hilltops.
    The Wildcats didn’t go away. With 4:50 remaining in the second quarter, Wildcats quarterback Devin Desormeau hit receiver Tanner Holt with a three-yard touchdown strike to cut the Hilltops lead to 14-7.
    Saskatoon seemed set to extend its lead right before halftime. Wildcats defensive back Tony Savchuk made an interception in his own end zone off Hermann with 10.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter to ensure the Hilltops lead remained 14-7 at halftime.
    “They kind of had our number in the first half,” said Kleiter, who is a standout curling skip when he is not playing football. “We took advantage in the second half.”
Rylan Kleiter averaged 37.4 yards a punt for the Hilltops on Sunday.
    The Hilltops got motoring in the second half, when Kleiter made a baseball sliding grab for a 30-yard touchdown catch just 3:28 into the third quarter. That score gave the host side a 21-7 advantage.
Sargeant said Kleiter’s second touchdown reception was big in allowing the final outcome to unfold in favour of the Hilltops.
    “That was something that we had designed in there,” said Sargeant. “It was just the right situation arose.
    “He is just an outstanding football player and did a lot of high end things. We put him in some man-to-man scenarios, and he executed it.”
    Kleiter was pleased come through with a big play in that moment.
    “It felt pretty good,” said Kleiter, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 170 pounds. “It was a good designed play.
    “It is all the other guys around me that are making that play. They are opening me up. It was good.”
Tanner Holt (#3) makes a three-yard TD catch for the Wildcats.
    Shortly after Kleiter’s second touchdown catch, the Hilltops offence hit the field again after safely Brant Morrow recovered a Wildcats fumble. Saskatoon proceeded to turn that into Abrook’s second one-yard touchdown run of the afternoon to go ahead 28-7.
    Abrook finished the game carrying the ball 29 times for 153 yards to go with his two major scores.
    The Wildcats got deep into Saskatoon territory late in the third quarter, but Giddings snuffed out that drive with an end zone interception.
    Kleiter rounded out the game’s scoring in the fourth quarter with a 25-yard field goal.
    With punter John Brown out due to the fact he is undergoing concussion protocol, Kleiter is handling all of the team’s kicking duties along with his duties on offence. 
Ben Abrook ran for 153 yards and two TDs for the Hilltops.
    Kleiter averaged 37.4 yards per punt over eight attempts on Sunday.
    The 21-year-old doesn’t mind being relied upon in multiple situations.
    “It is fun,” said Kleiter. “I am enjoying it out there.
    “I’m always locked into the game that way. I’m just always busy.”
    Hermann completed 10-of-17 passes for 125 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for Saskatoon. Kleiter led all Hilltops pass catches with 46 yards receiving on his two grabs.
    Desormeau completed 24-of-34 passes for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Wildcats.
    Receiver Jacob Mihailides caught 11 passes for 74 yards for Edmonton. Running back Dustin Pawliuk topped the Wildcats with 89 yards rushing on 19 carries.
    Defensive back Evan Mantyka led the Hilltops with 8.5 total tackles. Defensive end Tristan Hering and defensive tackle Jesse McNabb shared a sack.
The Hilltops defence closes in on Wildcats RB Dustin Pawliuk (#22).
    Linebacker Ben Davidge topped the Wildcats with 7.5 total tackles. Defensive lineman Rory Bakehe had a big game for the visitors recording 6.5 total tackles and one sack.
    The Hilltops defence forced five turnovers, while the Wildcats defence caused one takeaway.
    With Sunday’s win in the books, the Hilltops extended their overall winning streak including action in the regular season and playoffs to 28 games and their CJFL record for most consecutive post-season wins to 17 games.
    The Hilltops now turn their attention to the Huskies. 
The Hilltops mark their victory over the Wildcats on Sunday.
    The two sides met in last year’s PFC final, where the Hilltops prevailed 28-9.
    “We’ve got a long ways to go, and we’re excited about it,” said Sargeant. “We’re at the point now you just have to live another week, and that is what we are doing.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 19 October 2019

Football Huskies let golden chance slip through their hands

David Solie (#15) could not save the Huskies with a long winning field goal.
    David Solie wasn’t able to get the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team off the hook.
    On the last play of the U Sports regular season game against the host University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Saturday, Solie lined up for a 49-yard field goal attempt to try and win the game for the Huskies.
    Solie’s difficult boot went wide, and Thunderbirds running back Daniel Appiah ran the ball out of his team’s end zone to their 23 yard line. Appiah’s effort preserved a 38-37 victory to delight most of the 732 spectators at Thunderbird Stadium.
    The Huskies held a 37-25 edge with 3:58 to play in the third quarter only to see the Thunderbirds respond with 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
    U of S let a golden opportunity to jump into first place in the Canada West Conference slip through their hands falling to 4-3. The Huskies were rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings
    The Thunderbirds, who were already eliminated from the U Sports playoff picture before Saturday’s clash started, improved to 2-5.
    By the midway point of the second quarter, the action in the two other Canada West regular season games had concluded. The University of Regina Rams downed the University of Alberta Golden Bears 31-17 in Edmonton, Alta.
Adam Machart ran for 176 yards on Saturday.
    The University of Manitoba Bisons clinched the final playoff berth in Canada West downing the University of Calgary Dinos 43-29 in Winnipeg, Man. The Dinos were rated fourth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    With the loss by the Dinos, the Huskies would have been able to move into first in Canada West had they been able to beat the Thunderbirds going into the final week of regular season play.
    Instead, the Huskies became the third Canada West team to lose to a squad with a weaker record in the conference standings on Saturday.
    When the dust settled, the Dinos remained first at 5-2. The Huskies, Golden Bears and Bisons sit tied for the second, third and fourth in the conference with identical 4-3 records.
    The Rams and Thunderbirds will miss the post-season tied for the fifth and sixth spots in the standings with identical 2-5 records.
    In the clash between the Huskies and Thunderbirds, the Huskies fell behind 10-0 early in the first quarter and trailed the host side 13-7 after the first quarter ended. The visitors pulled ahead 30-22 at halftime.
    With 8:45 remaining in the third quarter, Thunderbirds kicker Garrin McDonnell hit a 23-yard field goal to cut the Huskies lead to 30-25.
    With 3:58 to play in the third, Huskies star running back Adam Machart hauled in a five-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Mason Nyhus to give the Huskies a 37-25 edge.
    The Thunderbirds proceeded to battle back in the fourth quarter. Early in the frame, McDonnell hit a 35-yard field goal to cut the Huskies advantage to 37-28.
    With 4:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, Thunderbirds quarterback Gabe Olivares connected with receiver Jacob Patten on a six-yard touchdown pass to trim the Huskies lead to 37-35.
Mason Nyhus put up 295 yards passing for the Huskies.
    With 1:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, McDonnell attempted a 42-yard field goal to put the Thunderbirds in front. He missed, and Huskies star utility player Colton Klassen returned the ball to the U of S 25 yard line to preserve the two-point edge.
    The Huskies were unable to cash in on their opportunity to run out the clock to preserve victory. On first down, Machart ran the ball four yards, but Nyhus was sacked on second down by Thunderbirds linebacker Daniel Kwamou for an eight-yard loss.
    After the Huskies punt, the Thunderbirds had the ball on the 42 yard line on the U of S side of the field. The host side quickly got into position that saw McDonnell hit an 11-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to put the Thunderbirds in front 38-37.
    With little time on the clock, the Huskies got into position for Solie to attempt a difficult field goal to win the game, which he wasn’t able to make.
    So far this season, the Huskies have been involved in two games that were decided by seven or fewer points, and they lost both of those contests despite holding the lead going into the final minute of the fourth quarter.
    The other close setback was a 19-17 decision in favour of the Golden Bears on Sept. 21 in Edmonton.
    In both of those close losses, the Huskies weren’t able to make the one or two plays in crunch time to earn victory. Had the Huskies managed to pull out one of those two close setbacks, they would have been sitting in good shape heading into the final week of the regular season.
Ben Whiting had 14 total tackles for the Huskies.
    In the first half of Saturday’s encounter between the Huskies and Thunderbirds, receiver Sam Baker hauled in touchdown receptions of 83 and 19 yards and Machart ran in a major from four yards out.
    Solie hit field goals from 39, 30 and 32 yards out.
    UBC’s first half scoring came from field goals from 23 and 20 yards out from McDonnell, a 50-yard interception return touchdown from linebacker Ben Hladik, a conceded safety from the Huskies and a nine yard touchdown reception from receiver Lliam Wishart from Olivares.
    Nyhus completed 20-of-35 passes for 295 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Huskies. Baker hauled in seven receptions for 150 yards to go with his two scores.
    Machart carried the ball 18 times for 176 yards to go with his one major on the ground and his five-yard touchdown catch through the air.
    On the season, Machart became just the third player in the history of the Huskies to break the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for a season. Machart has carried the ball 127 times for 1,107 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has caught 17 passes for 158 yards and three major scores.
    Linebacker Ben Whiting topped the Huskies with 14 total tackles on Saturday.
    Olivares completed 27-of-40 passes for 375 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Thunderbirds. Patten had 10 catches for 203 yards to go with his one major score.
Kene Ezekeke led the Thunderbirds with 10 total tackles.
HC Scott Flory, second from right, and his staff have to plan the regroup.
    The Huskies close the regular season this coming Saturday, when they host the Golden Bears at 2 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium. The winner of that contest will lock up at least a second place finish in Canada West and host a Canada West semifinal playoff game.
    U of S could still finish first in Canada West, if they down the Golden Bears and the Dinos fall to the Thunderbirds in their regular season encounter this coming Saturday in Calgary, Alta.
    The Huskies could finish fourth in Canada West, if they fall to the Golden Bears this coming Saturday and the Bisons down the Rams in Regina, Sask., this coming Friday.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 18 October 2019

Fiala perfect fit for Huskies

Evan Fiala brings the puck up ice for the Huskies.
    Home is where the heart is for Evan Fiala.
    After he graduated from the WHL as the captain of the Saskatoon Blades at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Fiala, who resides just outside of Saskatoon in Calvet, Sask., didn’t want to stray too far from his stomping grounds.
    The defensive defenceman signed on to play with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, who are based in North Charleston, South Carolina, to finish off the 2017-18 campaign after the Blades failed to make the WHL playoffs. Fiala skated in 10 regular season games scoring one goal in that stretch and four post-season games with the Stingrays.
Evan Fiala controls the puck behind his own net.
    For the 2018-19 campaign, Fiala wanted to play close to home, and he was hoping the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team would come calling. The Huskies came calling, and Fiala jumped at the chance to join the storied and historic U Sports squad.
    “The fact they were in my hometown pretty much is huge,” said Fiala, who still skates in almost every situation with a big smile on his face. “I’ve got family, and I’ve got a good fanbase here that has always supported me.
    “It made the decision pretty easy.”
    As a rookie in 2018-19, Fiala played in 25 regular season games for the Huskies posting four assists and a plus-eight rating in the plus-minus department. U of S finished first in the Canada West Conference with a 25-3 record.
    Fiala had a plus-five rating playing in all five of the Huskies games in the Canada West Conference playoffs.
    At the University Cup national championship tournament last March, he played in all three of the Huskies games in that event posting a goal and a plus-three rating.
Evan Fiala (#27) had two assists on Friday night.
    On Friday night before 1,064 spectators at Merlis Belsher Place, the 22-year-old collected a pair of assists and a plus-two rating helping the Huskies blank the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 5-0. The victory was the first for the Huskies in the 2019-20 regular season helping them improve to 1-3-1.
    Fiala has played in all five of the Huskies games in the current campaign posting four assists and a minus-one rating.
    When he joined the Huskies, Fiala knew they had graduated their captain in Kendall McFaull at the conclusion of the 2017-18 campaign. McFaull was a stellar defenceman who was strong in his own zone.
Evan Fiala’s mom Julie Fiala, left, watches Friday night’s game.
    Fiala was aware there was a spot open to get on the ice right away, but he knew that spot wasn’t just going to be given to him.
    “You have to prove yourself no matter what situation you are in,” said Fiala, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds. “Thankfully, things have worked out that I’ve been able to play the games I have.
    “Hopefully, I can keep that spot.”
    During his WHL career that ran from 2014 to 2018, Fiala appeared in 266 regular season games split between the Spokane Chiefs and the Blades posting 17 goals, 53 assists, 500 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating. He said the U Sports game is played at a higher pace than what is seen in the WHL due to the fact the players are more experienced being aged usually anywhere from age 19 to 26.
Evan Fiala passes the puck to a teammate.
    “It is definitely a step up,” said Fiala. “It is faster.
    “Everyone is bigger. It is a tonne of fun also. Everyone is usually where they need to be.
    “Everyone has been through it. They understand situations, and that is what makes the guys in there good. Everyone is on the same page.”
    Fiala enjoyed playing with the Huskies veteran players last season, and he said they played a big role in helping him get used to the U Sports league. He said star offensive defenceman Jesse Forsberg really made him feel like he belonged.
    Forsberg was the Huskies captain last season in his fifth and final campaign of eligibility.
    “We had a fantastic veteran group last year Jesse (Forsberg) especially,” said Fiala. “He is definitely missed.
    “He was a good role model also. You’re not going to see a more passionate guy.”
    Going into this season, the Huskies appeared to have strong defensive unit on paper, but the injury bug decided to wreak havoc on things in the early going. 
Evan Fiala (#27) can be a presence when things get rough.
    The Dogs were short four defencemen at one time due to injury and are still without third-year rearguard Sam Ruopp and fourth-year blue-liner Colby Harmsworth.
    Fiala said the players currently dressing for games on the Huskies back end are starting to find their groove in filling the void left by Ruopp and Harmsworth.
    “Those are two big sets of shoes to fill,” said Fiala. “Spags (Cody Spagrud) and Franny (Kendall Fransoo) have done an amazing job.
    “They are great D-men to play with. It definitely helps our squad.”
    In Friday’s game, the Huskies opened the scoring at the 8:01 mark of the first period, when left-winger Carter Folk blew home a shot from in front of the Lethbridge goal after taking a drop pass from Fiala.
    Just over five minutes later, the Huskies went up 2-0, when centre Logan McVeigh tipped home a point shot from Spagrud.
    Working on a power play 87 seconds into the second frame, Huskies right-winger Carson Stadnyk took the puck at the right side of the Pronghorns goal, did a spin-o-rama and tucked home a shot past Pronghorns starting netminder Taz Burman. The tally gave the host side a 3-0 edge.
Evan Fiala monitors action in the offensive zone from the point.
    The Pronghorns elected to pull Burman after the Huskies third goal. He turned away 13-of-16 shots fired his way.
    Backup Nik Amundrud turned away 22-of-24 shots in relief.
    At the 3:16 mark of the second, Huskies defenceman Shane Collins wired home a shot from in front of the Pronghorns for a 4-0 lead.
    Before the second period ended, the Huskies went ahead 5-0, when Stadnyk netted his second of the contest on shot coming off a rush up the left wing. Fiala picked up his second assist of the contest on Stadnyk’s second tally.
    Taran Kozun stopped 18 shots to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Huskies.
Evan Fiala (#27) and the Huskies celebrate Friday’s win.
    Fiala was happy the Huskies broke through on the win column. The education major could potentially play three more seasons at U of S, but he said he doesn’t look past what is happening in the present day.
    “I’m right here right now, and it has been so far so good,” said Fiala. “I will focus on this season and see what happens in the future.”
    The Huskies and Pronghorns (3-2) go at it again on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Thursday, 17 October 2019

Hering has signature moment, aims for another in final playoff run with Hilltops

Hilltops DE Tristan Hering, right, sacks Rams QB Duncan Little in 2018.
    Tristan Hering will always be cemented in Saskatoon Hilltops lore, but he still aims to create one last sequel.
    The fifth-year defensive end has helped the Hilltops win the last four of their current run of capturing five straight CJFL championships. In last year’s CJFL title game – the Canadian Bowl, Hering had his signature moment with the team.
    On the second play of the clash with the Langley Rams on Nov. 17, 2018 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Hering broke through and levelled Rams quarterback Duncan Little. That seemed the set the tone in the contest as the Hilltops proceeded to roll to a 24-0 lead and ultimately claimed a 58-21 victory over the visitors from British Columbia.
Tristan Hering gets set to rush the quarterback.
    Hering, who is a graduate of the Humboldt Collegiate Institute Mohawks nine-man football team, has fond memories of the sack that started the Hilltops romp in last year’s CJFL final.
    “It was good, because it made a big statement against obviously a team we haven’t seen before,” said Hering. “It was a nice way to start the game and let them know where they were.
    “I think it set the tone, because when they came in, they were shivering and cold. We could see they were used to their B.C. weather, and us coming out that hard really scared them.”
    The 22-year-old would like to have another signature moment in helping the Hilltops win an unprecedented sixth straight CJFL championship. Saskatoon is the only team in the history of the CJFL to win five straight national titles.
    The Hilltops (8-0) begin their march through the CJFL post-season on Sunday, when they host the Edmonton Wildcats (2-6) in a Prairie Football Conference semifinal contest at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.
Tristan Hering (#65) gets one of his four sacks this season.
    Saskatoon enters that contest having won its last 27 straight games in a row including action in the regular season and playoffs. Due to winning the last five straight CJFL titles, the Hilltops are looking to extend their CJFL record post-game winning streak that currently sits at 16 straight games.
    Last year’s Canadian Bowl ended with the Hilltops taking a knee to end the game, and the club’s eight fifth-year players that season were on the field for that final snap. Having watched Adam Benkic, Bobby Ehman, Adam Ewanchyna, Connor Guillet, Cody Peters, Jason Price, Kirk Simonsen and Jordan Walls all graduate from the team having each won their fifth CJFL championship ring, Hering would like to have that experience as well.
Tristan Hering (#65) makes a sack on a Winnipeg Rifles quarterback.
    “That is the goal anyway,” said Hering, who stands 6-feet and weighs 220 pounds. “Seeing them do it makes it that much more realistic to get five years and five rings.”
    In helping the Hilltops post an 8-0 record for the second straight regular season, Hering had a solid final regular season for the Saskatoon side piling up a team high four sacks, while adding in 18 total tackles.
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant remembers Hering playing well in the club’s spring camp back in 2015 and noted that likely foreshadowed what was to come.
    “To start off, he was our rookie of the camp out of Humboldt right off the bat and was our top player we identified,” said Sargeant. “He’s played a lot of football for the Hilltops.
Tristan Hering springs into action on the defensive line.
    “He’s been a great special teamer. In the last couple of years, he has been our rusher and boundary end player and led our team in sacks this year. Tristan (Hering) is just who he is.
    “He is unsung. He just does his job. He works hard during the day, and he works hard at night. He probably gets more out of a 24-hour day than most players on my team.”
    Sargeant has great memories of Hering’s early sack in last year’s Canadian Bowl during that frigid November day game played in front of 1,465 spectators.
    “It brought great energy,” said Sargeant. “I remember the crowd and the fans and it just turned electric.
    “Look at us last week (in a 48-8 regular season win over the Wildcats last Sunday). We got six sacks, and he (Hering) was part of the sack brigade and that just brings energy to the crowd, to the defence, to the other players and the coaching staff. We’re going to need a lot of sacks moving forward, if we are going to keep moving this team in the right direction.
Tristan Hering (#65) is all pumped up after making a sack.
    “As a fifth-year player, we always expect our fifth-year players to come out and step up and do their best and play their best. That is what we anticipate to happen in each game we play. We expect them to be the best, and if they are, we’re going to be in good shape.”
    Hering has enjoyed playing on the Hilltops defensive line this season along with tackles Jesse McNabb and Jaxon Funk and end Caleb Haight. Hering and McNabb were the two returning starters on that unit.
    “We came along ways,” said Hering. “(Jaxon) Funk is having an unreal year.
Tristan Hering sizes up an offensive formation.
    “(Caleb) Haight has been playing good. Everyone is just coming together. It has been great.”
    Along with the success on the field, Hering was able to experience some special family moments with the Hilltops. He joined the venerable Saskatoon junior club in 2015 due to the fact his older brother, Tyrell, was on the team as a standout defensive lineman.
    Tyrell graduated from the Hilltops following the 2015 CJFL championship campaign.
    This year, Tristan’s younger brother, Dawson, is a rookie linebacker playing on the team’s practice roster.
    Tristan said those opportunities to play alongside his siblings with the Hilltops was something you could never put a price on.
    “It was awesome,” said Hering. “I got to play with my older brother one year in high school, but I never did get to play on the same team with my younger brother.
 
Tristan Hering (#65) enter SMF Field with his parents.
  “It is a good way to finish my last year of football.”
    The Hilltops and Wildcats will meet for the third time in four weeks and will be going at it in their first playoff encounter since 2013. Back in 2013, the Hilltops thumped the Wildcats 41-10 in a PFC semifinal clash.
    Sargeant said this is the time every year the Hilltops look forward to.
    “It is a different season,” said Sargeant. “Here we go.
    “This is why you play the eight games to try and get in a good spot. We’re in first place, so now we have to defend our dirt. At the end of the day, they are coming into our place, so we have to make sure this isn’t a good place; it is an uncomfortable place to play.
    “We need great energy from our fans, and more importantly great energy from our players to give to the fans. As I’ve said, we just need to come out and execute a great game plan, play fast and play physical and get the job done and move on to the next week. That is all it is.”

Hermann takes PFC offensive player of the week nod

Tyler Hermann (#12) was the PFC’s offensive player of the week.
    Tyler Hermann earned a league tip of the cap for surpassing 300 yards passing in a game for the first time in his CJFL career.
    On Wednesday, the fifth-year quarterback for the Saskatoon Hilltops was named the offensive player of the week for the PFC. 
    Last Sunday against the Edmonton Wildcats, Hermann, who is in his first season as the Hilltops starting signal caller, completed 20-of-26 passes for 364 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
    Powered by Hermann’s efforts, the Hilltops thumped the Wildcats 48-8 to finish the CJFL regular season with an 8-0 record for the second straight year.
    On the season, Hermann started all of the Hilltops eight regular season games completing 123-of-192 passes for 1,908 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had the best completion percentage in the PFC at 64.1 per cent and his 17 touchdown passed equaled Regina Thunder quarterback Blake Scherle for tops in the conference.

McNabb lands PFC defensive player of the week honours

Jesse McNabb was the PFC’s defensive player of the week.
    Jesse McNabb made a loud lasting impression during his final CJFL regular season game resulting in a weekly league honour.
    On Wednesday, the veteran defensive tackle, who is in his final campaign of CJFL eligibility, was named the defensive player of the week for the PFC. Last Sunday against the Edmonton Wildcats, McNabb piled up three sacks and 6.5 total tackles.
    With McNabb anchoring the defence, the Hilltops hammered the Wildcats 48-8 to conclude the CJFL regular season with an 8-0 record for the second straight year.
    On the season, McNabb posted three sacks and 26.5 total tackles.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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