Sunday, 16 June 2019

Schenn deserves to soak in Blues’ Stanley Cup win

Brayden Schenn skating in Saskatoon in 2017.
    Brayden Schenn showed that good guys do finish first.
    Last Wednesday, the 27-year-old centre who was born and raised in Saskatoon, scored a goal to help the St. Louis Blues down the host Boston Bruins 4-1 in a series-deciding Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The win allowed the Blues to capture their first NHL title in team history as they took the best-of-seven series 4-3.
    Schenn was one of three players that were born and raised in Saskatchewan that helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup along with left-winger Jaden Schwartz of Wilcox and centre Tyler Bozak of Regina. Schwartz had a pair of assists in the Cup clinching victory.
    In the time flies department, Schenn has completed his eight full season as a professional since graduating from the WHL ranks following the 2010-11 campaign. In 587 career regular season games split between the Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers and Blues, Schenn has posted 154 goals and 218 assists for 372 points.
    Growing up in Saskatoon, Schenn has always been the quiet superstar. You talk to him, and you would never know he was putting up monster point totals.
    The gifts he had on the ice were pretty apparent. He had 65 goals and 43 assists in 43 regular season games with the Saskatoon Generals bantam AA team in the 2005-06 campaign. In his lone midget AAA season with the Saskatoon Contacts in 2006-07, Schenn piled up 27 goals and 43 assists in 41 regular season games.
    Following his time with the Contacts, Schenn played four seasons in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades netting 116 goals and 199 assists in 224 regular season games. He was selected by the Kings in the first round and fifth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
    After moving to the NHL, Schenn often returns to Saskatoon and area for various fundraising and community events.
    Schenn is a respected person in Saskatoon.
    In what is now viewed as a more water under the bridge time, that wasn’t always the case. Schenn did face challenges in his hometown, when he played for the Blades. He experienced great times and some unfathomable down times.
    It should be noted the bumps Schenn faced with the Blades were never his fault or the team’s fault. The bumps were a learning experience about what could happen when an extremely high profile player laces up the skates for his hometown major junior hockey team.
    At the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Schenn, who was in his 19-year-old season, made the Kings and appeared in eight NHL contests. He also suited up for seven games with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes before being sent back to the Wheat Kings in the WHL.
    The Blades were in a race for first overall in the WHL that season, and they made a monster trade with the Wheat Kings to get Schenn.
    In the deal that was made Jan. 10, 2011, the Blades received Schenn and a third round selection in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft from the Wheat Kings in exchange for the Blades first and second round selections of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2012 CHL Import Draft and then prospects in defenceman Ayrton Nikkel and centre Tim McGauley.
    Schenn arrived home in Saskatoon shortly after helping Canada win a silver medal at world juniors. He was named the MVP of that seasons’ world juniors topping the event in goals (eight), assists (10), points (18) and plus-minus (plus-10) in seven games played.
Brayden Schenn starred at all levels of hockey growing up in Saskatoon.
    Schenn played 27 regular season games with the Blades piling up 21 goals and 32 assists. Saskatoon topped the WHL standings with a 56-13-1-2 record for 115 points in the standings. The 56 wins and 115 standings points are still Blades club records.
    It seemed like Schenn was going to live out a dream season with his hometown WHL team.
    While Schenn always carried himself well, it seemed there were some in the public that wanted to bring him down.
    During the Blades first round playoff series with the Prince Albert Raiders, someone went online and made racist comments towards First Nations peoples in Schenn’s name via a fake Facebook account. That development caused the Blades to hold a news conference to state Schenn didn’t have anything to do with that fake Facebook account and request a police investigation.
    At that time, the Blades found nine fake Facebook accounts in Schenn’s name.
    Schenn wasn’t made available to the media at that press conference, but the Blades issued a statement from the skilled forward. One can only imagine how much time was spent putting this fire out that Schenn and the Blades had no part of starting.
    On top of that, Schenn and his team were focusing on a player series against an archrival club.
    The Blades proceeded to eliminate the Raiders 4-2 in a best-of-seven series. Saskatoon was swept away in a best-of-seven second round series 4-0 to the Kootenay Ice, who went on to win the WHL championship.
    In 10 playoff games, Schenn put up six goals and five assists for the Blades. Expectations were high that year that the Blades would win the WHL title and sizable crowds were showing up at the rink that is now known as the SaskTel Centre.
    During the immediate aftermath of the playoff ouster, there were a number of people in the Blades fanbase that blamed the post-season elimination on Schenn.
    I was working in Medicine Hat during that time covering the WHL’s Tigers for the Medicine Hat News, and relatives in Saskatoon told me that Schenn couldn’t show his face in public in town in the days that followed the Blades playoff exit. I do recall seeing a Facebook group that existed to dump hate on Schenn for costing the Blades the Memorial Cup. I can no longer find that Facebook page.
    What Schenn had to deal with in the 2011 WHL playoffs goes down as a blip on the radar. Most have forgotten what Schenn went through in that post-season outside of the random ultra-passionate fan.
    That episode likely helped prepare Schenn for dealing with unfair criticisms that ultimately pop up at the NHL level. Some likely came this season, when the Blues sat last in the entire NHL on Jan. 2.
    From that point, the Blues went on a magical run to capture a playoff berth, and that run continued through the post-season cumulating in a Stanley Cup title.
    Schenn posted 17 goals and 37 assists in 72 regular season games and added five goals and seven assists appearing in all of the Blues 26 post-season contests.
    When you do recall what happened to Schenn in the 2011 WHL playoffs, it makes seeing him lift the Stanley Cup last Wednesday that much more special.
    Schenn’s parents still live in Saskatoon, and he is expecting to bring hockey’s most storied prize back to “the Bridge City.”
    When that happens, Schenn will be returning home as a hero.

Morons of the week – those that threaten Kyle

Kaylyn Kyle demonstrates a soccer drill in Saskatoon in 2015.
    If anyone sends a death threat to a person over criticisms of a sporting event, the person sending the threat is a moron.
    Death threats were something Kaylyn Kyle, who is a former standout midfielder with Canada’s national women’s soccer team, said she experienced this past week.
    Kyle, who was born and raised in Saskatoon, is working as an analyst for TSN during that network’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup being held in France. Last Tuesday, the United States thumped Thailand 13-0.
    The American players celebrated every goal in that romp.
    Kyle said the celebrations should have stopped when the score hit 8-0. She said the continuing celebrations were excessive and disrespectful.
    In a tweet late last Tuesday, Kyle said she had been sent death threats.
    Kyle’s criticisms of the U.S. side were correct. From what I have seen so far, I think she has been outstanding in her role with TSN.
    She gives insight, the straight goods and tells it like it is.
    Sending a media personality death threats over a critique of something that happens in a sporting event is way over the top.
    I also find a disturbing trend that some low life types feel like they have a right to lash out and bully female media personalities in sports especially if they are good looking without any repercussions.
    Those low life types need to be subjected to a number of days of hard labour.
    Kyle ranks up there with the best in the world in the looks department. Anytime I have had the opportunity to photograph her at public events, it usually takes just one click of the camera to get a perfect picture.
    Still, she is excellent when it comes to doing her job, and she is tough both mentally and physically.
    I am pretty certain Kyle will keep being who she is.
    Here’s hoping the morons encounter repercussions for being morons.

Massive turnout for Filteau’s celebration of life heartwarming

Justin Filteau in action for the Huskies in 2016.
    It was heartwarming to see the massive turnout of people that came for Justin Filteau’s celebration of life.
    The celebration of life for Filteau was held Friday at the Circle Drive Alliance Church and close to 1,000 people turned out. That right there shows how much of an impact he made on peoples’ lives.
Filteau passed away tragically in a plane crash on June 1 just east of Medicine Hat, Alta., at age 26.
    He was born and raised in Moose Jaw and became a high school football star at A.E. Peacock Collegiate. After graduating high school in 2010, Filteau was standout at linebacker for the CJFL’s Saskatoon Hilltops from 2010 to 2014 and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team from 2015 to 2017.
    He had been a position coach on defence for the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League since 2017.
    Filteau was also heavily involved in judo and competed frequently at the national level in that sport. There was a huge turnout from the provincial judo scene at the celebration of life.
    During the celebration of life, Filteau was honoured with the posthumous presentation of a blackbelt in judo.
    He implemented the fun two claps and a Rick Flair “woo” as a fun cheering activity, and that will likely live on in the provincial judo scene.
    Filteau left behind a nice legacy on a number of levels. You can be sure the people he impacted will dig a little deeper against any challenge the face and will smile more.

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Friday, 14 June 2019

Raptors NBA title win great for Canada in a big way, Saskatoon in a quaint way

Fan in Civic Square in Saskatoon celebrate the Raptors NBA title win.
    You almost wish those Jurassic Park parties for the Toronto Raptors would have been like the Energizer Bunny and kept going and going and going.
    On Thursday, the party came to an end in a joyous fashion across Canada. People all over the country were gathered in various Jurassic Park parties watching the Raptors capture the NBA title on big screens.
    In Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., the Raptors edged past the two time defending champion and host Golden State Warriors 114-110 to take the best-of-seven series 4-2. The contest was the last NBA game to be played in the Warriors long time home facility.
    With the win, the Raptors ensured the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy would be going to a team based outside of the United States for the first time in history.
The party erupts in Civic Square when the Raptors win the NBA title.
    In a number of centres in Canada, the party went well into the night.
    In Saskatoon, a cozy gathering of about 300 people gathered at Civic Square in front of city hall. The viewing parties in Saskatoon were held over the last five games of the NBA Finals thanks to the efforts of the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League and the City of Saskatoon.
    The quaint gatherings in “The Bridge City” were a great thing. They brought together people from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds, and they were united in support of Canada’s only NBA team.
The fans at Civic Square cheer on the Raptors on Thursday.
    The event felt inclusive and fun.
    The watch parties had a similar vibe to when the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades host their annual “Welcome the World” game, where a large number of newcomers to Canada become Canadian citizens during a pre-game ceremony.
    During the three hours that the Raptors watch party took place, everyone got along and was happy.      With all the adversities that can happen in life, it was great to see a gathering where everyone can stay in a great frame of mind for a small but still lengthy stretch of time.
    Thursday’s game featured 18 lead changes and nine points when things were all tied up. Even when the Raptors were behind, there was never an overriding fear that the outcome wouldn’t go the Raptors way.
Fans at Civic Square watch the early second half of the Raptors game.
    Had the Raptors lost, it felt like there would have been an “aw-shucks” reaction.
    When the Raptors made big plays or jumped out ahead, the cheers exploded from the crowd.
    Everyone was glued to the screen for the game’s climax, when the Raptors were holding a 111-110 lead inside of the final 10 seconds. The Warriors had possession after a Raptors turnover.
    Warriors superstar guard Seth Curry had a good look at a three-point shot, and as his shot went up, you could see people in the crowd in Saskatoon were starting to think about returning for a series-deciding Game 7 watch party on Sunday.
Fans collect video of the NBA title trophy presentations for the Raptors.
    Curry’s shot missed resulting in a long rebound, which was gathered up by Warriors forward Draymond Green. Green called a timeout, but since the Warriors didn’t have a timeout, a technical foul was called against Golden State with 0.9 seconds remaining on the clock.
    At that point, the celebration in Saskatoon started to begin in earnest as it was almost impossible for Golden State to win.
    Raptors star guard Kawhi Leonard hit the free throw on the technical. He was quickly fouled on the inbounds pass and hit two more free throws to seal the final outcome.
    As the last bit of time elapsed, the crowd at the Saskatoon watch party broke into elation with people turning to hug others they just met that night.
    Leonard finished with 22 points and was named the MVP of the NBA Finals. He received big cheers when he was shown accepting his MVP honours.
A fan at Civic Square watches the Raptors during the trophy presentations.
    Big cheers went out when Raptors star guard Kyle Lowry was shown on screen as well. Lowry and forward Pascal Siakam led the way in scoring for the Raptors with 26 points each. Overall, the Raptors played a really strong team game.
    The crowd in Civic Square happily dispersed as the post-game trophy ceremony went on with a few hardcores stay until the broadcast ended at 10 p.m.
    After all the watch party viewers left, the Saskatoon Police officers who were on site proceeded to depart with big smiles on their faces. A few officers said they were happy there were no troubles and added to was great to see everyone had fun during a nice evening in “The Bridge City.”
    It was apparent they enjoyed themselves that night too.
    It was cool to see an NBA team in Toronto could provide good times in Saskatoon.

Ice ink top pick Savoie

    The Twitter accounts of numerous persons from the WHL lit up with a big signing from the Winnipeg Ice.
    On Thursday, the Ice announced they had signed centre Matthew Savoie to a WHL Standard Player Agreement. Savoie, who is a 15-year-old from St. Albert, Alta., was selected first overall by the Ice in WHL Bantam Draft held in early May.
    Last season, Savoie played with the Northern Alberta Xtreme Midget Prep team of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. He had 31 goals and 40 assists in 31 regular season games and posted three goals and nine assists in five playoff games as the Xtreme won the CSSHL Midget Prep Championship.
    Savoie captured MVP honours for the league.
    Savoie had verbally committed to join the University of Denver Pioneers men’s hockey team in the NCAA ranks in March, before changing his mind to join the Ice. The Ice brought Savoie and his family to Winnipeg to tour their training facilities at the Rink Hockey Academy shortly after the WHL Bantam Draft.
    Earlier this year, Savoie and his family applied to Hockey Canada looking to gain exceptional status for Matthew, which would have allowed him to play on a full-time basis in the WHL as a 15-year-old.
    The application was denied.
    Savoie is eligible to play five regular season games with the Ice before his club team has its season come to an end. Once the season ends for his club team, he can join the Ice on a full-time basis. He could also play games with the Ice on an emergency basis.
    In early April, the Ice acquired the WHL rights of 17-year-old left-winger Carter Savoie, who is Matthew’s older brother, in a trade with the Regina Pats.
    Last season, Carter posted 31 goals and 42 assists playing 58 regular season games in the junior A ranks with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He was named the AJHL’s rookie of the year.
    Carter has committed to the U of Denver Pioneers and said in a tweet on Thursday he intends to honour that commitment and return to the Crusaders next season.
    Still, the fact Matthew Savoie has committed to the Ice is huge for that franchise going into its first season in Winnipeg after moving from Cranbrook, B.C.

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Thursday, 13 June 2019

All for Raptors party in Canada

Fans watch the Raptors post-game on a big screen in Saskatoon on Monday.
    The Toronto Raptors are the epitome of “if it feels good, go with it” right now in Canada.
    In a few hours, people from coast-to-coast will be huddled around television sets or fancy big screens to watch the Raptors attempt to win their first NBA title in team history, when they play the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Tonight’s game (7 p.m. Saskatchewan time, ABC and TSN) will be the final contest to be held at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., which is the long time home of the Warriors.
    Toronto leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 and dropped 106-105 heartbreaker on home court at the Scotiabank Arena in Game 5 on Monday. Guard Kyle Lowry missed a shot to win the game at the buzzer.
The crowd in downtown Saskatoon for the Raptors watch party on Monday.
    In Toronto and the cities that surround that metropolis in Ontario, the Raptors will always have a hardcore following.
    During their run through the post-season, the hype surrounding the Raptors has captured the imaginations of followers across Canada. Some of the following comes due to the fact the Raptors are the only NBA team in Canada.
    Whoever thought over 13,000 would turn up to watch a Raptors game at Mosaic Stadium in Regina to watch the hoops game on the big screen there. The photos of the watch party made up an article on the website for Sports Illustrated.
    A watch party will be held at Mosaic Stadium again tonight in Regina.
Fans watch the final moments of Monday’s Raptors game on a big screen.
    It starts by showing the Saskatchewan Roughriders season opener in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats at 5 p.m. and follows with the Raptors game at 7 p.m.
    For myself, I am not going to live or die on the fan front if the Raptors win or lose. I am enjoying the spectacle of the many people in Canada rallying around and getting into this team.
    If a large majority of people in Canada will be happy for a short spell if the Raptors can capture the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, I am all for it.
    It has been cool to see people from all cultures gather for watch parties in downtown Saskatoon to see Raptors game. Kudos to the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League for making those parties happen.
    I haven’t kept the greatest tabs on the Raptors. I knew they were doing well again this season, and I knew they had finished first in the Atlantic Division.
A raptor was set up at the Raptors watch party in Saskatoon on Monday.
    I didn’t realize they finished second overall in the NBA with a 58-24 record, and they finished ahead of the Warriors, who were third overall in the league at 57-25.
    I knew Kawhi Leonard and Lowry were the team’s big stars. I didn’t realize Leonard had a big run with the San Antonio Spurs, where he was named the NBA Finals MVP when the Spurs took the title in 2014.
    I never knew Leonard was the defensive player-of-the-year in the NBA in 2015 and 2016.
    If the Raptors win the NBA title today or in Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday, Leonard will forever be a celebrity in Canada. Decades after his career concludes, he will be able to still go across the country for speaking engagements to promote basketball like Roberto Alomar does for baseball long after he helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series in 1992 and 1993.
The big screen set up at the Raptors watch party in Saskatoon on Monday.
    After watching the Raptors play a handful of games, you start to realize Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam are all good players.
    Trying to find the jerseys for sale of the current Raptors in retail sports stores in Canada is challenging right now. Those items are pretty much sold out at most places.
    On social media channels following the Raptors loss in Game 5, you could be swept up in talk about whether Lowry should have taken the last shot or debate how head coach Nick Nurse used or didn’t use his timeouts in the contest’s final minutes.
    For myself, I haven’t paid this much attention to the Raptors since Vince Carter won the slam dunk contest in 2000 in the festivities leading up to the NBA all-star game.
People pack up following the watch party in Saskatoon.
    During that time, I remember working as the music man for a University of Regina Cougars men’s hockey game and checking out the highlights of Carter’s dunks on the big screen in the sports bar at the Cougars home rink. There were a lot of astonished faces back then.
    I do remember the Raptors struggling as an expansion franchise in 1995-96 going 21-61 with Damon Stoudamire being the team’s first star.
    Right now, it is the Raptors time in the national spotlight. Like Joe Carter’s walk off home run in the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays, here is hoping the Raptors can cap a title win with an equally epic moment.

Ryan highlights Roughriders preview for The Canadian Press

Jon Ryan (#9) joins the Roughriders after 12 seasons in the NFL.
  I was alive nationwide again this week typing out the season preview story on the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders for The Canadian Press.
    The Roughriders open their season tonight, when they travel to Hamilton to take on the Tiger-Cats (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, TSN).
    The story focused around Regina born-and-raised punter Jon Ryan settling in with his hometown CFL team after spending 12 seasons in the NFL from 2006 to 2017 with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.
    Ryan vaulted to star status with the Seahawks and was a member of their 2013 Super Bowl winning team.
    The piece included quick outlooks on offence and defence. The story is on the Globe and Mail’s website and can be round by clicking right here.
    The story can also be found on the Saskatchewan Roughriders website by clicking right here.

Celebration of life set for Filteau

Justin Filteau in action for the Hilltops in 2014.
    A celebration of life will be held Saskatoon Hilltops and University of Saskatchewan Huskies football alum and Saskatoon Valkyries position coach Justin Filteau on Friday.
    The celebration of life will start at 3 p.m. at Circle Drive Alliance Church in Saskatoon. People are invited to wear sports jerseys or jackets for the service, if they would like to do so.
    Filteau, who stood 5-foot-9 and weighed 214 pounds, died in a plane crash just east of Medicine Hat late on the night of June 1 at the age of 26.
    He was born and raised in Moose Jaw and became a high school football star at A.E. Peacock Collegiate.
    After graduating from high school, Filteau moved to Saskatoon and played five seasons at linebacker for the storied Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League from 2010 to 2014.
    He helped the Hilltops win four CJFL titles in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Filteau was a CJFL all-Canadian all-star in that final championship campaign.
    When Filteau exhausted his eligibility with the Hilltops, he joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team in the U Sports ranks for three seasons from 2015 to 2017.
    Filteau first joined the Valkyries coaching staff as a linebackers coach in 2017. He was coaching the squad’s defensive line this season.
    At the celebration of life, people will have the chance to write their best memories of Filteau in a memories book.

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Sunday, 9 June 2019

Veteran Kolosky achieves first as inspired Valkyries romp to win

Denise Kolosky returns an interception for a touchdown.
    Denise Kolosky achieved a feat at defensive end she was never able to capture as a linebacker.
    On Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the eight-year veteran with the Saskatoon Valkyries hit the highlight reel with a defensive score.
    Lining up at defensive end late in the second quarter of a Western Women’s Canadian Football League quarter-final game against the Winnipeg Wolfpack, Kolosky dropped into a passing lane and picked off quarterback Rebecka Clark.
    Kolosky dashed 36 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown. It marked the first time she returned an interception for a major score in her football career.
    The score put the Valkyries up 57-0 as they cruised to a 66-0 victory.
    Saskatoon came out with an inspired effort playing for late defensive position coach Justin Filteau, who passed away tragically in a plane crash on June 1. Filteau coached the defensive line this season having previously coached the linebackers since he joined the club’s coaching staff in 2017.
The Valkyries celebrate a touchdown from Denise Kolosky (#44).
    “We all wanted to play for (Justin) Filteau today,” said Kolosky. “That little interception was for him just to show the D-line is athletic too and we can get it done.”
    Kolosky couldn’t believe how fast her pick six developed.
    “It just happened,” said Kolosky. “I caught it, and I was ‘go!’ That was it.
    “I was just thinking don’t look back. That is a huge milestone for me, a huge one. I love it.”
    During a contest where numerous members of the Valkyries had big games, head coach Pat Barry pleased that Kolosky was able to have a big moment with a defensive score.
    “I’m so happy for Denise,” said Barry. “She is one of my favourite people that I know not just in football.
Emmarae Dale (#45) nails a Wolfpack ball carrier.
    “She is such a high quality person. I really admire her. She is tough, and she is physical.
    “She is great mom to her family. Her kids are always running around here with (her husband) Colin (Kolosky). She is a great lady. I’m very proud of her.”
    The Valkyries shot out of the gate quickly in Sunday’s post-season clash. Just 64 seconds into the opening quarter, star running back Sam Matheson ripped off a 40-yard touchdown run down the right sideline to give the Valkyries a 6-0 lead.
    Just over four minutes later, quarterback Alex Eyolfson hit rookie receiver Haley Girolami on a 43-yard bomb pass to extend the Valkyries edge to 13-0.
    With 2:36 remaining in the opening quarter, running back Sarah Wright ran home a touchdown from seven yards out to put the Valkyries up 20-0. Matheson added a single from a missed field goal from 27 yards out as time expired in the first quarter to give the hosts a 21-0 lead.
Sarah Wright (#88) dashes home on a 42-yard touchdown run.
    Saskatoon proceeded to score 43 points in the second quarter to go up 64-0.
    Sophomore receiver Danielle Girolami hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarter Reed Thorstad. Matheson added her second major on a 12-yard run.
    Wright ripped of a 42-yard touchdown run. The Wolfpack conceded a safety.
    Rookie running back Natasha Englot ran in a pair of touchdowns from one and 10 yards out. Kolosky had her interception return for a major score between Englot’s two touchdowns.
    The Valkyries rounded the game’s scoring in the second half with a 31-yard punt single from Rienna Rueve in the third quarter and a 27-yard punt single from Matheson in the fourth quarter.
Rienna Rueve (#7) returns an interception for the Valkyries.
    Rueve hit seven out of nine conversion attempts.
    Wright had the biggest game of the day offensively for the Valkyries carrying the ball nine times for 120 yards to go with her two scores.
    “We were doing fairly well blocking,” said Wright. “Once we kind of got in a groove, everything was starting to fall into place.”
    Wright said it has been fun to run behind a veteran offensive line including right tackle Betsy Mawdsley, right guard Lauren Ferguson, centre Eden Rakochy, left guard Ashley Viklund and left tackle Alyssa Funk.
    “They are just trying to improve all the time,” said Wright. “It is awesome that they are doing everything they can to get us as many yards as they can.”
Members of the Saskatoon Hilltops are out supporting the Valkyries.
    Matheson had a great day as well finishing with 86 yards rushing on only five carried to go with her two scores.
    Defensively, middle linebacker Emmarae Dale topped the Valkyries with 9.5 total tackles. Linebacker Jamie Wingate had a sack, while Dayna Bear and Danaye Holynski split a sack on the defensive line.
    Rueve had an interception from her safety position.
    Defensive back Mobina Mosallat topped the Wolfpack with 8.5 total tackles.
    Barry thought his team’s performance on Sunday was a fitting way to honour Filteau’s memory. 
Sam Matheson (#22) ran in two rushing touchdowns for the Valkyries.
    The Valkyries have dedicated their season to Filteau, who was a standout at linebacker for both the CJFL’s Saskatoon Hilltops and U Sports’ University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
    “Justin (Filteau) did a lot for us,” said Barry. “To not have him there was very difficult this week.
    “I was very happy with the players today. He would have enjoyed it. Even a lot of the music we have going on right now, Justin (Filteau) loved these songs.
    “It is not an accident that they have it playing. It is pretty exciting.”
    With the win, the Valkyries, who were 4-0 in the regular season, improve their overall record to 6-0. The Wolfpack, who were 0-4 in the regular season, finish at 0-5 overall.
    The Valkyries advance to host a WWCFL semifinal game against the Lethbridge Steel (3-2 overall) on June 23 at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.
    The other semifinal features the defending WWCFL champion Regina Riot (2-3 overall) taking on the Edmonton Storm (4-1 overall) in the Alberta capital. That contest will be played either on June 22 or 23.
The Valkyries celebrate their win over the Wolfpack.
    The WWCFL championship game is slated for June 29 in Regina.
    Kolosky is looking forward to the fact the Valkyries will continue their playoff run and said it never gets old being a member of Saskatoon’s WWCFL team.
    “It is amazing the love you feel from each and every player,” said Kolosky. “All the hugs I got after my interception touchdown, it was awesome. I can’t explain it.”

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Saturday, 8 June 2019

Valkyries play in honour of late coach Filteau

Saskatoon starts WWCFL playoffs Sunday at SMF Field

Justin Filteau listens into a headset during a 2017 Valkyries playoff game.
    Rookie defensive lineman Danaye Holynski received an unexpected surprise from Saskatoon Valkyries defensive position coach Justin Filteau.
    After the Valkyries blanked the Manitoba Fearless 37-0 in Winnipeg on May 26, Filteau told the team’s coaching staff that Holynski should take the team’s “Treat of the Week” award for her efforts in that game.
    The encounter with the Fearless would be the last game Filteau would coach with the Valkyries. He was one of three people who died in a plane crash just east of Medicine Hat late in the night on June 1.
    After the Valkyries team practice on Friday night at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Holynski was named the Valkyries “Treat of the Week” award winner.
    “I’m going to keep that in my heart for sure,” said Holynski. “It means a little extra for him to say that, and that would be one of the last things he said.”
    Filteau, who was in Medicine Hat for a social function, was flying to Moose Jaw, Sask., and planned to meet up the Valkyries in Regina last Sunday for their final regular season game against the host Riot.
    The Valkyries found out about Filteau’s tragic passing before they hit the field against the Riot. The Saskatoon side took the field that day and pulled out a 22-7 victory to finish the Western Women’s Canadian Football League regular season with a 4-0 record.
Justin Filteau, left, goes to get a white board before a 2017 Valkyries game.
    The Valkyries dedicated that win and the rest of their season in Filteau’s memory. The team opens the WWCFL playoffs hosting a quarter-final contest against the Winnipeg Wolfpack (0-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.
    Holynski said it hasn’t been a normal practice week preparing for that post-season encounter with Filteau’s passing.
    “It has definitely been hard, but it is bringing our team closer than ever before,” said Holynski. “Everyone has been there for each other, and I think that is helping us get through this week together.
    “I think that is the important part.”
    Filteau, who stood 5-foot-9 and weighed 214 pounds, was born and raised in Moose Jaw and became a high school football star at A.E. Peacock Collegiate.
Justin Filteau, left, listens in during a Valkyries game timeout in May.
    After graduating from high school, Filteau moved to Saskatoon and played five seasons at linebacker for the storied Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League from 2010 to 2014.
    He helped the Hilltops win four CJFL titles in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Filteau was a CJFL all-Canadian all-star in that final championship campaign.
    When Filteau exhausted his eligibility with the Hilltops, he joined the University of Saskatchewan      Huskies football team in the U Sports ranks for three seasons from 2015 to 2017.
    He battled injuries throughout his time with the Huskies and ultimately spent the 2017 season on the sidelines helping out the team’s coaches.
    Filteau first joined the Valkyries coaching staff as a linebackers coach in 2017. He was coaching the squad’s defensive line this season. He passed away at age 26.
Justin Filteau in action for the Hilltops in 2014.
    “He has just been such a positive guy,” said Valkyries head coach Pat Barry. “He is such a team guy.
    “He put the team first. I am really going to miss him. He was a great player.
    “He was now a great coach. He is an even better person. He was my friend, so I am going to miss him.”
    The Valkyries have received messages of support all this week, especially from the football community and the member clubs of the WWCFL.
    They were invited by the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the CFL club’s pre-season game on Thursday in Regina against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Valkyries attended that contest, and the Roughriders held a tribute for Filteau before falling 35-29 to the Blue Bombers.
    “It has been a bit of a tough week,” said Jaime Lammerding, who has anchored the Valkyries defensive line for all nine seasons of the team’s existence. “I think that is to be expected.
Justin Filteau in action for the Huskies in 2016.
    “I don’t think anybody expects us to be 100 per cent going through everything. The league has really kind of come around us and supported us. All the other teams, players, even the football community here in Saskatoon, we’re making our way through it by leaning on each other a lot.”
    Lammerding said everyone on the Valkyries has lots of memories of Filteau being upbeat and fun loving.
    She said he got a laugh when the players teased him with the “Filteau’s the worst” line starting back in 2017.
    Lammerding said the line came from the team’s coaches who were former Hilltops players with Filteau.
    When the Hilltops won the CJFL title in Langley, B.C., in 2014, the players started the “Filteau’s the worst” chant on the bus, when he was holding the Canadian Bowl trophy on his lap with a big grin.
    It was one of those sporadic things that happened all in the name of having fun.
    Lammerding remembered Filteau being extra energetic during what would be his final practice with the Valkyries. She said defensive coordinator Wyatt Carleton had asked for a football for a drill, and before anyone could act, Filteau jetted off to the sidelines to get a football and jetted back with just as much speed.
Danaye Holyski (#55) was propped for a weekly award by Justin Filteau.
    “That kind of uncontained energy that you always hear about, somebody just jittering, that was him that day,” said Lammerding. “He was smiling a lot, and it was good.
    “Just even before that practice we got to chat just one-on-one a little bit, because we had some time. It was a good memory to have of him.”
    Barry said the Valkyries coaches are all getting “Filteau’s the Worst” T-shirts made up for themselves. The Valkyries players gave Filteau a “Filteau’s the Worst” T-shirt during the team’s awards banquet following the 2017 campaign.
    “He just loved life, and he was just a fantastic guy,” said Barry. “The way that he giggled too it just made the whole room laugh too.
    “I’ve got some great memories of Justin.”
    The Valkyries players will being wearing “J.T.” decals on their helmets for the rest of the campaign. The team is hoping people attending Sunday’s playoff game against the Wolfpack will wear a jersey or a piece of clothing from the team or organization they associate Filteau with.
Jaime Lammerding (#21) want to make big plays to honour Justin Filteau.
    Filteau played a big role with the “Be More than a Bystandard” program with Football Saskatchewan. He coached different teams in Saskatoon’s minor football program and was on the coaching staff of Saskatchewan’s under-16 provincial team.
    The Valkyries believe playing to honour Filteau will give them an extra push to win their first WWCFL title since 2016.
    “I think it is going to drive us through every game and every play we do,” said Lammerding. “Our game (last) Sunday was tough, because it was a very raw, very new emotion.
Justin Filteau had a great sense of humour.
    “I think now we have going into our playoff games going forward we’ve had a little time to adjust. It is going to be something to drive us continuously. There is still some emotion on the back end, but just not quite raw and up front.”
    “I think we all had the drive to begin with at the beginning of the season,” said Holynski. “We have a good team this year.
    “We have talented players. I think this is just giving us even more of a drive for it. I think we can push through and do it.”

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Friday, 7 June 2019

Nolan being Nolan - That should be enough to get Blades goalie drafted to NHL

Nolan Maier makes a stop in goal for the Blades.
    Nolan Maier burst on to the WHL scene with shock and awe.
    As a 16-year-old rookie in the 2017-18 campaign, the Yorkton, Sask., product joined the Saskatoon Blades and racked up a string of impressive performances including a run of winning 10 straight games.
    He became a WHL starting netminder as a 16-year-old rookie, which is not very common in the current era of major junior hockey.
    Maier finished out his rookie campaign posting a 23-17-2 record, a 3.31 goals against average, a .895 save percentage and two shutouts.
    There were times that season you could argue he was one of the top five netminders in the WHL.
    Last August, Maier joined Blades teammate and star centre Kirby Dach on Canada’s under-18 team that won gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup held jointly in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Nolan Maier has put together two stellar seasons with the Blades.
    Going into last season, it seemed like Maier was going to be a sure bet to be a prospect that was picked in the NHL Entry Draft coming up on June 21 and 22 in Vancouver, B.C.
    Still, it seems like the attention given to Maier from professional scouts is lukewarm at best.
    Maier cracked NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for North America goaltenders at the 22nd spot.
    That was after he had a stellar sophomore WHL campaign where he posted a 36-10-6 record, a 2.64 goals against average, a .910 save percentage and four shutouts.
    Thanks to Maier’s efforts, the Blades finished fourth overall in the WHL’s regular season standings with a 45-17-8 and made the post-season for the first time since 2013.
    Maier kept up his impressive play in the playoffs helping the Blades advance to the second round.
Nolan Maier tracks the play coming up ice for the Blades.
    In Saskatoon’s 10 post-season contests, Maier posted a 6-4 record, a 2.86 goals against average, a .903 save percentage and one shutout.
    The Blades fell in a six game series in the second round to the eventual WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders.
    Maier proceeded to join Canada’s team for the world under-18 hockey championship tournament that was held in April in Ornskoldsvik and Umea, Sweden.
    Currently, Maier is taking part in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence Goaltending Camp in Calgary, Alta. The camp started Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday.
    Maier’s biggest challenge when it comes to cracking into the NHL might be the fact he stands 6-feet and weighs 173 pounds. It seems like those that make the decisions regarding player personnel in the NHL are weighted towards finding puck stoppers who stand preferably 6-foot-3 or taller.
Nolan Maier moves the puck to the side of the Blades goal.
    Those goalies can still play the butterfly style and have their shoulders cover the top of the net when they go down.
    Maier can’t control how tall he is. The one thing he can control is stopping the puck, and he is very good at that.
    Last season, Maier shutout the powerful Raiders twice. On Dec. 9, 2018, Maier made 32 stops to back the Blades to a 1-0 victory over the Raiders at the SaskTel Centre.
    On April 9, Maier turned away 26 shots in a 1-0 playoff victory over the Raiders at the SaskTel Centre.
    Maier follows in a line of great goaltenders the Blades have had in their history including Dave Parro, Tim Cheveldae, Norm Maracle, Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby.
    Maier is a great athlete who can make the impossible save or hold up against the barrage of pucks, when his team is pinned in the defensive zone.
    On top of his hockey skills, Maier is a stellar person. Anyone that knows him from his time growing up in Yorkton will tell you how great of kid he has been.
Blades G Nolan Maier, left, celebrates a win with Dawson Davidson.
    He is the perfect person you want representing your team in the community. Due to the fact the Blades strive to make as many community appearances as possible, it has been big to have Maier on the team from that aspect.
    With all that said, it feels like Maier might play out his final three years of eligibility in the major junior ranks without being an NHL Entry Draft selection. He wouldn’t be the first star netminder to get less than a realistic shot from the NHL ranks and move on to play U Sports and get a degree.
    For NHL club that does select Maier in the NHL Entry Draft, that team is likely in for a pleasant surprise. That club will likely discover the selection of Maier is a wise one from all sorts of levels like the Blades have already discovered.

Dyck takes over as under-18 summer coach

Michael Dyck surveys a situation from the Giants bench.
    Vancouver Giants head coach Michael Dyck is in store for a busy summer.
    On Friday, Dyck was named the head coach of Canada’s summer under-18 that will play in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which is slated to run Aug. 5 to 10 in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia.
    He replaces Dan Lambert as head coach. Lambert, who was the head coach of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, accepted an assistant coach position with the NHL’s Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
    Due to working for a professional club, Lambert wasn’t available to fulfill his commitments with Hockey Canada.
    Last season, Dyck guided the Giants to the second best regular season record in the WHL at 48-15-3-2. The Giants advanced to the WHL final and fell in a series deciding Game 7 to the Prince Albert Raiders 3-2 in overtime.
    Dyck was named the coach of the year for the WHL’s Western Conference.
    With Dyck taking over Hockey Canada’s summer under-18 team, he vacates his position as head coach for Team Canada White for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which runs Nov. 2 to 9 in Medicine Hat, Alta., and Swift Current, Sask.
    Hockey Canada is searching for someone to fill that head coaching vacancy. Saskatoon Blades associate coach Ryan Marsh is an assistant coach for Team Canada White.

Dinos’ Roberts in for Hockey Canada women’s goalie camp

Kelsey Roberts earned a big Hockey Canada goalie camp invitation.
    University of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team netminder Kelsey Roberts showed you can be discovered even if your team struggles.
    Roberts earned an invite to Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Development Camp, which started Thursday and runs through to Sunday.
    The Kitimat, B.C., product posted a 2.06 goals against average and a .935 save percentage in 23 regular season games last season for the Dinos. The Dinos finished last in the Canada West Conference with a 5-20-3 record, and Roberts was 5-15-3 in her appearances.
    With the Dinos being outshot in most of their games, Roberts stood out with the large amount of work sent her way.
    It was great to see she was one of 11 goaltenders targeted for potential spots on Canada’s national women’s team and the national women’s development team.
    The U Sports ranks sent a total of four netminders to that camp. Joining Roberts were Kristen Chamberlin from the University of Albert Pandas, Tricia Deguire of the McGill University Martlets and Kendra Woodland of the University of New Brunswick Reds.
    The National Women’s Development Camp included nine goaltenders that were targeted for potential sport on Canada’s under-18 women’s team.
    I admit I can’t argue against the selections. Still it would have been cool to see invites given to Jessica Vance of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and Lauren Taraschuk of the University of Manitoba Bisons for the camp targeting players for Canada’s national women’s team and the national women’s development team.
    Vance has been outstanding in her two full seasons with the Huskies posting a 26-10-3 record, a 1.05 goals against average, a .954 save percentage and 15 shutouts in 40 career regular season games. She was the Canada West player-of-the-year in the 2017-18 campaign and was Canada’s starting netminder in a silver medal winning performance at the FISU Winter Universiade that wrapped up in March in Krasnayarsk, Russia.
    Vance has a surreal calm to her game you wish you could see in all goaltenders.
    Taraschuk has been outstanding in her two full seasons with the Bisons posting a 27-6-3 record, a 1.28 goals against average, a .941 save percentage and six shutouts in 36 career regular season games. She was the rookie of the year in the Canada West Conference in 2017-18 and backstopped the Bisons to a U Sports national title.
    Standing 6-feet tall, Taraschuk has an edge in size that most netminders in the female game don’t have. She moves very fluidly in goal and displays very little wasted motion in stopping the puck.
    A Hockey Canada invite would have been a way to keep Taraschuk in the game. In April, she gave an interview to the Winnipeg Free Press stating she was quitting the Bisons due to personality issues on the team and a coaching staff change that will occur before the start of next season.
    Taraschuk said she wasn’t finished with hockey, but she has to sit out a year before joining another U Sports club or a team in the NCAA ranks. Actually, a team looking to contend for a national title in the NCAA ranks would be wise to pick up Taraschuk.
    The majority of Canada’s high end players at the university age skate in the NCAA ranks, and it would help Taraschuk to play against those players to continue to improve her game. She is more than ready for that step.
    One hold back would be educational goals. Taraschuk was enrolled in the criminology program at the U of Manitoba. If she pursues that course of study at a United States university, there are no certainties how her education would transfer back up in Canada.
    While, the addition of Vance and Taraschuk at the Hockey Canada women’s goalie camp would have been great, there are only four spots up for grabs between the national team and national development team. It is extremely hard to obtain one of those positions.

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