Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Roughriders win and 33,427 people lose their minds

Members of Rider Nation celebrate Sunday's Roughriders win
            It is amazing how a win can cure all for a short time.
            Heading into Sunday’s game at Mosaic Stadium with the Ottawa Redblacks, the faithful that make up Rider Nation weren’t sure what would happen to their Saskatchewan Roughriders. With starting quarterback Darian Durant out with an elbow injury for an extended time, Rider Priders weren’t sure what would happen to their team.
            Understudy Tino Sunseri looked like he lacked confidence and appeared visibly nervous in a 28-3 road loss to the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton back on Sept. 14, which marked the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, product’s CFL first start.
            Against the Redblacks, the Roughriders fell behind 22-10 at halftime, and the score would have been more lopsided had Weston Dressler not returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown for the hosts.
            Saskatchewan came to life in the second half and eventually forced the game to go to overtime tied up at 32-32. The equalizing score came when Sunseri, who looked a lot more confident in his second start, led a two-minute drill 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a one-yard run by running back Anthony Allen and a diving two-point convert reception by Dressler.
            Chris Milo kicked a 22-yard field goal for the Riders in their second possession of the shootout style overtime format.
            On Ottawa’s ensuing possession, Roughriders linebacker Brian Peters blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt by Redblacks kicker Brett Maher to preserve a 35-32 win and send the sellout crowd of 33,427 into hysteria.
            At that moment, the fans in the stands were jumping up and down, cheering and hugging the neighbours that sat beside them even if they didn’t know them. They were just happy the Roughriders won at that point in time regardless of how they team got to the end result.
            For a short time, the team’s troubles were forgotten.

Dressler is a beast

            So how fun is it to watch Weston Dressler play football?
            Rider Nation got a real treat on Sunday from the veteran slotback during the Saskatchewan Roughriders 35-32 overtime win over the Ottawa Redblacks at Mosaic Stadium.
            Late in the second quarter, Dressler gave the Roughriders a spark with a 78-yard punt return touchdown. He easily topped that with two plays in the second half.
            Early in the fourth quarter, the Bismarck, North Dakota, product caught a seven-yard crossing pass and turned the play into a 60-yard receiving touchdown, where he spun and ducked out of numerous tackle attempts going down the left sideline. It was arguably the most spectacular play in the CFL this season.
            In order to force overtime, Dressler made a diving catch for a two-point convert late in the fourth quarter to cause a 32-32 tie.
            On the day, Dressler caught seven passes for 125 yards, returned five punts for 103 yards and one rushing attempt for five yards, scored two touchdowns and hauled in the two-point convert. 

Huskies close to a shocker

             The University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team shouldn’t worry too much about letting this one get away.
            On Friday at Griffiths Stadium, they were in position for most of the night to pull off a monster upset over the University of Calgary Dinos in a battle for first place in the Canada West Conference. The Huskies led 24-21 at halftime and were locked in a 24-24 draw for most of the second half.
            The Dinos, who have won the last six straight Canada West titles, scored two touchdowns in the final 3:31 of the fourth quarter to pull out a 38-24 victory.
            While most of the 5,801 engaged spectators were likely disappointed about the final outcome, they also spoke with pride about the effort their team put in against the powerful Dinos (3-0).
            The Huskies (2-1) have a lot to build off of in defeat. They might get another shot at the Dinos in the post-season. 

Blades still a work in progress 

            Some of the initial optimism with the Saskatoon Blades got tempered thanks to the Prince Albert Raiders.
            The Raiders swept the Blades in a home-and-home series that opened the WHL regular season for both teams. In the second of those losses on Saturday, the Blades fell at home 3-1 to the Raiders before 6,337 spectators at the building that is still known at the moment as the Credit Union Centre.
            The Blades had trouble busting through the trapping system that the Raiders utilized. Going 0-for-5 on the power play also didn’t help the cause for the host side.
            The effort was there from the Saskatoon side. The Raiders won because they the superior team, when it came to executing systems on the ice.
            With all that said, the Blades are still rebuilding from loading up to be the host team for the Memorial Cup in 2013 and loading up to try and make a long playoff run in 2011, when they finished first overall in the WHL.
            The rebuild could still be seen from a number of moves from Monday. The Blades dealt Nikita Scherbak, who was their leading scorer last season, to the Everett Silvertips in exchange for 1997-born goaltender Nik Amundrud, a first round selection in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft and a second round selection in the 2016 Bantam Draft.
            The deal helped Saskatoon recover some of the lost high end draft picks that were traded away in 2011 and 2013 and get a goaltending prospect who will get the chance to play now.
            The team also released overage goaltender Troy Trembley and 18-year-old defenceman Ross Hnidy. The double blue still have to make some cuts, when players return from NHL camps. Saskatoon is currently carrying 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders. 

Hilltops roll 

            The Saskatoon Hilltops improved to 3-2 after posting a second straight blowout victory.
            On Sunday, they traveled to Calgary and bombed the Colts 47-19. Things were close for a bit as Saskatoon led 17-10 at halftime. Turnovers played a key as the Hilltops intercepted four Colts (1-4) passes and recovered one fumble from the host side. Saskatoon didn’t commit any turnovers.
            After two weeks on the road, the Hilltops return home to the newly renovated and named Saskatoon Minor Football Field this coming Sunday to take on the Winnipeg Rifles for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Rifles also sport a 3-2 record after falling 43-20 last week to the defending CJFL champion Regina Thunder.

 The jinx was in Huskies women’s hockey team 

            Oops, that was a bit unintentional.
            It appears I gave the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team almost a mafia style kiss of death heading into the Mandi Schwartz Challenge tournament last weekend in Regina. The Huskies are the defending Canada West champs, who return most of their players from that squad. I wrote in this blog that it was perfectly fine to optimistic about their upcoming season.
            They then went winless in a pre-season tourney hosted by the University of Regina Cougars. According to the Cougars website, the Huskies fell 1-0 to the University of Manitoba Bisons, 2-0 to the York University Lions and 5-0 to the host Cougars, who fell to the Huskies in last season’s Canada West final.
            When one team gets played up in a blog like I wrote about the Huskies, that article usually finds its way into the dressing rooms of their future opponents and are used for motivation, especially given the fact not a whole lot of media coverage is given to Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s hockey in Canada.
            Due to the media cuts that have come down in Canada, teams like the Huskies women’s hockey team won’t draw a whole lot of media coverage, even with having won a conference title, due to the fact resources media companies have are stretched thin. Those teams won’t get much of a spotlight until they go to a national championship type tournament.
I just wanted to give a little recognition to a great bunch of people, who have won a conference title. I still believe the Mandi Schwartz Challenge tourney will be a blip on the radar, and the Huskies will have a memorable year in the long run.

If you have any feedback on this blog, feel free to email comments to stankssports@gmail.com.