Monday, 10 October 2016

Willo sparks Huskies, makes Universiade team

Kaitlin Willoughby zips up ice for the Huskies.
    Kaitlin Willoughby showed it was a wise decision to name her to the Canadian women’s hockey team for the FISU Winter Universiade.
    On Saturday in Vancouver, the 21-year-old forward sparked her University of Saskatchewan Huskies to 5-3 upset win over the host and defending Canada West champion University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. Dating back to October of 2014, the Huskies had lost their previous eight straight head-to-head encounters with the Thunderbirds.
    In the first period of Saturday’s game, Willoughby scored two power-play goals to give her side a 2-0 edge. The tallies also sparked the Huskies offensively as they never trailed and never allowed UBC to get back on even terms the rest of the way.
    Brooke Patron, Rachel Johnson and Elizabeth Salyn all netted singles. Johnson’s tally came on a penalty shot. Cassidy Hendricks made 24 stops to earn the win in goal.
    Cassandra Vilgrain scored twice for the Thunderbirds, while Kenzie Robinson added a single. Amelia Boughn turned away 18 shots to take the loss in the UBC goal.
    Willoughby was named to the FISU Winter Universiade team on Friday. She attended Hockey Canada’s Women’s Development Camp in August to compete for a spot on the FISU team. The Winter Universiade will run Jan. 29 to Feb. 8, 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Kaitlin Willoughby is one of the Huskies biggest offensive threats.
    Since entering the Canadian Interuniversity Sport ranks at the start of the 2013-14 campaign, Willoughby has been a high impact offensive player netting 32 goals and 41 assists in 84 career regular season games. She is also one of those few players that can change a game individually, which means her line has always received extra attention from opposition teams for pretty much her whole career with the Huskies.
    During her first season, the Prince Albert, Sask., product was named the CIS rookie of the year, and she helped the Huskies win their first Canada West title and a bronze medal at the CIS championship tournament.
    She permanently carved her place in the history of the Huskies women’s hockey team in the 2014 best-of-three Canada West championship series with the University of Regina Cougars. In a series deciding Game 3, Willoughby potted the double overtime winner to give the Huskies a 2-1 victory at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    If the Canadian FISU team needs a big play in the clutch, it would always be a prudent decision to have Willoughby and her blazing speed on the ice.
    For now, Willoughby, who is in her fourth year of CIS eligibility, will keep trying to help the Huskies find success on the ice. U of S’s next test is a big one as they host the always powerful University of Alberta Pandas (2-0) this coming Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. on both nights at Rutherford.

Swift Current’s Smith could be valuable addition to Huskies

Swift Current product Chloe Smith could be a big addition to the Huskies.
    Earlier this month, the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey announced the signing of Chloe Smith, who could prove to be a big addition to the team.
    The 17-year-old Smith is completing her final season of midget AAA eligibility as the captain of her hometown Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats. She joined the Wildcats as an underage 14-year-old way back at the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
    Smith, who stands 5-foot-7, is one of those rare power forward types that can mix it up physically in all the areas of the ice, which is something you do need in the women’s game. Her toughness is combined with a set of soft hands around the net and a sound offensive skill set that makes her an extremely attractive player at the university level.
    My first impression of Smith came during her 15-year-old season, when her Wildcats were taking on the host Saskatoon Stars in Game 1 of a Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League best-of-five semifinal series at the Agriplace Arena on March 10, 2015.
    Just 39 seconds into the third period, Smith nailed Stars superstar forward Nara Elia, who is a Hockey Canada national women’s team program prospect, with huge head hit that knocked Elia out of the game. Smith was given a major penalty for a head hit, a game misconduct and also had to sit out a one-game suspension for the incident. It was the type of hit in the men’s game that would have been deemed clear about seven years ago.
    I remember her emerging later on that day from the Wildcats dressing room wearing her track suit as her Wildcats fell 4-2. Looking at Smith’s face, you could see a wide range of emotions as she was trying to process what had happened.
Chloe Smith gets set to take a draw for the Wildcats.
    You could see there was disappointment, because she wasn’t on the ice to help her team and her competitiveness was also present too. Before being ejected, she had played with a lot of fire.
    As a 15-year-old sophomore, she piled up 10 goals and nine assists on 28 regular season games. Knowing all that and seeing her at the moment she came out of the Wildcats dressing room, my thought was some university team should sign her to a scholarship right there if they could. My gut feeling was this was a player you want on your team, because her teammates will see someone that will go to war with them and bring her best at all times.
    Last season, Smith had an impressive 16-year-old campaign collecting 13 goals and 19 assists in 26 games to lead the Wildcats in scoring. She added another four goals and nine assists in 12 playoff games as the Wildcats advanced to the best-of-five SFMAAAHL championship series, where they fell in four games to the Stars.
    Anytime you went to a Wildcats game, you knew you were going to see a pretty good performance from Smith.
    Despite what happened on the play where she drilled Elia, Smith has played tough and avoided sitting lengthy stretches in the penalty box. In 84 career regular season games with the Wildcats, she only has 38 minutes in penalties.
    Smith will play for Saskatchewan’s provincial team at the National Women’s Under-18 Championship that runs Nov. 9 to 13 in Regina. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her make an impact in that best-versus-best event.
    When she joins the Huskies in the fall of 2017, Smith will see a few familiar faces. The U of S roster contains a trio of her former Wildcats teammates in Brooklyn Haubrich, Kayla Kirwan and Jasey Book. That group will help Smith make the transition to the next level.
    If she continues to play to her present power forward form, she has the potential to be a popular player in the green and white.

Huskies men’s team closes sweep with blowout win

Parker Thomas was one of seven goal scorers for the Huskies on Saturday.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team showed the all out power they could potentially have this season in an impressive win over the UBC Thunderbirds on Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    The Huskies thrashed the Thunderbirds 7-0, and the goals came off the sticks of seven different players. Parker Thomas, Jesse Forsberg, Kendall McFaull, Jordan Fransoo, Josh Roach, John Lawrence and Levi Cable all netted singles.
    Jordon Cooke made 28 saves to earn the shutout in the U of S goal.
    Matt Hewitt turned away 23-of-29 shots before being pulled at the 10:28 mark of the third period. Derek Dun stopped four-of-five shots in relief.
    The Huskies were an impressive 5-for-8 on the power play, and they killed off all six power-plays the Thunderbirds were given.
    U of S swept a two-game series with UBC having already earned a 4-1 victory on Friday night at Rutherford.
    The Huskies were ranked first in the Canada West pre-season coaches’ poll. Thanks to a strong recruiting class and a solid group of returning players, the Huskies have a good chance to repeat as conference champions.
    With that in mind, they are only two games into their regular season, and there is still a long way to go.
    The Huskies return to action this Friday and Saturday when they travel to Edmonton to face their forever rivals the University of Alberta Golden Bears, who are opening their regular season slate. U of S swept away U of A in last season’s best-of-three Canada West championship series.
These upcoming encounters will provide a big test.

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