Saturday, 23 December 2017

Shirley gets special Christmas gift from Hockey Canada

Grace Shirley will play for Canada at under-18 worlds.
    Christmas came a few days early for Grace Shirley.
    On Friday, the 16-year-old skilled forward with the Saskatoon Stars was added to Canada’s roster for the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 Women’s World Championship, which runs this coming January 6-13 in Dmitrov, Russia. Shirley joins current Stars teammate Mackenna Parker and former Stars teammate Willow Slobodzian on the Canadian squad. Parker, who is the Stars captain, lines up at forward, while Slobodzian, who plays for the Cornell University Big Red women’s hockey team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association ranks, is a defender.
    The fourth Saskatchewan product on the team comes from Gull Lake in defender Taylor Kirwan, who is the captain of the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats.
    For Shirley, this has to come as a nice surprise after finding out she had been left off the original roster that was announced back on Nov. 16. She follows in the strides of her older sister, Sophie, who played for Canada’s under-18 team at two worlds and is currently a member of the national development team.
    Older brother, Collin, is a rookie forward with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.
    With the Stars this season, Grace Shirley has piled up 20 goals and 14 assists in 16 regular season games to sit second in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s scoring race with 34 points. 
Grace Shirley is second in SFMAAAHL scoring this season.
    In 75 career regular season games with the Stars, Shirley has posted 60 goals and 44 assists. She is only the eighth player in the history of the SFMAAAHL to score 60 or more goals in regular season play during her career.
    Shirley, who stands 5-foot-4, turned heads as a 14-year-old rookie in the 2015-16 campaign with the Stars netting 18 goals and 14 assists in the regular season helping the Stars post a 24-4 record.
    In the playoffs, she enjoyed her signature moment with the Stars netting the overtime winning goal that clinched the SFMAAAHL championship series in March of 2016. Shirley’s winner over the Diamond Energy Wildcats in Swift Current game the Stars a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the series and a 3-1 win in the best-of-five set.
    Shirley is eligible to play for Canada’s under-18 team again next season, so she could have the rare opportunity to play twice at the under-18 women’s worlds just like Sophie did.
    For now, Grace Shirley will likely enjoy what is in store for her this coming January, when she plays on a Canadian squad that contains a large number of familiar faces.

Clark makes cut for Olympics

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    Emily Clark experienced her biggest hockey milestone to date on Friday, which will allow her to fulfill a huge dream.
    Clark was one of the 23 players named to Canada’s women’s team that will play in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which run Feb. 9-25 in PyeongChang, South Korea. The 22-year-old forward is the youngest player on the Canadian women’s team that will play in the Olympics.
    The Saskatoon product is also the only player from Saskatchewan on the Canadian women’s team roster that will play at the upcoming Olympics.
    While Clark has been a member of Canada’s centralized senior national women’s team roster this season, there were no guarantees she would make the cut to play in the Olympics. Due to the fact all the players in Canada’s national team program are highly skilled, the fact Clark made the roster for the Olympics has to be viewed as a major accomplishment.
    Before joining the centralized roster, Clark, who stands 5-foot-7, played three seasons in the NCAA ranks for the University of Wisconsin Badgers appearing in 113 overall games registering 56 goals and 62 assists. She is expected to return to the Badgers next season to play out her final campaign of NCAA eligibility.
    Clark played for the Okanagan Hockey Academy Female Prep team for two seasons from 2012 to 2014 before joining the Badgers.
    From 2009 to 2012, Clark played three seasons with the Saskatoon Stars recording 45 goals and 46 assists in 82 regular season games. She helped the Stars make the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series in each of her campaigns with the team.

U Sports men’s hockey all-stars make their mark

Logan McVeigh had a goal for the U Sports all-star squad.
    The U Sports men’s hockey circuit is often an under-appreciated elite league in Canada, but the likely turned some heads in a two-game exhibition series against prospects that aimed to make Canada’s world junior team.
    As part of the selection process to make up the Canadian world junior squad, the prospects looking to make that team faced a U Sports all-star squad in a two game exhibition series at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont. The U Sports squad swept the series posting a 3-0 win on December 13 and 4-3 on December 14.
    In the Dec. 13 match, the U Sports squad received a first period power-play goal from Luke Philp, who plays for the U of Alberta Golden Bears, and third period empty-net tallies from Michael Clarke, who plays for the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men and Logan McVeigh, who plays for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies. The U Sports side fired 24 shots on goal.
    Hockey Canada had their world junior goaltending prospects play for both teams in the series. In the 3-0 win, Colton Point and Carter Hart, who would both make Canada’s world junior team, backed the U Sports side to victory playing about 30 minutes each.
Cole Sanford had a two-goal night for the U Sports all-star team.
    Point, who plays for Colgate University in the NCAA ranks, turned away 14 shots starting in goal, while Hart, who plays for the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, made 18 stops to finish the back half of the contest.
    In the Dec. 14 match, Golden Bears defenceman Jason Fram scored on a rebound with 6.5 seconds to play in the third period to break a 3-3 tie and give the U Sports side a 4-3 victory. Golden Bears forward Cole Sanford scored twice and had an assist for the U Sports side, while Stephen Harper, who plays for the Acadia University Axemen, netted a single. The U Sports side fired 27 shots on goal.
    Harvey Samuel, who plays for the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, stopped 13-of-15 shots playing about the first 30 minutes for the U Sports side. Michael DiPietro, who plays for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, stopped 11 of 12 shots sent his way. Both Samuel and DiPietro were cut from Canada’s world junior team.
    Alex Formenton, who plays for the OHL’s London Knights, Kale Clague, who plays for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, and Robert Thomas, who also plays for the OHL’s Knights, replied with singles for the Canadian world junior prospects side. All three made the world junior team.
    Besides McVeigh, the Canadian squad included three other members from the U of S Huskies in forward Josh Roach, defenceman and captain Kendall McFaull and netminder Jordon Cooke.
    Saskatoon product Boston Leier, who plays forward for the Axemen, was a member of the U Sports squad as well.
Josh Roach was one of four U of S Huskies on the U Sports all-star squad.
    The majority of players that make up the squads in U Sports are players who had solid careers in the major junior ranks. They often elect to play at the university level to get a degree to help transition over to life after hockey.
    In the professional game, players that sign three-year NHL entry-level contracts often see their hockey careers end, when those deals expire. Usually, those players are focused entirely on hockey, so it is a bit jarring to transition into a post-hockey career life at that point.
    Most U Sports players improve during their careers in the university ranks. When they graduate at age 25 or 26, they are starting to reach their physical primes, and the professional ranks would be wise to look at giving those players contracts.
    It seems like major junior players often get ignored, when they move on to play Canadian university hockey. Having a U Sports all-star squad sweep a two-game series against Canadian world junior hopefuls helps bring university players to the forefront.
    U Sports men’s hockey is an elite amateur league, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

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