Saturday, 6 January 2018

Pretty or gritty - Huskies need to keep finding ways to win

Abby Shirley (#27) celebrates scoring for the Huskies.
    It doesn’t matter if it is pretty, gutty or both, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team has to keep finding ways to win.
    On Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Huskies won their third straight downing the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 3-1 playing both pretty and gutty. This season, goals have come at a premium more than ever in U Sports’ Canada West Conference for women’s hockey, and it seems the first team to score will win the game via a shutout.
    The Huskies are going to have to duplicate their effort from Saturday for the rest of the campaign as the 2017-18 season hits the home stretch with the playoffs approaching. The win over the Pronghorns featured a lot of positives.
    The biggest positive was the fact the Huskies came from behind to win the game. At the 8:42 mark of the second, Pronghorns centre Kyra Greig scored a gritty goal in close to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Jessica Vance has been stellar in goal for the Huskies.
    The Pronghorns have played a number of gritty games this season and are battling to get into a playoff position. The Huskies had controlled the majority of the play to that point in time, and you had to wonder if the visitors were going to steal a win.
    In the opening 20 minutes, the Huskies outshot the Pronghorns 14-6, and the host side had a lengthy list of quality scoring chances. Pronghorns netminder Alicia Anderson stood on her head to ensure the hosts weren’t able to get ahead.
    Shortly before Greig’s goal in the second, Huskies defender Madison Colbow unloaded a point blast that hit Anderson and slowly trickled just wide of the Pronghorn’s net.
    With the 3:36 to play in the second, the Huskies tied the contest in a pretty fashion. Huskies feisty forward Brooklyn Haubrich broke into the offensive zone on a two-on-one rush with star captain Kaitlin Willoughby.
    Haubrich fed a nice pass across the front of the goal to Willoughby, who roofed the equalizer past Anderson to force a 1-1 tie.
Brooklyn Haubrich set up a beauty goal for the Huskies.
    At the 3:53 mark of the third, the Huskies went ahead 2-1 in gutty fashion when a bad angle shot by rookie right-winger Abby Shirley from the left boards of the offensive zone found its way past Anderson.
    From that point, the Pronghorns came with a huge push back playing desperate and keeping the Huskies pinned in their own zone.
    Huskies sophomore netminder Jessica Vance slammed the door making 18 saves in total to ensure the slim edge held up. Inside of the final two minutes of the third, Vance had to slide across her crease to deny Pronghorns defender Mattie Apperson, who pinched down to the right post of the Huskies net for a golden scoring chance.
    Following that stop, Willoughby iced the contest with an empty-net goal with 37 seconds to play. With her two goals, Willoughby moved to within a point of catching Danny Stone for second on the Huskies all-time career regular season scoring list.
The Pronghorns react to a goal by Huskies captain Kaitlin Willoughby.
    Willoughby now has 48 goals and 57 assists for 105 career regular season points. Stone, who played for the Huskies from 2008 to 2013, had 57 goals and 49 assists for 106 career regular season points. Both are grads from the Prince Albert Northern Bears female midget AAA team.
    On Saturday night, Willoughby played one of her best games of the season and likely should have finished with a monster night in the points department.
    However, the 2017-18 campaign is the season of the goalie in the Canada West Conference and passing Stone will have to wait.
Kaitlin Willoughby, right, scored twice for the Huskies on Saturday night.
    Anderson turned away 26-of-28 shots to take the setback in goal for the Pronghorns, who fell to 5-11-2 to sit last in the eight team Canada West and five points back of the U of Calgary Dinos for the conference’s final playoff berth.
    The Huskies improved to 11-6-1 to sit third overall in Canada West, with seven of those 11 victories coming by shutout. The top four positions in the Canada West standings are separated by just six points, so they can change on a game by game basis.
    The Dogs will get back at it again this coming Friday and Saturday, when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the U of Manitoba Bisons, who top Canada West with a 13-4-1 record.
    The green and white are capable of defeating every team in the conference, so the upcoming contests with the Bisons provide another couple of opportunities to find ways to pull out wins.

Dogs win streak ends in Lethbridge

Logan McVeigh had a goal for the Huskies on Saturday night.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team fell just short of making a comeback to keep their six game winning streak alive.
    On Saturday night in Lethbridge, the host U of Lethbridge Pronghorns built a 3-0 edge and held on to a 4-2 victory in a U Sports regular season match at the Nicholas Sheran Arena. The Pronghorns victory brought an end to the Huskies winning streak.
    Dalton Sward gave the Pronghorns a 1-0 lead in the first period. Ryon Moser and Ryan Chynoweth each netted singles in the second period to extend the Pronghorns advantage to 3-0.
    The Huskies attempted to rally in the third. Michael Sofillas scored just past the midway point of the frame to cut the Pronghorns lead to 3-1. Logan McVeigh scored for the Dogs with 1:15 to play in the third to further trim the Pronghorns advantage to 3-2.
    Connor Sanvido scored into an empty net inside of the final minute of the third to seal U of L’s victory.
    Jordon Cooke turned away 23 of 26 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. Garret Hughson stopped 34 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Pronghorns.
    The Huskies fell to 14-3-1, but they still sit second overall in the Canada West Conference two points behind the 15-2-1 U of Alberta Golden Bears. The Golden Bears were in Winnipeg and dropped a 5-4 overtime decision and a 3-1 setback on Friday and Saturday respectively to the U of Manitoba Bisons.
    The Pronghorns improved to 8-9-1 to sit in a three-way tie for fourth overall in Canada West with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and the Mount Royal University Cougars, who are both 8-9-1.
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday, when they host the Bisons (11-5-2) at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.

Hometown heroes power Blades to seventh straight win

Gage Ramsay (#20) and Cameron Hebig, centre, powered the Blades.
    Gage Ramsay and Cameron Hebig gave their families and friends a Saturday night to remember at the SaskTel Centre.
    The two Saskatoon products combined on three goals to help their hometown Blades slip past the Kootenay Ice 4-2 in a WHL regular season clash before 3,241 spectators. The victory was the Blades seventh in a row and 10th in their last 11 games.
    Ramsay, who is a 19-year-old winger, netted the Blades first two goals at the 3:07 and 12:46 marks of the first period, and Hebig picked up assists on both of those tallies.
    Saskatoon exited the first period with a 3-0 lead, when 18-year-old right-winger Josh Paterson picked up his 20th goal of the season with 2:47 to play in the frame.
    Hebig, who is the Blades star overage centre, netting his 30th goal of the season at the 8:33 mark of the third to give Saskatoon a 4-0 lead, and Ramsay drew an assist on that marker.
Keenan Taphorn and Brett Davis netted singles late in the third for the Ice.
    Netminder Nolan Maier, who is a 16-year-old rookie, won his 10th straight start in goal for the Blades making 27 saves. Bailey Brkin took the setback starting in goal for the Ice turning away 14-of-17 shots and was pulled after the first period. Duncan McGovern turned away 13-of-15 shots playing the rest of the way in relief for Kootenay.
    The Blades improved to 21-17-2-1 to hold the first wildcard playoff position in the WHL’s Eastern Conference two points ahead of the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats (20-19-3). The Prince Albert Raiders (15-17-6-2) are trying to catch the one of either the Blades or the Pats for a wildcard berth. The Raiders trail the Blades and Pats by seven and five points respectively in the standings.
    Prince Albert has two games in hand on Regina and one game in hand on Saskatoon.
    The Ice fell to 18-21-3 to sit second in the WHL’s Central Division.
    The Blades return to action on Sunday, when the travel to Brandon to face the Wheat Kings.

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