Friday, 2 February 2018

Heartbreaker for Huskies, Pandas claim 2-1 shootout win

Kennedy Ganser (#77) shoots in the third period equalizer for the Pandas.
    For one night, Kennedy Ganser played spoiler to the hopes of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team.
    Looking to capture a bye through the first round of the Canada West Conference playoffs for the first time since 2014, the Huskies battled the storied University of Alberta Pandas in their biggest late season game over the past four years. The clash could potentially prove to be key in helping sort out the top four positions in Canada West.
    The Huskies appeared to be poised for the longest time to pull out a victory on Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink. At the 5:27 mark of the second period, star captain Kaitlin Willoughby wired home her ninth goal of the season to the top left corner of the Pandas goal to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Kirsten Chamberlin had a big night for the Pandas.
    From there, Ganser stole the spotlight.
    With 8:49 to play in the third, the Pandas were working on the power play, and the sophomore centre popped home a loose puck at the left side of the Huskies goal to tie things up at 1-1.
    The two teams battled through two scoreless five-minute overtime periods before heading to a tiebreaking shootout. Thanks to the work of Huskies netminder Jessica Vance and Pandas goalie Kirsten Chamberlin, the shootout went into the ninth round.
    Ganser was the final shooter in the ninth round, and she fired home the winner to the top left corner of the Huskies net stick side on Vance. With that goal, the Pandas, who are the defending U Sports national champions, took the tiebreaking session 1-0 and the tight checking U Sports regular season clash 2-1 before 232 spectators.
    At first Ganser appeared uncertain that she scored until she got to her bench and was mobbed by her teammates. The Huskies coaches had a short discussion with the officials on whether Ganser’s shot went in or hit a goalpost before both sides went into their respective dressing rooms.
Jessica Vance had another stellar game for the Huskies.
    Vance made 27 saves over 70 minutes and turned away the first eight shooters she faced in the shootout to take the setback in goal for the Huskies. Chamberlin turned away 28 shots over 70 minutes and all nine shooters she faced in the shootout to pick up the win in net for the Pandas.
    With Friday’s win, the Pandas, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, improved their winning streak to eight games and their record to 18-4-3. They sit second in Canada West with 52 points in the standings coming from 13 regulation wins, five extra time wins and three extra time losses.
    In the Canada West women’s hockey standings, teams earn three points for regulation wins, two points for extra time wins and one point for extra time losses.
    The Huskies saw their four game winning streak come to an end and their record move to 16-7-2. They sit fourth in Canada West with 49 points in the standings coming from 15 regulation wins, one extra time win and two extra time losses.
Captain Kaitlin Willoughby scored the Huskies lone goal.
    The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, blanked the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 1-0 in Vancouver after a tiebreaking shootout on Friday night. The Thunderbirds moved into third place in Canada West with 17-5-3 record with 50 points in the standings coming off 13 regulation wins, four extra time wins and three extra time losses.
    The University of Manitoba Bisons, who are rated second in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, top the Canada West Standings with a 19-5-1 record. The Bisons have 56 points in the standings coming off 17 regulation wins, two extra time wins and one extra time setback.
    The top two teams in the Canada West standings will earn byes and host respective best-of-three semifinal series in the conference playoffs. Each team in Canada West has three regular season games remaining on their respective schedules.
The Pandas celebrate their victory on Friday night.
    While the setback to the Pandas, who have won eight U Sports national titles in their history, hurt, it didn’t diminish the Huskies hopes in moving into one of the top two positions in Canada West.
    When the two teams meet again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford, the Huskies would be in the thick of the race for a bye in the playoffs going into the final weekend of the regular season, if they can pull out a win preferably in regulation.
    If someone told the Huskies their third last game of the regular season would be this big at the start of the campaign, everyone with the green and white would be good with that scenario.

U of A golden in 500th encounter with Huskies

Tyson Baillie (#18) had a goal in the Golden Bears win on Friday night.
    The 500th encounter between two “Forever Rivals” turned into a memorable night for the U of Alberta Golden Bears men’s hockey team.
    On Friday night before 2,854 spectators at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, the Golden Bears downed the U of Saskatchewan Huskies 4-1 in a U Sports regular season clash. The first contest between the two sides was held way back on February 27, 1911 in Saskatoon, and it was claimed by the U of A side 16-0.
    The Golden Bears lead the overall series with the Huskies posting 327 victories, 149 losses and 24 ties.
    In the latest installment of the rivalry, the Golden Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Friday scoring twice late in the first period with singles coming from the sticks of Tyson Baillie and Luke Philp.
    The Huskies cut the gap to 2-1, when winger Alex Forsberg scored 57 seconds into the second period.
    Before the second period ended, Trevor Cox scored for the Golden Bears to extend their lead to 3-1. Captain Riley Kieser scored short-handed 92 seconds into the third period to round out the host side’s 4-1 victory.
    Jordon Cooke turned away 34 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies. Brendan Burke turned away 24 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Golden Bears.
    In the first period of Friday’s clash, Golden Bears forward Brandon Magee received a major penalty for checking to the head, and that will likely be reviewed for a possible suspension.
    The Golden Bears, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, have now won five straight games to improve to 21-3-1 to sit first in the Canada West Conference. They can lock up first by earning one more point in the standings over their final three regular season games.
    The Huskies, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, have lost three straight to fall to 18-6-1. The Dogs sit second in Canada West and can lock up second and a bye to host a best-of-three conference semifinal playoff series by earning two more points in the standings over their final three regular season games.
    The Golden Bears and Huskies will face each other for the 501st time in their history on Saturday in Edmonton.

Raiders rock Blades 5-2

Parker Kelly scored twice for the Raiders on Friday night.
    It was a great night to be a fan of the Prince Albert Raiders.
    In what was a dream type game for anyone from “Hockey Town North,” the host Raiders downed the Saskatoon Blades 5-2 in a WHL regular season contest on Friday night and outshot their archrivals 39-21 in the process. You can be sure the Guess Who’s “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” was playing loud and clear much to the delight of almost all the 2,357 spectators at the Art Hauser Centre.
    Parker Kelly, who is a prospect of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, scored twice in the opening frame to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead. Kelly sits with a career high 23 goals on the campaign.
    Before the opening frame ended, Blades centre Logan Christensen potted his first goal of the season to cut the Raiders edge to 2-1.
    In the second, the Raiders went ahead 4-1 on goals from Brett Leason and Curtis Miske. Blades winger Eric Florchuk tallied at the 14:06 mark of the second to cut the Raiders lead to 4-2. Before the second ended, 17-year-old left-winger Cole Fonstad potted his 16th goal of the campaign to round out the Raiders 5-2 victory.
    Friday’s game included a third period fight between defencemen Jake Kustra of the Blades and Zack Hayes of the Raiders.
    Nolan Maier turned away 34 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades. Ian Scott stopped 19 shots to pick up the win in net for the Raiders.
    The Blades fell to 25-25-2-1 with the loss, but they still sit in the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The Raiders improved to 21-20-8-2 to sit one point behind the Blades in the standings for that wildcard spot. Prince Albert has two game in hand on Saskatoon.
    The Regina Pats, who host this year’s Memorial Cup, hold the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with a 26-22-5 mark to sit four points ahead of the Blades and five points ahead of the Raiders. Prince Albert has two games in hand on Regina.
    The Raiders return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Regina to face the Pats.
    The Blades resume their schedule on Tuesday, when they host the Kootenay Ice at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.

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