Friday, 9 February 2018

Huskies ice skid with 4-2 win, clinch playoff bye

Huskies goalie Jordon Cooke (#32) holds off a third period Cougars push.
    Captain Kendall McFaull admitted his University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team was feeling some urgency to get a win.
    Entering play on Friday, the Huskies entered their U Sports regular season clash with the Mount Royal University Cougars having lost four straight games, which all happened to come on the road. In university hockey in the Canada West Conference, that type of skid can seem like an eternity, because teams play two regular season games every weekend.
    The Huskies had gone 19 days without experiencing a win with their last victory coming on Jan. 20, when they blanked the University of Calgary Dinos 2-0 at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    Against the Cougars on Friday at Rutherford, the Dogs built a 3-1 lead early in the third period, but they seemed to be just trying to hang on at times after the Cougars closed to within 3-2.
The Huskies celebrate a goal from Alex Forsberg, centre.
    Inside of the final two minutes of the third, Huskies star goaltender Jordon Cooke held the fort during a couple of dicey net scramble situations. Standout winger Josh Roach sealed the issue scoring into an empty net with 15 seconds to play in the third to deliver the Huskies to a 4-2 victory.
    The win allowed the Huskies, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, to improve to 19-7-1 and clinch second place in the Canada West Conference and earn a bye in the playoffs to host a best-of-three conference semifinal series.
    “It was huge,” said McFaull, who is in his fifth and final season with the Huskies. “Obviously, I don’t remember the last time we lost four in a row.
Josh Roach scored twice for the Huskies.
    “We knew we wanted to clinch a bye, and we knew we needed to do it tonight. I think the guys came out pretty hard, and I was pretty impressed with the effort.”
    The Huskies came firing out of the gate outshooting the Cougars 20-7 in the opening period. The teams exited the frame locked in a 0-0 tie due to the stellar play of Cougars fifth-year goalie Cam Lanigan.
    Lanigan made a number of key saves including stopping Huskies star offensive defenceman Jesse Forsberg and turning away first year winger Collin Shirley on in close chances.
    Just 17 seconds into the second period, the Huskies broke through on the scoreboard, when first-year left-winger Alex Forsberg fired home a laser shot to the top right corner of the Cougars goal to give the hosts a 1-0 edge.
    During their four-game skid, the Huskies scored a total of four goals, and McFaull said it was important to get that first tally.
    “Honestly, we didn’t put a full 60 together on the road ever it seemed,” said McFaull. “We had spurts of where we were playing well.
Cam Lanigan made 34 stops playing goal for the Cougars.
    “We also had some breakdowns. We also weren’t getting the puck luck. I think that (puck luck) is kind of what we saw tonight with that first goal.
    “That was huge for us to have that go in, and that wasn’t happening before.”
    Right-winger Levi Cable helped push the Huskies lead out to 2-0 scoring on a turnaround shot at the 10:29 mark of the second.
    With eight minutes to play in the second, winger Jamal Watson got the Cougars on the board scoring in close to cut the Huskies edge to 2-1.
    The Huskies seemed to grab firm control of the contest, when Roach wired home his first goal of the contest short-handed to the top right corner of the Cougars net to give the hosts a 3-1 edge at the 3:41 mark of the third.
Kendall McFaull settings things down in the defensive zone.
    Watson netted his second of the game before the midway point of the third to trim the Huskies lead to 3-2. That created a number of anxious moments down the stretch until Roach sealed the game with his empty netter. Roach had an assist to go along with his two goals for a three-point night.
    “When you haven’t won in a while, everybody definitely kind of gets a little tight towards the end of the game,” said McFaull, who had an assist on the empty-net goal. “When we are on a bit of winning streak, that doesn’t usually happen.
    “We found a way to win, and I think we were happy with it.”
    Cooke turned away 25 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies. The win was the 59th of Cooke’s regular season career with the Huskies and moves him to within one victory of equalling Jeff Harvey for the team career regular season wins record of 60. Harvey collected his 60 career regular season wins playing goal for the Huskies from 2005 to 2010.
    Lanigan stopped 34 of 37 shots to take the setback in goal for the Cougars. The Cougars, who have already clinched a playoff berth, fell to 12-13-2 to sit fifth in Canada West standings.
The Huskies celebrate their win on Friday night.
    The Huskies and Cougars close their respective regular season schedules playing each other again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford. The University of Alberta Golden Bears, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, already have first in Canada West locked up with a 23-3-1 record.
    While the Huskies can’t finish first in Canada West, McFaull said it was still big to earn a bye in the post-season and avoid playing a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series.
    “That is huge,” said McFaull. “Anytime you get guys rested up after the season and kind of have that extra week to prepare for playoffs, it is pretty big.”
    NOTE – Before Friday’s game, a moment of silence was held to remember legendary University of Saskatchewan Huskies Track and Field head coach Lyle Sanderson, who passed away on Thursday at age 79.

Bannatyne ensures Huskies stay alive in chase for bye

Kira Bannatyne scored a pivotal power-play goal for the Huskies.
    Kira Bannatyne’s first career U Sports power-play goal might be the biggest tally of her post-secondary career.
    On Friday night at the Flames Community Arena in Calgary, the fifth-year defender for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team slid home a shot five-hole on Mount Royal University Cougars netminder Zoe De Beauville at the 10:19 mark of the third period. Bannatyne’s power-play goal held up as the different to deliver the Huskies to a 1-0 victory in the U Sports regular season clash.
    Netminder Jessica Vance made 15 saves to earn her eighth shutout of the season playing goal for the Huskies. Vance has tied former U of Alberta Pandas netminder Lindsey Post for the third most shutouts ever recorded in one Canada West regular season.
    Post had eight shutouts in the 2015-16 campaign, and she also holds the Canada West record of most shutouts recorded in one regular season at 10 collected in the 2014-15 campaign.
    De Beauville turned away 25 shots to take the setback in goal for the Cougars.
    With the win, the Huskies improved to 18-7-2 to sit in a tie for second place in the Canada West Conference standings with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (19-5-3) with 55 points. 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 recorded their 55 points from 17 regulation wins, one extra time win and two extra time setbacks. The Thunderbirds, who are rated fifth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, collected their 55 points from 14 regulation wins, five extra time wins and three extra time setbacks.
    The Thunderbirds downed the U of Alberta Pandas 3-2 in overtime on Friday night in Edmonton.
    The Pandas saw their record move to 18-5-4, and they sit two points back of both the Huskies and the Thunderbirds with 53 points in the standings. The Pandas, who are rated second in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, posted their 53 points on 13 regulation wins, five extra time wins and four extra time setbacks.
    The Thunderbirds and Pandas close their respective regulation season schedules playing each other once more on Saturday in Edmonton.
    The University of Manitoba Bisons, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, dumped the U of Calgary Dinos 6-0 in Winnipeg on Friday night to improve to 21-5-1 and clinch first place in the Canada West standings.
    The top two teams in Canada West earn byes to host best-of-three conference semifinal playoff series.
    The Cougars fell to 10-16-1 to remain sixth in Canada West. They need to earn one more point in the standings to lock up a playoff berth.
    The Huskies and Cougars close their respective regular season schedules playing each other on Saturday in Calgary.

Wheat Kings surge past Blades

Dawson Davidson scored for the Blades on Friday night.
    A five goal surge pushed the Brandon Wheat Kings past the visiting Saskatoon Blades.
    On Friday night in Brandon, the Blades took a 3-1 lead shortly after the midway point of the second period only to see the host Wheat Kings storm back with five answered goals to pull out a 6-3 WHL regular season victory before 4,210 spectators at Westman Place.
    Cole Reinhardt scored his first of two goals on the night at the 3:11 mark of the first period to give the Wheat Kings a 1-0 lead.
    Right-winger Max Gerlach scored for the Blades to tie things up at 1-1 heading into the first intermission. Bradly Goethals and Dawson Davidson netted singles for Saskatoon in the second period to give the Blades a 3-1 lead.
    With 3:44 to play in the second, Luka Burzan scored for the Wheat Kings to cut the Blades edge to 3-2. Wheat Kings overage defenceman James Shearer netted his first of the season at the 2:38 mark of the third to force a 3-3 tie.
    Reinhardt’s second tally of the contest gave the Wheat Kings a 4-3 lead with 6:08 to play in the third period. Chase Hartje and Evan Weinger sealed the victory for the host side scoring empty-net goals late in the third.
    Overage netminder Tyler Brown turned away 19-of-23 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades. Overage goalie Logan Thompson stopped 33 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Wheat Kings.
    The Blades fell to 26-26-2-1 to sit percentage points behind the Prince Albert Raiders (22-21-9-2) for the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Both teams have 55 points in the standings, but the Raiders have a game in hand on the Blades.
    The Wheat Kings improve to 30-19-3-2 to remain third in the WHL’s East Division.
    The Blades return to action on Saturday, when they host the Raiders at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. Saskatoon will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the opening of the SaskTel Centre that night and two game tickets will cost $30. A total of 30 bonus prizes will be given out during the contest and Murray Howe, who is one of the sons of late hockey icon Gordie Howe, will be on hand to sign his recently released book.

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