|The Raiders locked up first in the WHL’s Eastern Conference on Saturday.|
Not even the Brandon Wheat Kings live-or-die sprint to make the WHL playoffs could stand up to the determination of the Raiders.
On Saturday before a standing room crowd of 2,678 spectators at the 2,580 Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert, the Raiders took a 2-1 edge on the visiting Wheat Kings in the first period and romped to a 7-1 regular season victory. The Raiders were dominant in the second and third periods holding a 5-0 edge on the scoreboard and a 36-9 advantage in shots on goal over those frames.
The win allowed the Raiders, who have won their last three straight games, to improve to 49-8-1-2 and clinch first place in the WHL’s East Division and the Eastern Conference. Prince Albert last topped the East Division back in the 1998-99 campaign posting a record of 45 wins, 22 losses and five ties.
The Raiders, who are rated second in the CHL’s Top 10 rankings, last topped what is now known as the Eastern Conference back in the 1991-21 campaign posting a record of 50 wins, 20 losses and two ties that season. In 1991-92, the Eastern Conference was just know as the East Division as the WHL contained 15 teams as opposed to the 22 member clubs that are part of the circuit in the current day.
|Noah Gregor scored twice for the Raiders.|
The Wheat Kings saw their six game winning streak end in a thud falling to 29-23-3-4. During that winning streak, the Brandon side looked impressive over that stretch.
Brandon still holds the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with a two-point standings edge over the Red Deer Rebels (29-24-4-1). The Rebels have a game in hand on the Raiders.
In Saturday’s encounter with the Wheat Kings, the Raiders jumped ahead just 2:37 into the opening frame on a goal from overage centre Noah Gregor. Ozzy Wiesblatt, who is a 16-year-old rookie right-winger, extended the Raiders advantage to 2-0 scoring at the 11:33 mark of the opening frame.
Just under a minute later, Wheat Kings 16-year-old rookie defenceman Vincent Iorio scored his first career WHL regular season goal to cut the Raiders edge to 2-1. That was as close as Brandon got before the route was on.
Jacob Brook, Gregor, with his second of the contest, and Parker Kelly, with his 30th of season, pushed the Raiders lead out to 5-1 by the end of the second period. Kelly, who is in his fourth full season in the WHL, hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his major junior career.
Overage centre Sean Montgomery and star left-winger Cole Fonstad rounded out the Raiders scoring in the third period.
Fonstad had three assists to go with his goal and was a plus-four in the plus-minus department. His line with Gregor and Wiesblatt had an extremely hot night.
Gregor had an assist to go with his two goals and was a plus-four. Wiesblatt had two assists to go along with his goal and was a plus-four as well.
|Cole Fonstad had four points for the Raiders.|
Ian Scott made 15 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Raiders.
Jiri Patera started in goal for the Wheat Kings turning away 25-of-30 shots sent his way to take the loss in goal. He was pulled after the Raiders fifth tally coming at the 12:18 mark of the second period. Ethan Kruger turned away 16-of-18 shots playing the rest of the way in relief.
The only down part for the Raiders came from the fact Kelly received a boarding major and a game misconduct with 4:12 remaining in the third period. The infraction will trigger an automatic review by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
The Raiders return to action on Wednesday, when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Wheat Kings resume play on Friday, when they travel to Calgary to take on the Hitmen at 7 p.m. local time at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Cable’s hatty powers Huskies to sweep of Cougars
|Levi Cable (#10), Taran Kozun and the Huskies advance in the playoffs.|
On Saturday before 1,725 spectators at Merlis Belsher Place, the Huskies overcame an early 2-0 deficit to romp past the Cougars 7-3 in Game 2 of a Canada West Conference quarter-final series. The win allowed the Huskies to sweep the best-of-three series 2-0.
The Cougars took a 2-0 edge by the 7:24 mark of the opening frame with goals coming off the sticks of fifth-year forward Zack Henry and Ryley Lindgren.
A short time later, the Huskies even things up at 2-2, when Cable netted his first two goals of the night coming two minutes and 10 seconds apart from each other.
Before the first period ended, Huskies fourth-year forward Andrew Johnson netted a short-handed goal to give the host side a 3-2 lead.
At the 2:53 mark of the second, Henry netted his second goal of the night for the Cougars to even things at 3-3. The Huskies dominated the rest of the way from that point.
Carson Stadnyk netted the winning goal for the Huskies at the 5:03 mark of the second to give U of S a 4-3 lead. Sophomore winger Alex Forsberg extend the Huskies advantage to 5-3 a little more than two minutes after Stadnyk’s goal.
|Carson Stadnyk scored twice for the Huskies on Saturday.|
Captain Jesse Forsberg and forward Collin Shirley each had two assists for the Huskies.
Taran Kozun stopped 12 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies, who have won their last 12 straight games including action in the regular season and playoffs. Riley Morris turned away 27-of-33 shots to take the setback in goal for the Cougars, who finished fifth in the Canada West regular season standings with a 12-11-5 mark.
With the win, the Huskies, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, advance to host the best-of-three Canada West Championship series against their “forever rivals” the University of Alberta Golden Bears, who are the defending Canada West Conference and U Sports national champions.
Game 1 of that series is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.
The Golden Bears, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, swept the University of Calgary Dinos 2-0 in the other Canada West semifinal series and have won their last 15 straight games including action in the regular season and playoffs.
By making the Canada West Championship series, both the Huskies and Golden Bears have earned berths to the University Cup U Sports national championship tournament, which runs March 14 to 17 in Lethbridge.
The series between the Huskies and Golden Bears is expected to be a serious heavyweight tilt.
The Huskies finished first in the Canada West regular standings with their best record in program history at 25-3. The Golden Bears finished a point behind the Huskies in the standings with a 24-3-1 mark.
The two sides split their four head-to-head regular season encounters.
Pandas sweep Huskies women’s hockey team out of playoffs
|Morgan Willoughby scored for the Huskies on Saturday.|
On Saturday at the Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, the Huskies dropped 2-1 decision to the host U of Alberta Pandas in Game 2 of a Canada West semifinal series. With the win, the Pandas sweep the best-of-three series 2-0 and ended the Huskies journey through the U Sports playoffs.
In a back-and-fourth first period, the Pandas escaped the frame with a 1-0 lead, when fourth-year forward Regan Wright scored with 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock.
At the 16:15 mark of the second period, Huskies fourth-year defender Morgan Willoughby drove home a point shot to force a 1-1 tie. Sophomore forward Chloe Smith picked an assist on Willoughby’s tally.
Until Willoughby’s goal, the Pandas had shutout the Huskies in 11 straight periods including action in the regular season and playoffs in their head-to-head encounters.
Inside of the final minute of the second, the Pandas scored their winner when a screen shot from fourth-year defender Cayle Dillon gave the host side a 2-1 lead.
The Huskies held a 6-4 edge in the shots on goal department in the third period, but were unable to find the equalizer. Their comeback effort was hampered with a too many players penalty call with 1:49 remaining in the third period.
|Chloe Smith had an assist for the Huskies on Saturday.|
The Huskies finished fourth in the Canada West Conference regular season standings with a 16-10-1-1 mark and eliminated the Mount Royal University Cougars 2-1 in a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series.
The Pandas, who have won their last four straight games including action in the regular season and playoffs, topped the Canada West regular season standings with a 23-5 record. They advance to host the defending Canada West Conference and U Sports national champion U of Manitoba Bisons in a best-of-three Canada West Championship series.
The Bisons, who finished second in Canada West with a 20-5-2-1 mark, are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, and they swept the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 2-0 in the other Canada West semifinal series.
Game 1 of the Canada West title series is set for Friday in Edmonton.
Both the Pandas and Bisons have berths locked up in the U Sports national championship tournament, which runs March 14 to 17 in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Vance, Bohlken to join Willoughby at Winter Universiade
|Jessica Vance is heading to the Winter Universiade.|
Vance and Bohlken were named to play for Canada’s women’s hockey team at the FISU Winter Universiade, which will run March 2 to 12 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. The duo will join former Huskies star captain Kaitlin Willoughby on the Canadian women’s hockey squad.
On Saturday, this season’s version of the Huskies were eliminated from the U Sports playoffs with a 2-1 loss to the U of Alberta Pandas in Game 2 of a Canada West Conference semifinal series.
Willoughby graduated from the Huskies women’s program at the end of last season, but she is still eligible to play in the Winter Universiade. The product of both Canwood and Prince Albert, Sask., suited up for Canada at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
She collected a goal and five assists in five games helping Canada win a silver medal. Canada’s women’s side fell 4-1 to Russia in that year’s gold medal final.
Vance, who is a star third-year goalie, had a stellar campaign for the Huskies posting a 12-7-1-1 record, a 1.28 goals against average, a .946 save percentage and six shutouts. In 2017-18, Vance, who is from Prince Albert, Sask., was named the MVP of the Canada West Conference recording a 14-3-1 record, a 0.77 goals against average, a .964 save percentage and nine shutout.
Vance was a first team all-Canadian all-star in 2017-18 helping the Huskies advance to the U Sports national championship tournament.
|Defender Leah Bohlken will play for Canada internationally.|
Willoughby is playing her first season of professional hockey as a winger with the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. In 27 regular season games with the Inferno, the 23-year-old has one goal and five assists for six points and is a plus-one in the plus-minus department. The Inferno lead the CWHL standings with a 23-4-0-1 record.
Last September, Willoughby attended a tryout camp for Canada’s senior national women’s hockey team.
Before joining the Inferno, Willoughby had a spectacular five-year career with the Huskies. She is the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the Huskies program piling up 50 goals and 61 assists for 111 points in 132 regular season games.
Willoughby’s goal total ranks third all-time in the history of the Huskies and her assists total is fourth all-time in team history.
Before joining the Huskies, Willoughby played from 2008 to 2013 for the Prince Albert Northern Bears of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League piling up 34 goals and 63 assists for 97 points in 96 career regular season games. She shares the Bears career regular season assists record with current team captain Abby Soyko.
In a curious development, U Sports announced the rosters for the women’s and men’s hockey team that will compete at the upcoming Winter Universiade on Friday. Vance and Bohlken were still involved in U Sports playoffs, and there was no work on what their status would have been had the Huskies advanced to the Canada West Championship series, which is in a schedule conflict with the Winter Universiade.
|Kaitlin Willoughby in action for the Huskies last season.|
The Canadian women’s team roster released on Friday for the Winter Universiade did not include any members of the U of Manitoba Bisons or the U of Alberta Pandas, who have advanced to the Canada West Championship series. The Canadian men’s team roster released on Friday doesn’t contain any members from the U of Saskatchewan Huskies or the U of Alberta Golden Bears, who will go head-to-head in the men’s Canada West Championship series.
Still, the fact Vance and Bohlken will play at the Winter Universiade means they have hit the radar for Hockey Canada’s women’s national team system. That development might open more doors for them in the future.
The individual success of Vance, Bohlken and Willoughby is a big feather in the cap of the Huskies women’s hockey program.
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