Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Expect Huskies to regroup for University Cup tournament

The Huskies digest losing Game 3 of the Canada West championship series.
    The funeral atmosphere was on for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team on Sunday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, but you can bet that feeling was limited to that night.
    In a winner take all Game 3 of the Canada West championship series, the Huskies fell to their forever rivals the University of Alberta Golden Bears 6-3. The two teams entered the third period locked in a 2-2 draw. The visiting Golden Bears scored three times in a span of two minutes and 16 seconds to extremely change the complexion of the contest on their way to their 14th conference title in the last 17 years.
    The Rutherford Rink, which was shoehorned packed to the rafters with a crowd of 845 spectators, emptied after the final whistle in what seemed like record time.
Kendall McFaull is the Huskies steady captain.
    The look in the eyes of the Huskies players appeared like they were digesting a season ending defeat. The Dogs were aiming to win a second straight Canada West title, and with an improved roster from a season ago, a repeat conference championship win was expected in the U of S dressing room. 
    The Huskies players are competitive and expect success, so in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s loss, the disappointment of not getting the result they wanted was tough to take.
    With all that in mind, those emotions get compartmentalized quickly, because there is a tomorrow. By making the Canada West championship series, both the Huskies and Golden Bears earned berths at the eight-team University Cup national championship tournament for U Sports men’s hockey.
    The University Cup runs March 16 to 19 at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
    In 2015, the University Cup moved from a six-team format to an eight-team single elimination style one. With that move, the event truly mirrored most university championship formats used in Canada and the United States.
    Before that change was made, a team’s season could end, if a conference championship wasn’t won. Now with the eight-team format, you need to earn a berth to the dance and proceed to go from there. Of course, the single elimination format plays towards the upset, but that is also why that format is exciting.
Jordan Fransoo has been a big part of the Huskies leadership group.
    Most of the Huskies players come from the WHL and the remainder from the junior A ranks. At both levels especially in the WHL, you have to shelf disappointments quickly and regroup for a game that is often played the next day.
    The Huskies can replay in their minds and will see on video various aspects that could have changed the outcome of their Game 3 loss to the Golden Bears or the 4-3 setback the Huskies suffered in Game 1 to U of A. U of S took Game 2 of the Canada West championship series 2-0.
    The Dogs have strong leadership coming from captain Kendall McFaull and assistant captains Josh Roach, Jordan Fransoo and Jesse Forsberg. They had to play a big hand in bringing this year’s Huskies team together due to the fact the squad had nine first-year additions from various WHL clubs.
Jesse Forsberg has developed into a player that has led by example.
    All the additions came from being key cogs on the teams that they were on, and only talented forward Alex Forsberg wasn’t able to play all season due to injury.
    The Huskies took big steps in coming together as a team, and the players took professional approaches to filling the roles they were placed in.
    Veteran head coach Dave Adolph and his staff have to be given big credit too for helping everything flow forward.
    The fact the mix came together was one of the reason Adolph was named the Canada West coach of the year for a third time in his career and the Huskies topped the regular season conference standings with a 21-5-2 mark.
    When you move into a single elimination format, the Huskies still have star goaltender Jordon Cooke in net to steal games, and he was named Canada West’s goaltender of the year for a second straight season.
Josh Roach has always given maximum effort for the Huskies.
    He heads to nationals looking to take that honour at the U Sports level for a second straight season.
    Odds are pretty high he will likely have a big performance in the Huskies quarter-final game of the University Cup coming off the Canada West final loss.
    The Huskies finished fourth in last year’s University Cup. They can still finish things off this season winning the University Cup for the second time in team history. Their only national title win came in 1983.
    The Dogs have accomplished a lot this season. The result of the Canada West final can be remembered as a bump in the road.

Can the Huskies women’s hoops squad do it again?

Sabine Dukate has had a spectacular season for the Huskies.
    So how far can the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team take their run?
Coming into the 2016-17 campaign, the Huskies were supposed to be in a reloading year. They lost four fifth-year players to graduation and returned only one starter in guard Sabine Dukate from a season ago.
    In total, the Huskies carried a roster that contained six rookies and four second-year players. The team grew by leaps and bounds finishing 15-5 during the regular season and winning what seemed like an improbable second straight Canada West championship.
    The Huskies won the Canada West championship game over the visiting U of Regina Cougars 64-53 last Saturday at the Physical Activity Complex. Dukate led the way for the Huskies scoring 25 points, while standout rookie post Summer Masikewich chipped in 14 points.
    Masikewich came into the campaign having to do her part to help fill the shoes of Dalyce Emmerson, who graduated after last season as the greatest post player in the history of the Huskies women’s program.
    Besides getting big seasons from Dukate and Masikewich, sophomore guard Megan Ahlstrom and fourth-year forward Megan Lindquist contributed with nice campaigns averaging 11.5 and 10.0 points per game respectively.
    Rookie point guard Libby Epoch has also shown a flair for distributing the ball.
Everything rolled for the Huskies due to the incredible job done by head coach Lisa Thomaidis and her staff.
    The Huskies begin play at the U Sports national championship tournament in Victoria as the event’s second seed. They face the seventh seeded Universite Laval Rouge et Or in a quarter-final match on Thursday.
    U of S is playing with house money at this point. If the Huskies found their way to play in Sunday’s championship game and won it, that development would be an accomplishment that would be beyond impressive and memorable.

Shirley comes through in OT for Stars again in Speedy Creek

Grace Shirley netted another OT winner for the Stars.
    Grace Shirley seems to love to score big overtime winners in Swift Current.
    Last year, the standout forward with the Saskatoon Stars scored in double overtime in Swift Current over the host Diamond Energy Wildcats to deliver her team to a 4-3 Game 4 victory to clinch a second straight Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series.
    On Wednesday night in Swift Current, Shirley was up to her heroics again for the Stars in Game 2 of a SFMAAAHL semifinal series against the Wildcats. With 9:45 to play in a second overtime period, Shirley scored to deliver the Stars to a 2-1 victory.
    Thanks to the win, Saskatoon takes a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series with Swift Current. The Stars will try to sweep the series at home on Saturday, when they host Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.
    Kianna Dietz scored in regulation for the Stars on Wednesday, while Arden Kliewer made 15 stops to earn the win in goal for Saskatoon.
    Taylor Kirwan scored for the Wildcats. Netminder Harper Davey was sensational making 42 saves taking the loss in goal for Swift Current.
    The Stars topped the regular season standings with a 25-2-1 record, while the Wildcats finished fifth with an 11-10-7 mark.
    In the other SFMAAAHL semifinal series, the Prince Albert Northern Bears lead the Melville Prairie Fire 2-0. The Bears will try to sweep the series hosting Game 3 on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.

Back in the Express with Parker

Mackenna Parker had a big season for the Stars.
    I was back in the pages of the Saskatoon Express this week with a feature on Saskatoon Stars forward Mackenna Parker.
    Parker had a spectacular third season with the Stars piling up 24 goals and 44 points in 28 regular season games. The 16-year-old’s point total was the highest for a Stars player since current Canadian national team member Emily Clark piled up 60 points in her final season in midget in 2011-12. Parker’s goal total was also the most for a Stars player since Clark and Kennedy Harris each had 26 goals in Clark’s final season with the team.
    Back in 2014-15, Parker played her rookie season with the Stars as an underage 14-year-old. In 81 career SFMAAAHL regular season games, Parker has piled up 49 goals and 49 assists.
    So far in the post-season, she has four goals and four assists in five games. The story on Parker can be found right here.

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