Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Valkyries, Riot take care of regular season business

Saskatchewan squads lock up conference finals berths

Samantha Matheson (#22) zips downfield for the Valkyries.
    The Saskatoon Valkyries and the Regina Riot will get their rubber match.
    Last Sunday, the two powerhouse clubs from the Western Women’s Canadian Football League closed out their respective regular season schedules with victories in Winnipeg to ensure they will meet for the seventh straight year in the Prairie Conference final. The Valkyries, who are the defending WWCFL champions, downed the Manitoba Fearless 30-10, while the Riot blanked the Winnipeg Wolfpack 35-0.
    Both the Valkyries and the Riot had the potential to be eliminated from the post-season picture had they lost their respective final regular season games.
    Both the Valkyries and Riot have identical 3-1 regular season records and 4-1 overall marks. They split their two head-to-head meetings, but the Riot claimed first place in the Prairie Conference due to outscoring the Valkyries 33-20 in their two encounters.
    The Riot will host the Valkyries this coming Sunday at 1 p.m. at old Mosaic Stadium in Regina. This will also be the last major competitive tackle football game to be held at the legendary facility that was called Taylor Field for most of its life and was best known as the long-time home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Carmen Agar (#23) rumbles up field for the Riot.
    Since the WWCFL first operated in 2011, the Valkyries and Riot have won every league title. The Valkyries won it all in 2011 to 2014, and 2016. The Riot claimed the league championship in 2015.
    Last Sunday, the Valkyries got out to a slow start against the Fearless, who took an early 3-0 lead and held that edge until about midway through the second quarter. Kicker Carly Dyck forced a 3-3 tie booting a 16-yard field goal for the Valkyries.
    Before the second half ended, the Valkyries got rolling and scored three touchdowns to surge ahead 24-3. Defensive back Tori Giles returned an interception for a touchdown, power back Samantha Matheson ran in a major from 11 yards out and receiver Sarah Wright hauled in a seven-yard reception to account for Saskatoon’s majors. Dyck hit two more field goals in the second half to round out the scoring for the visitors.
    Sara Milani had the lone Fearless touchdown returning an interception for a score in the fourth quarter.
    In the match between the Riot and the Wolfpack, Riot power back Carmen Agar lead her team’s romp over the Wolfpack carrying the ball 10 times for 99 yards and scoring one touchdown. Receiver Alex Kowalski and running back Morgan Turner both had touchdown receptions for the Riot, while receiver Margo Anderson had a major along the ground for Regina. 
The Riot and Valkyries will battle in the Prairie Conference final.
    Turner also booted a pair of field goals and the Riot scored a safety touch in the win.
    Running back Adrienne Chubala ran the ball 20 times for 108 yards to pace the Wolfpack’s offence.
    In the WWCFL’s Western Conference, the Calgary Rage (4-0) locked up first place pulling out a 34-29 thriller over the Storm (1-2) in Edmonton last Sunday. Due to the fact the Western Conference has only three teams this season, the Rage advance to the WWCFL’s championship game for the first time in team history thanks to their first place finish. The Storm will travel to Lethbridge to face the Steel (0-3) this coming Saturday.
    The WWCFL’s championship game is slated for June 10 in Saskatoon at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

Fischer might be a nice CFL addition one day

Logan Fischer, left, shows the Canadian Bowl to a group of youngsters.
    Logan Fischer is getting a taste of the professional stage, and it is conceivable the star running back for the Saskatoon Hilltops could play in the CFL one day.
    Fischer, who has one season of Canadian Junior Football League eligibility remaining, was a late add to Saskatchewan Roughriders CFL training camp on Saturday night as a territorial junior player. The 21-year-old, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 225 pounds, is at camp basically to make a good impression and learn what goes on at the professional level.
    The learning isn’t limited to dealing a new level of outstanding athletes on the field. The learning also includes how the pros handle situations off the field like when the stress level escalates when the cuts come down.
    Fischer is in the nice position where he has nothing to lose and everything to gain, because he has at least another season to play at the junior level.
Logan Fischer speeds downfield for the Hilltops.
    With that noted, Fischer does have the ability to play at the CFL level, if he is given the proper opportunity one day. He is that rare combination of the power back who can also be elusive in the open field.
    Besides gaining the tough yards between the tackles, Fischer also has a great set of hands and is an effective receiver coming out of the backfield. The graduate of Saskatoon’s Bethlehem Catholic High School can block well too.
    In the CFL, Canadian running backs are often turned into the jack of all trades, who are counted on to play tailback, fullback and tight end, and Fischer has to tools to fulfill those roles.
    With the Hilltops last season, Fischer led the team in rushing carrying the ball 106 times for 631 yards and scoring eight touchdowns in nine regular season games. His offensive totals could have been higher, but the Hilltops often rotate players into games during the regular season in order to build experience in everyone.
    Fischer’s most memorable games have come in each of the Hilltops last three Canadian Bowl wins.
    In November of 2014 in Langley, B.C., Fischer carried the ball 19 times for 94 yards and scored one touchdown yards in the Hilltops 39-14 Canadian Bowl victory over the host Langley Rams. He also hauled in four passes for 37 yards in that contest.
    In November of 2015 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Fischer was named the offensive player of the game in the Hilltops 38-24 Canadian Bowl victory over the Okanagan Sun. He broke the 100-yard barrier in both rushing and receiving in that contest. Fischer carried the ball 23 times for 102 yards scoring two touchdowns and caught seven passes for 107 yards.  
Logan Fischer muscles his way in for a Hilltops touchdown.
    Last November in Langford, B.C., Fischer piled up 202 yards rushing on 28 carries and caught four passes for 43 yards and scored two majors to help the Hilltops down the host Westshore Rebels 37-25 for a third straight national junior title win. He was named the offensive player of the game for a second straight year.
    Fischer could potentially have a CFL career similar to that of fullback Neal Hughes, who played for the Roughriders from 2004 to 2014 and earned Grey Cup rings in 2007 and 2013. With that said, there are still a number of steps and a number of other parts have to fall into place for something like that to happen.
    For now, here is hoping Fischer can leave a good last impression, and he is capable of doing just that.

Memorial Cup has to keep festival feel 

    It might be an understatement to say some hockey purists weren’t happy with this year’s Memorial Cup tournament.
    Last Sunday, the host Windsor Spitfires downed the Ontario Hockey League champion Erie Otters 4-3 in the event’s championship game. The win marked the third time in nine years the Spitfires claimed major junior hockey’s greatest prize.
    When Windsor won in 2009 and 2010, they were the champions that year of the OHL. This year, they lost out to the London Knights in a series deciding Game 7 of the first round of the OHL playoffs. The Spitfires did finish fifth overall in the OHL standings with a 41-19-5-3 mark.
    Some purists won’t like the obvious fact that the Spitfires entered the tournament after being off for 44 days after losing out in the OHL playoffs and went on to win the Memorial Cup. While the Spitfires rested, the Otters, Saint John Sea Dogs and Seattle Thunderbirds battled it out to win the titles in the OHL, QMJHL and the WHL respectively to round out the Memorial Cup field.
    On a competitive front, the Memorial Cup is a different beast, because teams play in a round robin before advancing to single-elimination playoff games. Windsor ran the table posting a perfect 4-0 record.
    The pressure is on teams to get that first win in the round robin in order to ensure being part of the playoff round. Clubs want to avoid a mini slump by going winless and earning a trip home without a playoff round berth.
    Seattle went 0-3 in this year’s tournament. The Otters were 2-1, while the Sea Dogs were 1-2 in round robin action.
    Erie beat Saint John in a semifinal to advance to the championship game.
    The Memorial Cup format isn’t perfect, but the truth with amateur sports in Canada is that tournaments even as prestigious as the Memorial Cup need a host team to sell tickets and sponsorships. While it would be cool to see the Memorial Cup draw big crowds without a host team, that scenario is not a reality. Only the championship game in Windsor was a sellout this year.
    There are groups of fans that head to the Memorial Cup on an annual basis and even plan vacations around it. The Calgary fan group called “the Junior Hockey Junkies” are one of those bunches. There isn’t enough of these fan groups around to carry the tournament.
    Usually, the organizers at the Memorial Cup are good at putting on a festival around the event to make it a 10-celebration of hockey, or in this case, junior hockey. Losing out at the Memorial Cup after winning your league isn’t the end of the world. The Memorial Cup has to be one of those events that adds a little extra topping to a team’s year.
    The Memorial Cup can hold the place of being a festival. Those that govern the Canadian Hockey League have to ensure it stays affordable for families, because that is what junior hockey is about. Ticket prices have been high for a number of recent Memorial Cups, so that always has to be a concern.
    With that said, odds are pretty high the Regina Pats will be a great host next year, when they host the 100th Memorial Cup in conjunction with their 100th anniversary as a team.

Clark has a little bit of fun with Nurse

    I always love it when you see teammates having a little bit of fun.
    Saskatoon product Emily Clark tweeted this picture on Monday of her with Hamilton, Ont., product Sarah Nurse from a training camp for Canada’s National Women’s hockey team which is going on right now in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Clark and Nurse have been teammates with the University of Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
    The pair are also part of centralized roster of 28 players that are hoping to make the team that will play for Canada’s women’s team at the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, from Feb. 9 to 25, in the new year.
    For what it is worth, I think both Clark and Nurse look equally great in this picture. More importantly, both are high end players, and one has to love the fact they are part Canada’s senior national team program. They can make good things happen at any point in a game.
    While Canada fell 3-2 in overtime to the United States in the final of the women’s world tournament on April 7 in Plymouth, Mich., I still like the individuals Canada selected for the centralized roster. I would feel comfortable with any combination of players from that group of 28 going into the Olympics.
    On top of that, it also seems that the players on the Canadian squad bond better and play together better when they train on a centralized roster.
    There are still a number of steps to go until the Olympics, and it is important for the players to have fun along the way like Clark and Nurse did here.

Oilers win third Stanley Cup 30 years ago today

Some items of Edmonton Oilers memorabilia.
    It is crazy to think that 30 years ago today the climax of the “Boys on the Bus” documentary was filmed on the 1980s Edmonton Oilers.
    The film followed the Oilers for two seasons from 1985 to 1987. It concluded with the Oilers downing the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 in Game 7 of the 1987 Stanley Cup finals, which was played on May 31st of that year. The victory marked the third time Edmonton won the Stanley Cup.
    The Oilers of those years seemed to be filled with star players like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr and Kevin Lowe. In a lot of ways, the film still holds up well today.
    The ending, which focuses on the Oilers Game 7 win, provides a nostalgia trip. You can check it out by clicking here.

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