Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Rebels’ Anders relishes first WHL shutout

Ethan Anders directs a loose puck away from the Rebels goal.
    Ethan Anders couldn’t wait for the last 14.2 of Wednesday’s WHL contest in Saskatoon to elapse.
    The 17-year-old rookie netminder was on the cusp of collecting his first career WHL shutout as his Red Deer Rebels held a 2-0 edge over the host Blades. With 67 seconds to play in the third, 17-year-old sophomore left-winger Josh Tarzwell had scored into an empty net to give the Rebels a two-goal lead.
    With 14.2 seconds to play in the third, Anders was staring down a defensive zone faceoff. As it was highly unlikely the Blades would score twice in that timespan to force overtime, Anders mind became consumed with holding on to get the blank.
    “That was really nerve-racking,” said Anders. “I was hoping R.J. (Reese Johnson) would win that faceoff there, and he did.
    “We got it out, which was like super nice to get that first shutout for sure.”
Ethan Anders tracks the play in his own zone.
    The Regina, Sask., product turned away 33 shots to pick up his first career WHL regular season shutout. The 2-0 victory before 2,821 spectators at the SaskTel Centre marked the first time the Rebels had shutout an opponent in the 2017-18 campaign.
    In their second season since hosting the Memorial Cup in 2016, the Rebels are going through a rebuild icing a younger roster. Including Anders, Red Deer utilized eight players in their 17-year-old season of eligibility and three players in their 16-year-old seasons of eligibility on Wednesday night.
    The Rebels could have hit the ice with an even young roster had they not scratched two 16-year-old rookie forwards.
    Due to utilizing such a young group, the Rebels have taken their lumps this season, but they have won their last two straight and four of their last five to improve to 14-25-9-3. They sit nine points behind the Kootenay Ice (23-24-3) for third in the WHL’s Central Division and a playoff berth.
    As the season progresses, Anders said he really likes how the young Rebels are coming together, and he gave the 18 skaters that played in front of him on Wednesday night big props for the shutout.
G Ethan Anders and the Rebels defence stop Blades RW Josh Paterson.
    “The boys played really good in front of me,” said Anders, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 186 pounds. “They liked kept the shots down and allowed low quality chances, so it was good.
    “It has been a tough start. We went on a bit of like a little skid there, but we are starting to play a lot better. The team is working harder for a full 60, and it is just really good for sure.”
    Last season, Anders starred for the Tisdale Trojans in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League posting a .922 save percentage, a 2.48 goals against average and two shutouts in 26 regular season game appearances. Having gone unselected in the WHL Bantam Draft, the Rebels listed Anders halfway through last season.
Tyler Brown turned away 24-of-25 shots in goal for the Blades.
    He said it has been a lot different playing in the WHL compared to midget AAA, and he loved the fact Rebels head coach, general manager and owner Brent Sutter kept having faith and putting him back in goal no matter what happen.
    “It has been a bit of an adjustment for sure, but Brent (Sutter) has been playing me lots,” said Anders. “I am kind of more adapted to the league now than I was at the start of the year.
    “I am feeling more comfortable when I step in the net for sure.”
    The Rebels went ahead 1-0 just 1:49 into Wednesday’s contest, when a point shot from sophomore 17-year-old defenceman Jacob Herauf got past overage Blades netminder Tyler Brown. That was the only shot that beat Brown, who turned away 24-of-25 shots putting in a solid effort between the pipes for Saskatoon.
Rebels D Dawson Barteaux gets control of the puck in his own zone.
    Anders went to work playing a sound technical game. There were some dangerous moments.
    In the first period, a mid-range shot by Blades feisty forward Caleb Fantillo went off Anders glove and over top of the Red Deer goal.
    Anders had to deny Blades centre Chase Wouters in close in the first period and right-winger Josh Paterson in tight during the third period.
    Besides giving credit to his teammates, Anders said Rebels goaltending coach Taylor Dakers, who starred for the Ice from 2003 to 2007, has been a huge help.
    “We will go out a little bit early (before practice) just to work on some little things he saw in games he didn’t like,” said Anders. “After practice, he will keep us a little bit just to work on little things, and it has definitely helped my game.”
    As for another bonus, Anders collected his first shutout with about six to eight family members in attendance on Wednesday night.
Ethan Anders (#31) celebrates his shutout with Riley Lamb.
    “It was really nice to get the shutout in front of them for sure,” said Anders. “It was nice to go up there (to the concourse) and chat with them after.”
    The Rebels move on to face the WHL leading Warriors (39-8-1-2) in Moose Jaw on Friday night.
The Blades fell to 25-24-2-1 with the setback. They sit in the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a three point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (20-20-8-2). The Raiders have two games in hand on the Blades.
    Saskatoon sits four points back of the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats (26-22-5) for the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand. The Raiders sit seven points behind the Pats with three games in hand.
    The Blades and the Raiders go at it on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.

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Being content can become a mental health challenge

The Hilltops 2015 CJFL title win was a good day for me.
    I wish it was simple to be content and accept things as they are, but memories of a good part of my past keep getting in the way.
    Since 2012, I have known I have battled with issues dealing with anxiety. One of the hardest things for me is to be content in the here and now. I figured this would be my subject for what has become my traditional post for Bell Let’s Talk day.
    There is still a stigma around mental health issues, and they are unfortunately still treated as the elephant in the room in too many circles. I write about my experiences on the mental health front in hopes it will help others.
    I often stress over what I haven’t accomplished or what I don’t have. I sometimes dwell too much wondering if what I haven’t accomplished will happen in the future.
    There are times a song by the rock group Queen keeps ringing in my head called, “I Want It All.”
    I can hear the chorus line loud and clear, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
    I remember that song ringing out in the dressing room when I played football in high school. It blared out when playoffs started. The song was about a young man who was set to head out into the world and accomplish all his goals and nothing was going to stop him from doing just that.
    I can’t seem to find that place of being content due to the fact there was a lengthy period of time everything seemed to fall into place for me. That period of time occurred before I discovered I dealt with issues dealing with anxiety.
    When I started school at the University of Regina in the fall of 1995, I was set that I was going to be a sports reporter. I remember young me saying I was going to do this, or I was going to die. That seems kind of heavy, and looking back, it might not have been healthy.
    I remember I constantly had doubters. There were people that said I would never get into the University of Regina’s School of Journalism and Communications. I would never see the press box of a CFL stadium or an NHL rink.
All set for a U of Regina athletics awards night in 2001.
    I was wasting my time coming out to Regina and should go back to Winnipeg, Man., where I graduated high school and find some other path in life.
    The media cut era was just beginning, so that would provide another obstacle.
    Some of my biggest critics were other reporters and journalists. Consequently, I have found in life my relationships with reporters and other journalists was divided into becoming great friends with half the people I met and finding I was despised by the other half that didn’t want to talk to me.
    The ones that didn’t like me really showed it in a snobby sort of way like they were above me. It was natural for an industry that contains a lot of ego. I didn’t care.
    I found my best friends came from the University of Regina Cougars and Rams athletic teams. I covered them and helped them on the media front as well.
    I became involved with the Rams when they were still in the Canadian Junior Football League, and I ended up practicing with them when injury troubles struck in the 2000-01 university season, when the Rams appeared in the Vanier Cup.
    The U of R athletes were my positive support group that believed in me. Due to those friendships, my self-confidence grew immensely.
    All of a sudden, I went on a run where I seemed to be able to jump over all the hurdles and kick all the doors down.
    I went from being a sports reporter and then the sports editor at the U of R student newspaper, the Carillon. I got into the U of R School of Journalism and Communications and graduated, which was something I wasn’t supposed to do. I ended up in Prince Albert becoming a sports reporter for the Daily Herald, and I did sports television spots for CTV and Shaw.
Leah Levy (#10) and Jana Linner (#7) were part of a great U of R group.
    During my stop there, I entered a CFL press box for the first time in a working capacity. I wasn’t supposed to do that.
    From there, I moved on to the Medicine Hat News to become the beat writer that covered the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. That became the first moment of my life I made a comfortable living doing what I did. I saw that as a real moment where I made it.
    On my birthday on March 4, 2008, I stepped into an NHL press box for the first time for a regular season game at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary as the host Flames played the Columbus Blue Jackets. I was there to do catch up pieces with Tigers grads Kris Russell and Jason Chimera.
    Being in the press box that night, I remembered the doubters. I had pride in a huge sense of accomplishment. I heard the Queen song in my mind.
    “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
    When I saw Russell that night, I thought it was only a matter of time before I saw my bud on a regular basis on the NHL beat. Away from the rink and a few months after that NHL game, action was developing on the romantic front. I thought the family thing was going to happen, which was something I subconsciously wanted too.
    Then, it all changed following the end of the 2008-09 season.
Hanging out in Vancouver, B.C., in 2007.
    What seemed like the continual tough times followed. The budget cut era in the Canadian media industry hit with huge force. The News was sold and unexpected mental health challenges started in the work place, which sparked my battles with anxiety issues.
    I thought all I had to do was work hard and everything would work out like it had in the past. I thought working hard would continue to earn respect and the doors would keep opening.
    If problems rose up, my voice would be heard, because by this time I had built up street cred in what I was doing.
    I could control everything in my life just with my effort.
    I was wrong on all fronts especially with regards to influencing those that held the strings of power. That was part of the 30 reasons I chose to leave Medicine Hat and move to Saskatoon to be closer to family in the summer of 2014. I had some supports in Medicine Hat, but without any family there, the support network wasn’t strong enough to keep me in that centre to deal with the challenges I faced.
    For the longest time, I kept asking myself why wasn’t I heard when problems rose up at the News or what I could have done differently. It wasn’t until I covered the Saskatoon Hilltops winning the Canadian Bowl at home in November of 2015 where I came to a place where I was content and at peace with the last years of my life in Medicine Hat.
The Hilltops 2015 Canadian Bowl win was good day for me.
    I hit that point where I ended up hugging Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant post-game, and he said, “Thanks for everything you’ve done for us.”
    I felt I was making a difference with what I was doing covering sports in Saskatoon, and with that feeling, I turned the page and accepted the final years of my life in Medicine Hat on an “it is what it is front.”
    You can’t go back and change the past.
    These days I struggle with being content on other fronts. I will look at Facebook and often compare my life with my friends from my university days. I often ask why my life didn’t mirror theirs on the career and family fronts.
    They always seem to never experience setbacks in their careers, were married, had kids and were happy in their family lives.
    One of the things that bugs me to this day is my romantic relationships from the past never turned out to be for the real long term.
    I even compare my life to the young adults on the Saskatoon Hilltops, University of Saskatchewan Huskies teams and the Saskatoon Blades and often wish I could turn back the clock and be back in my younger days. I keep thinking at their young ages they are getting way ahead of me in life.
    When I was at their stage in life, it seemed like I had all the answers, and life always seemed to play out like I did have all the answers. Now I struggle to find the answers. I realize now how much happens that I can’t control in life.
Me hanging out with Peter Loubardias after Game 6 of the 2017 WHL final.
    I go through moments where I wonder why things haven’t worked out for me like they did for a stretch that lasted about 15 years. I feel I work as hard as I did then, but the doors don’t open anymore.
    I will have times where I will go do something and wonder if I should be doing something else. An example of that would be tossing up going and covering one sporting event like a Blades hockey game as opposed to a Huskies hockey game.
    When I am covering sporting events, those are the moments when I find I am at my best focusing on the day for that day. I find at that moment I am content.
    I struggle with being wiser on the political front. I find I don’t react well when someone tells a white lie to me. I have worked at coming to a better understanding why someone would have their reasons for not telling me the whole truth.
    I find telling white lies seems to be a norm in way too many facets of life and overall people aren’t as accountable as they once were. I find you get penalized if you are accountable and tell the truth, and that is unfortunate. I see way too many spots where people progress by lying and not being accountable.
    I have worked to learn when to pick my battles on this front and accept when a situation is an “it is what it is thing.”
    Sometimes the best way to react to a situation where there are too many lies is to leave it.
    I don’t have the total answer for how I overcome all the other things I battle with as far as being content is concerned. I find I equal being content with giving up. That is also something I battle.
I rediscovered the joy of getting out to the lake last summer.
    My best comfort comes from the fact I have tools to deal with this. I will resort to breathing exercises or I will meditate. Over last summer, I rediscovered other things that helped make me content or settle me down like going to a movie or packing my bike to go for a ride at the lake.
    I find I am getting better at accepting things as they are.
    While that helps me be content in the here and now, I still find there is a part of me that refuses to settle. That Queen song come back into my head.
    “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
    I have accepted it is all a work in progress.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to My Bell Let’s Talk post from last year called “Recognizing and respecting triggers is key for mental health” can be found right here. A piece called “Feeling connected calms the mental health seas” can be found right here. A piece called “My Mental Health Story” can be found here. Another post I like that I wrote in February of 2015 about my mental health journey call “Huskies hockey was good for me” can be found here.
    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Broncos poised to be a major force in WHL

Broncos RW Tyler Steenbergen (#17) circles past Pats C Matthew Bradley.
    REGINA, Sask. – The small Swift Current Broncos contingent could be heard loud and proud among the sellout crowd of 6,484 spectators on Sunday afternoon at the Brandt Centre.
    Come May, it is highly possible that small contingent could multiply into a massive amount of supporters, if the Broncos are able to win their first WHL championship since 1993 and earn a berth in the Memorial Cup. Regina hosts major junior hockey’s national championship tournament from May 18 to 27.
    On Sunday, the Broncos downed the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats 4-1 in what was viewed as an expected heavyweight WHL tilt. Both teams made a number of moves in the weeks leading up to the WHL’s trade deadline on January 10 to stock up for a lengthy playoff run.
    The Broncos have hovered near the top of the WHL standings all season and currently sit second overall with a 35-12-3-1 mark.
Netminder Stuart Skinner was a major addition to the Broncos.
    They are coming off an exciting playoff run last season, where they fell in a series deciding Game 7 to the Pats in the second round by a 5-1 score. Regina moved on to the WHL Championship series falling to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
    The Pats stocked up due to the fact they are hosting the Memorial Cup, and they hold the first wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a 25-22-5 record. They sit two points up on the Saskatoon Blades (25-23-2-1) and six points up on the Prince Albert Raiders (20-20-7-2). The Blades and Raiders had one game and three games in hand respectively on the Pats.
    While the Broncos are deep on forward and defence, one of their key aces is netminder Stuart Skinner. The Broncos acquired Skinner in a blockbuster multiplayer trade on Jan. 9 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and the addition of the Edmonton product gave Swift Current a battle hardened playoff netminder.
Aleksi Heponiemi had a goal and two assists on Sunday.
    The 19-year-old Skinner helped power the Hurricanes into the WHL’s Eastern Conference Championship series last season, where they bowed out to the Pats in six games.
    Skinner was outstanding on Sunday turning away 41 shots to back the Broncos victory. Arguably, one of his best saves came in the second period with the Broncos holding a 1-0 edge.
    Pats star captain Sam Steel made a perfect backdoor feed across the front of the Swift Current goal to linemate Cameron Hebig, who let the shot go as soon as the puck hit his stick. Skinner got across to deny the scoring chance.
    Skinner held the Broncos in during a sluggish start in the first period, when the Pats stormed out of the game to an early 8-1 edge in the shots on goal department. With Skinner keeping the Pats off the scoreboard, the Broncos had time to find their legs.
    With 1:15 to play in the opening frame, Broncos left-winger Beck Malenstyn, who was with the Calgary Hitmen last season, found a loose puck in front of the Regina goal and popped home the first goal of the contest to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead. Malenstyn’s tally during a spurt of four-on-four action changed the completion of the contest.
Glenn Gawdin scored his 40th goal of the season.
    The Broncos edge grew to 2-0 when centre Matteo Gennaro, who was also with the Hitmen last season, roofed home a turnaround shot past Pats netminder Ryan Kubic.
    Swift Current also showed the damage it could do on the power play. At the 5:31 mark of the third, Finnish import left-winger Aleksi Heponiemi converted a perfect backdoor feed from Gennaro to give the Broncos a 3-0 lead.
    After the Pats cut the Broncos lead to 3-1 on a point shot through a screen by defenceman Cale Fleury, the Broncos rounded out the game’s scoring with a beauty power-play tally from their top line of Heponiemi, captain Glenn Gawdin and star right-winger Tyler Steenbergen.
    On a tick-tack-toe passing play, Heponiemi and Steenbergen set up Gawdin on a perfect backdoor play, and the Richmond, B.C., product buried his 40th of the season with 3:58 to play in the third. Heponiemi picked up his second assist of the night on Gawdin’s goal.
    The Broncos went 2-for-4 with the man advantage and killed off all three of the Pats power-play chances.
    Kubic made 31 stops to take the setback in goal for the Pats. The St. Andrews, Man., product didn’t have a bad game.
The Broncos fan contingent was loud and proud on Sunday.
    He was bested by a goalie in Skinner who can make the impossible looking save to take away a sure goal.
    The Pats fans in attendance on Sunday were vocal in their support of their team. While the support is there, they have to wonder if their club will turn into a squad that can best a side like the Broncos or the WHL leading Moose Jaw Warriors (39-8-1-2).
    The Broncos are built to gun for the Warriors. Due to the way the WHL’s playoffs are structured, it is unfortunate one of those two clubs will be eliminated at least in the second round of the post-season due to the fact they are part of an ultra-competitive East Division.
    Both the Broncos and Warriors would love to only make a short trip east down the Trans-Canada Highway in May to the Memorial Cup as league champs.
The Broncos expect to celebrate a lot of wins like they did on Sunday.
    With the fans that would be sure to follow from their respective centres, the Broncos or the Warriors would easily be considered a second home team, if either make it that far.
    The Broncos won their only Memorial Cup championship in 1989, when the event was held in Saskatoon, Sask. Their fans have to be giddy about the prospect of winning major junior hockey’s biggest crown in a Saskatchewan centre once again.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to
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Saturday, 27 January 2018

Huskies too tough for T-Birds

The Huskies and Thunderbirds engaged in a battle on Saturday night.
    If anyone doubted the physical and mental toughness of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, those doubts were buried under the falling rust of the ancient Rutherford Rink on Saturday night.
    The Huskies engaged the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, in a classic physical playoff style game, where you almost forgot that bodychecking is against the rules in women’s hockey. The two sides battled to a 1-1 tie after regulation and remained deadlocked after two five-minute overtime periods.
    In a tiebreaking shootout, Huskies captain Kaitlin Willoughby scored the only goal to give the Huskies a 1-0 win in the draw breaking session and a 2-1 victory in the U Sports regular season contest. The Huskies blanked the Thunderbirds 2-0 on Friday night, so it was expected the UBC squad would come with a serious push back.
The Huskies and Thunderbirds engaged in a lot of scrums on Saturday.
    The Huskies handled that push back on all fronts and claimed all four head-to-head regular season meetings with the Thunderbirds in the current campaign.
    Games between the Huskies and Thunderbirds had always been pretty heated, as the two sides have developed a pretty hot rivalry. Fifth-year Huskies centre Kennedy Harris said her side was pretty pumped to sweep all four games in the season series.
    “It is unreal,” said Harris. “We’ve beat them all four games this year, so it is pretty special.
    “We have something special in that dressing room. It is definitely exciting, and we can just build on that.”
    Saturday’s encounter began with a little gamesmanship with the Thunderbirds stepping on the ice after the Huskies and skating by their pre-game huddle. Usually, the visiting team steps on the ice first at Rutherford.
    The physical aspect took shape early when about a minute into the game Thunderbirds centre Mathea Fischer nailed Willoughby with a hip check.
The Huskies and Thunderbirds battle along the boards.
    The Huskies star winger was run later in the opening frame by Thunderbirds right-winger Cassandra Vilgrain.
    The Huskies came with the physical play too in the opening 20 minutes as fifth-year defender Kira Bannatyne nailed Thunderbirds left-winger Emily Costales.
    Both teams ended up with seven power play chances in the contest. There were spots where it appeared the officiating crew was overwhelmed by the intensity of the contest.
    “This group in here we were able to motivate ourselves and get back up and just be the bigger team there I guess,” said Harris.
A Huskies forward gets roughed up by a Thunderbirds player.
    The Thunderbirds took a 1-0 lead with three minutes to play in the second, when right-winger Hannah Clayton-Carroll fed a nice setup pass to centre Logan Boyd who potted her sixth goal of the season.
    As 48 of the 96 regular season games in the Canada West Conference for women’s hockey have ended in shutouts this season, it seemed like Boyd’s tally could be the different in Saturday’s clash.
    The Huskies weren’t deterred by the deficit.
    They came out hard in the third period and outshot the Thunderbirds 12-5 in the frame.
    With 7:25 to play in the third and working on the power play, Harris spotted a loose puck at the right side of the UBC goal and knocked home her second of the season to force a 1-1 tie.
    “I don’t think the goalie had a clue where it was, so it was nice to sneak one in there,” said Harris. “We needed it at that moment. It was good.”
Morgan Willoughby was a force in the physical game.
    Before the third period ended, Huskies defender Morgan Willoughby, who is Kaitlin’s younger sister, threw arguably the hit of the night, when she sent Clayton-Carroll flying through the air with a hip check.
    In the first overtime period, it appeared the Huskies would be in trouble when third year defender Leah Bohlken was given a bodychecking penalty.
    The hosts killed off the infraction and controlled the two extra sessions from there.
    “It is always tough coming off a penalty, but our PK has been so good all year,” said Harris. “It obviously motivates you to just push a little harder back.
    “It is obviously tough getting it early in the period, but we definitely handled it pretty well I think.”
    Jessica Vance turned away 21 shots over 70 minutes and all three shooters she faced in the shootout to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies.
Kennedy Harris netted the equalizer for the Huskies.
    Amelia Boughn turned away 39 shots over 70 minutes and two of three shooters she faced in the shootout to take the setback in goal for the Thunderbirds.
    With the win, the Huskies (16-7-1) move into a tie with the Thunderbirds (16-5-3) for third place in the Canada West standings with 48 points.
    The Huskies earned their 48 points from 15 regulation victories, an extra time win and an extra time loss.
    The Thunderbirds have their 48 points from 13 regulation victories, three extra time victories and three extra time losses.
    In Canada West women’s hockey, teams earn three points in the standings for regulation wins, two points for extra time wins and one point for an extra time loss.
Kaitlin Willoughby finished the night with a signature goal celebration.
    Both the Huskies and Thunderbirds trail the defending U Sports national champion University of Alberta Pandas (17-5-3) by two points for second place.
    The Pandas, who sit first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, have 50 points in the standings coming on 13 regulation wins, four extra time wins and three extra time losses.
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday when they host the Pandas at 7 p.m. at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
    Before focusing on the Pandas, Harris said her team was going to take time to enjoy what the accomplished against the Thunderbirds.
    “We can definitely take the chance to celebrate this one,” said Harris. “It is exciting.
    “We will just build and take that into next weekend and into practices this week.”

Dogs drop 3-1 heartbreaker in Vancouver

MacKenzie Johnston scored for the Huskies on Saturday.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team’s hope of capturing first in the Canada West Conference for a third straight year took a hit on Saturday night.
    Taking on the host University of British Columbia Thunderbirds at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver, the Huskies saw a 1-0 first period lead fade away into a 3-1 setback in a U Sports regular season match.
    Defenceman MacKenzie Johnston scored to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead at the 8:05 mark of the first period with right-winger Josh Roach and centre Logan McVeigh picking up assists. From that point, the Thunderbirds went on to gut out a sixth straight victory.
    Thunderbirds rearguard Riley Guenther netted the equalizer at the 2:30 mark of the second period to force a 1-1 tie. Defenceman Jerret Smith potted a single to put the Thunderbirds up 2-1 at the 3:24 mark of the third. Forward Chase Clayton sealed the 3-1 victory UBC with an empty-net tally inside of the final five seconds of the third.
    Jordon Cooke turned away 27-of-29 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies. Rylan Toth stopped 27 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Thunderbirds.
    The Thunderbirds improved to 14-9-1 to sit fourth in Canada West.
    The Huskies fell to 18-5-1 to sit second in Canada West four points behind the first place U of Alberta Golden Bears (20-3-1). The Huskies are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, while the Golden Bears are rated fourth.
    The Golden Bears can’t finish any lower than second in Canada West, and due to that fact, they have a bye locked up into a best-of-three semifinal series in the Canada West playoffs.
    Both the Huskies and Golden Bears have four games remaining on their respective regular season schedules. They meet head-to-head this coming Friday and Saturday in Edmonton.

Shmyr nets 100th goal in Blades shootout win

Braylon Shmyr scored his 100th career goal on Saturday.
    Overage left-winger Braylon Shmyr netted a big milestone in a barnburner of a win for the Saskatoon Blades.
    Shmyr had a goal and an assist to help power the Blades to a 4-3 victory after a tiebreaking shootout over the Prince George Cougars in a WHL regular season clash on Saturday night before 3,817 spectators at the SaskTel Centre. Shmyr’s tally was his 100th career regular season goal dating back to his time with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
    With the Cougars leading 3-2 late in the third period, Shmyr assisted on Max Gerlach’s goal that tied the game up at 3-3 with under 40 seconds to play in the third. Gerlach’s goal came about 16 seconds after Blades feisty forward Caleb Fantillo had his potential game-tying goal wiped out after a video review that ruled he scored by knocking the puck in with a high stick.
    Saskatoon claimed the tiebreaking shootout 2-1 after it went six rounds. Kirby Dach and Josh Paterson scored for the Blades, while Ilijah Colina tallied for the Cougars.
    During regulation time, Paterson had the Blades first goal, while Joel Lakusta, Colina and Ryan Schoettler replied with singles for the Cougars.
    Tyler Brown turned away 36 shots and five-of-six shooters in the shootout to pick up his first win in goal for the Blades after being acquired before the WHL’s trade deadline on Jan. 10 in a deal with the Regina Pats.
    Isaiah DiLaura turned away 35 shots and four-of-six shooters in the shootout to take the setback in goal for the Cougars, who saw their record move to 18-24-4-4 to sit in the basement of the WHL’s Western Conference.
    The Blades improved to 25-23-2-1 to sit in the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, and they are two points back of the Memorial Cup hosting Pats (25-21-5) for the first wildcard spot. The Prince Albert Raiders (20-20-7-2) trail the Blades by four points and the Pats by six points in the Eastern Conference wildcard race and have two games in hand on both clubs.
    The Blades return to action on Wednesday, when they host the Red Deer Rebels at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.

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Friday, 26 January 2018

Caller finds offensive groove with Blades

Defensive defenceman developing all-around game

Jackson Caller has 10 points in his last 15 games for the Blades.
    Jackson Caller still gets surprised when he scores.
    The 18-year-old sophomore defenceman with the Saskatoon Blades slipped home a shot at the 9:20 mark of a WHL regular season clash with the Edmonton Oil Kings at the SaskTel Centre on Friday night to give his team a 3-0 lead. After the goal went in, Caller was looking around to see who had scored and didn’t realize he had netted his third of the year.
    “I just kind of sprung down the right side there, and luckily it got past the defenceman there,” said Caller. “I just shot it on net, and luckily, it took a funny bounce and went in there.”
    The goal put a cap on a strong night for the Kamloops, B.C., product, who posted a plus-three rating in the plus-minus department to help the Blades skate away with a 5-0 victory before 3,309 spectators.
    Known as a defensive-defenceman, Caller’s offensive game has been rounding into form. 
    Since the Blades returned from the WHL’s Christmas break, he has posted two goals and eight assists in 15 games.
Jackson Caller (#52) weaves his way into the offensive zone for the Blades.
    On the season, Caller has three goals, 17 assists and a minus-four rating in 49 games. Besides playing regular shifts against the oppositions’ top forward units, Caller has found himself playing the point on the Blades power play on a more regular basis.
    He said he is surer of himself in the offensive zone.
    “Confidence is a huge thing,” said Caller. “I’ve been a lot more comfortable out there jumping in the play and getting shots through.
    “Offence is coming, which is nice. It is good for the team. It feels great just to contribute to the team, so I want to keep doing that moving forward.”
Michael Farren (#27) had a goal for the Blades.
    The Blades received singles from Josh Paterson and Max Gerlach to go along with Caller’s tally in building their 3-0 lead. Gerlach’s tally came on the power play.
    The opening surge chased Oil Kings starting goalie Josh Dechaine at the media break of the opening frame from the Edmonton net. He stopped just five of eight shots sent his way.
    Todd Scott turned away 17-of-19 shots playing almost 50 minutes the rest of the way in relief.
    Saskatoon’s advantage grew to 4-0 with 2:57 remaining in the second period, when rookie centre Kirby Dach found sophomore right-winger Michael Farren. Farren proceeded to pot his fourth goal of the season. Dach had two assists on the night.
    Overage left-winger Braylon Shmyr sealed the win netting his 99th career WHL regular season goal in the third period.
Netminder Nolan Maier covers up the puck in a shutout performance.
    Blades rookie netminder Nolan Maier, who has had a stellar campaign and turned 17 earlier this month, stopped 20 shots to pick up his second career shutout.
    The Oil Kings fell to 13-28-5-2 with the loss.
    With the Blades having won just two of their previous eight games heading into action on Friday, head coach Dean Brockman said the win was big for his club, even though the Oil Kings have had their struggles.
    “At this time of year, they are all must wins,” said Brockman. “It doesn’t matter who you play, whether they are below us or above us in the standings.
Kirby Dach had two assists for the Blades.
    “Now, there are 22 games left, and really, that is our playoff push. We have to start thinking that mentality right now.”
    The Blades pulled out the convincing win minus two of their most experienced defenceman. Overage captain Evan Fiala sat out a one-game league imposed suspension for taking a cross-checking major penalty in the Blades 7-3 loss to the Pats in Regina on Wednesday night.
    Saskatoon was also without 19-year-old rearguard Dawson Davidson due to illness.
    Due to the fact Fiala and Davidson weren’t available, the Blades played with five regular defenceman and moved winger Logan Christensen to the back end.
    Caller said the younger defensive group that hit the ice had a solid game for the Blades, and he liked his club’s overall effort.
    “It was huge to get back on track here,” said Caller. “It was a good win tonight.
    “Guys were going. Guys were moving their feet and finishing checks. That is what we like to see and moving forward we have to keep doing that.”
    The Blades improved to 24-23-2-1 with the win to hold the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a four point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (19-20-7-2). The Raiders have two games in hand on the Blades.
The Blades salute the SaskTel Centre crowd after their win.
    Saskatoon is four points back of the first wildcard position held by the Pats (25-20-5).
Brockman hopes the good vibes from Friday will carry over for the Blades into their game on Saturday, when they host the Prince George Cougars at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.
    “It feels good,” said Brockman. “I think we lacked confidence in that room.
    “Since the (WHL trade) deadline, we haven’t done what we think we can do. For us, to get a win and to get the win the way we did I think it is really important. Now, we just have to take that confidence going into tomorrow.”
    The Blades return to action Saturday, when they host the Prince George Cougars (18-24-4-3) at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.

Vance topples Thunderbirds for a third time

Jessica Vance picked up her seventh shutout of the season on Friday.
    Jessica Vance seems to have the number of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds women’s hockey team.
    On Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the 20-year-old sophomore netminder made 13 saves to back her University of Saskatchewan Huskies to a 2-0 victory over the Thunderbirds, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. In the current campaign, Vance had started all of the Huskies three regular season encounters with the Huskies, and she has come out victorious on each occasion.
    The Prince Albert, Sask., product leads the Canada West Conference in individual shutouts by a goalie at seven. The Huskies have won three straight, and Vance has posted shutouts in each of those contests.
    As a team, the Huskies have 10 shutouts to lead Canada West. In the 93 regular season games played in the 2017-18 campaign in the Canada West Conference in women’s hockey, the eight teams on the circuit have combined for 46 shutouts.
    Third-year defender Leah Bohlken scored in the second period to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead on Friday, and fifth-year forwards Kori Herner and Kennedy Harris picked up assists on the play.
    Third-year defender Emma Nutter scored on a power play in the third period to round out the scoring for the host side. Fifth-year defender Kira Bannatyne and Herner picked up assists on Nutter’s tally.
    With the win, the Huskies improve to 15-7-1, while the Thunderbirds fell to 16-5-2.
    The two teams go at it again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

UBC’s Hewitt stones Huskies

Sam Ruopp scored for the Huskies on Friday.
    Fifth-year goalie Matt Hewitt walled off the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.
    On Friday night at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver, B.C., Hewitt stopped 40-of-41 shots fired his way to back his University of British Columbia Thunderbirds to a 5-1 victory over the Huskies, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. Friday’s encounter marked the first time the Thunderbirds managed to beat the Huskies in the three head-to-head regular season meetings between the two sides in 2017-18.
    The Thunderbirds, who have won five in a row, led 2-0 after the first period and 4-0 after the second period before posting their 5-1 victory. The Huskies saw their four-game winning streak snapped due to the setback.
    Michael Stenerson recorded two goals and an assist for the Thunderbirds. He scored his second tally into an empty net with 2:05 to play in the third period.
    Nick Buonassisi, Carter Popoff and Matt Revel all had singles for UBC.
    Sam Ruopp had the lone reply for the Huskies. Jordon Cooke turned away 13-of-17 shots to take the setback in the U of S goal.
    The Thunderbirds improved to 13-9-1 with the win, while the Huskies fell to 18-4-1. The Huskies trail the University of Alberta Golden Bears (19-3-1) by two points for first place in the Canada West Conference.
    The Huskies and Thunderbirds go at it again on Saturday in Vancouver.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Brain cramps do in Blades, Pats cash in with 7-3 win

Sam Steel (#23) and Evan Fiala (#47) were part of Wednesday’s drama.
    The Saskatoon Blades need to play just a little bit smarter.
    For one of the few times this season, the Blades hurt themselves with unforced errors that piled up. The errors prevented “the Bridge City Bunch” from having a chance to have any success against the Regina Pats on Wednesday night at the Brandt Centre.
    The Pats, who are hosting the Memorial Cup in May, cashed in on the Blades mistakes to the tune of a convincing 7-3 victory before 5,454 spectators.
    The bulk of the problems for the Blades came in the second after Pats winger Nick Henry scored at the 4:43 mark of the frame to give the host side a 3-1 edge.
    Shortly after that goal, Blades 18-year-old defenceman Jake Kustra took a tripping penalty by hacking down one of the Pats players along the boards. It was a penalty that didn’t need to be taken, but the Blades killed that infraction off.
    That kill was followed by Saskatoon left-winger Gage Ramsay getting dinged for playing without a helmet. His helmet came off with the play deep in the Regina end, but the 19-year-old decided to drive to the net instead of skating to the bench.
    By now, everyone in the WHL should know you have to skate immediately to the bench, if your helmet comes off during play, and Ramsay was penalized during a moment when his side wasn’t even on the defensive.
    Things continued to pile up on the ensuing kill. Veteran Blades right-winger Josh Paterson crossed the red-line with the puck, but he didn’t clear it into the Regina zone. Instead, he had the puck stolen from him by Pats captain Sam Steel.
    Steel transitioned the play up ice to offensive defenceman Josh Mahura to create a two-on-one. Mahura fed a nice pass across the front of the Saskatoon to goal to left-winger Jesse Gabrielle, who scored on the backdoor chance to give the Pats a 4-1 edge at the 10:51 mark of the second.
Gage Ramsay took a costly penalty by playing without a helmet.
    The Blades went back to the kill a short time later, when rookie defenceman Randen Schmidt took an interference penalty behind the play.
    The Pats scored on that ensuing power play to go up 5-1 on a snipe from left-winger Jared Legien, and things got worse from there for the visitors.
    Blades captain Evan Fiala proceeded to drive Legien hard into the boards behind the Saskatoon net, which started a scrum. Steel skated in to face Fiala, and Fiala got his stick up and cross checked Steel in the face. Fiala then ended up in a fight with Pats centre Matt Bradley.
    Bradley came away with a fighting major.
    Fiala was accessed a major for fighting, a major for cross checking and a game misconduct. The cross checking major will trigger an automatic review by the WHL office for a possible suspension on Fiala.
    At that point, the Blades were done in with their self-inflicted damage.
    Saskatoon did try to battle back. Right-winger Max Gerlach scored inside of the final minute of the second and added his second of the night 32 seconds into the third to cut the Pats lead to 5-3.
    Just 41 seconds after Gerlach’s second goal, Pats right-winger Cameron Hebig scored on a point drive through a screen to put the hosts up 6-3. Hebig would get his second of the night short-handed at the 12:31 mark of the third.
    Mahura and Czech import defenceman Libor Hajek had singles for the Pats in the first period, while Chase Wouters had the lone reply for the Blades in the opening 20 minutes.
    Steel had five assists to surpass 300 points in his WHL career. In 237 career regular season games, Steel has 107 goals and 196 assists for 303 points.
    The Sherwood Park, Alta., product seems to have developed some good chemistry playing with Hebig, who was acquired by the Pats in a deal with the Blades before the WHL’s trade deadline on Jan. 10.
    Hebig, who had an assist to go along with his two goals, went past 200 points in his WHL career. In 244 career regular season games split between the Blades and Pats, Hebig has 91 goals and 111 assists for 202 points.
    The Pats were 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Blades were 1-for-7 with man advantage. Saskatoon has won four of the six head-to-head meetings with Regina this season.
    Overage netminder Tyler Brown made 38 saves to take the setback in goal for the Blades. Brown was acquired by the Blades in a deal with the Pats that included Hebig before the WHL’s trade deadline on Jan. 10. Brown has made two starts for Saskatoon, but the Blades had less than stellar efforts in both those outings resulting in lopsided losses.
Cameron Hebig scored twice for the Pats.
    For the Blades, it would be good to get Brown his first win with the team to ensure the results of his first two starts don’t become some sort of mental hurdle.
    Ryan Kubic turned away 26 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Pats, who improved to 25-20-5 to sit in the first wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a six point edge over the Blades. Saskatoon has a game in hand on Regina.
    The Blades fell to 23-23-2-1 to sit in the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with a four point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (18-20-7-2). The Raiders have two game in hand on the Blades.
    Wednesday’s encounter provided a lot of footage for Blades head coach Dean Brockman and his staff to use for teaching purposes. 
    It is hard to give any opponent in the WHL multiple gifts and expect to come out on the winning end of things.
    The Blades return to action on Friday, when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings (13-27-5-2) at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.

Blades take part in impressive school visit

Jackson Caller, left, and Evan Fiala speak to students on Monday.
    On Monday, the Saskatoon Blade captain Evan Fiala and his defensive partner Jackson Caller made one of the more serious school visits I have ever seen.
    Fiala and Caller visited Silver Heights School along with Saskatoon Police Service officers Mike Johnson and Kelly Rainville as part of Project Face-off. With this program, those four visited East Hastings in Vancouver, B.C., which is one of Vancouver’s roughest neighbourhoods.
    The four shared their experience of their visit and talked about the importance of making correct decisions in life and surrounding yourself with good supportive people. They mentioned a few of the people they met in the East Hastings neighbourhood weren’t your stereotypical “bad guys.” They said a number of the people in East Hastings were persons who once had good lives and ended up in that position due to a major life setback.
    Besides that observation, they talked about the disgusting settings some of the people were living in, which included seeing really large rats.
Mike Johnson, left, and Kelly Rainville talk to school students.
    Before the four spoke, they showed a video of them touring East Hastings to the students.
Fiala and Caller told the students they were able to stay on their paths to the WHL due to focusing on hockey and hanging out with friends that had similar aspirations. They said that helped give them the discipline to stay away from people who wanted to do something not wise and other possible not wise situations.
    In this now the 19th season I have covered the WHL, I have seen a few school visits, but this is the first one I went to involving the Blades. The stories and the subject matter was heavy, but it was delivered in an impactful way.
    After the presentation, four little girls came up to Fiala. One played hockey with one of the local Huskies Prospects teams, and she excitedly said she wanted to follow through with her dream of playing for the Saskatoon Stars Female Midget AAA team on day. It was a pretty sweet moment considering Fiala’s younger sister, Joelle, is one of the Stars star forwards.
    The Blades made tonnes of these community appearances over the season and worked hard to stay connected with the community. Monday’s visit to Silver Heights School was a perfect example of that.

Back in the Express with Johnston

Kieran Johnston will run at the K of C Indoor Games.
    I was back in the pages of the Saskatoon Express this week with an advancer story for the Knights of Columbus Saskatchewan Indoor Games that was focused around Kieran Johnston.
    The 22-year-old is in his second season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Track and Field team. Johnston told a story about what it was like to race Ashton Eaton, who won the decathlon at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Eaton would win the decathlon title again at the 2016 Olympics.
    Johnston raced Eaton at the 2015 K of C Indoor Games and admitted to be star struck.
    Besides talking about that race, Johnston discussed how he stepped away from sports all together for a time and came back once he realized he missed the sports. The graduate of Saskatoon’s Evan Hardy Collegiate shared what his hopes were with the Huskies this season.
    The story on Johnston can be round right here.

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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Warriors OK with being hunted

WHL’s top squad knows foes will keep them honest

Brecon Wood (#17) scored a first period goal for the Warriors.
    Jayden Halbgewachs said you can tell his Moose Jaw Warriors are gunned for by every other team in the WHL.
    On Sunday afternoon at the SaskTel Centre, the Warriors took a 3-1 lead against the host Saskatoon Blades only to see that edge evaporate into a 3-3 tie early in the third period. With 7:03 to play in the third, Warriors standout overage right-winger Brayden Burke snuck a bad angle shot home short side on Blades sensational rookie netminder Nolan Maier to give the visitors a 4-3 edge.
    Burke’s goal restored control of the contest to Moose Jaw. Halbgewachs potted his 51st goal of the season into an empty net with 4.9 seconds to play in the third to seal a 5-3 regular season victory and disappoint most of the 4,511 spectators in attendance.
Brett Howden had a goal and an assist for the Warriors.
    The win was the third in a row for the Warriors and their 11th victory in their past 12 games. They lead the entire WHL with a 38-7-1-2 record and have a nine point cushion on the 33-11-3-1 Swift Current Broncos for the overall lead in the standings. Moose Jaw is rated second in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top 10 rankings.
    While the Warriors are enjoying what might turn out to be their best campaign in team history, Halbgewachs, an overage right-winger who has spent his entire WHL playing career in Moose Jaw, said the wins haven’t come easy. As the Warriors pile up accolades, Halbgewachs has noticed foes play his side that much harder. He said his team claimed a hard battle on Friday downing the Memorial Cup hosting Pats in Regina 5-3 and had to find a way to outlast the Blades on Sunday.
    “Obviously, everyone wants to take off the top team,” said Halbgewachs. “Each and every night teams are going to want to come in to play us, and they want beat us every time we play them.
    “They are going to play tough against us. We have to bring our game every night and find ways to win, even if we are not having a hot night like tonight. We had a pretty good game in Regina (on Friday).
Jayden Halbgewachs has 51 goals so far this season for the Warriors.
    “Tonight was just an average game for us in which we need to find a way to play our best game every game.”
    The Warriors had a strong campaign last season posting a 42-21-8-1 record in the regular season before falling in a first round playoff series to the Swift Current Broncos in a series deciding seventh game.
    This season, the Warriors have become the team everyone wants to knock off, and they have been forced to stay honest playing in what has become an extra tough East Division.
    The Blades fell to 23-22-2-1 with their loss on Sunday, but Burke said the Saskatoon side hasn’t been an easy out. The two teams have met four times, and the Warriors have come away with three victories including one win in overtime.
Brayden Burke scored the winner for the Warriors.
    “They (the Blades) are a good team,” said Burke. “They work hard.
    “They shoot the puck well. They forecheck well. They have a good system.
    “Even though they are a little lower in the standings, we know they are a good team. If you look at the East Division, there is not a bad team. Every time we come against a team in the East Division, we have to be at our best, if we want to win, and today was no different.”
    The Warriors jumped ahead 1-0 just 1:48 into Sunday’s clash, when captain Brett Howden tapped home a nice backdoor feed form Halbgewachs. Sophomore left-winger Brecon Woods slipped home an off-speed shot at the 11:42 mark of the opening frame to give the Warriors a 2-0 edge.
    Josh Paterson, who was celebrating his 19th birthday on Sunday, scored for the Blades with 15.4 seconds to play in the first to cut Moose Jaw’s lead to 2-1.
    Just 51 seconds into the second period, Warriors centre Justin Almeida converted a beauty tick-tack-toe passing play from Burke and Howden to put the Warriors up 3-1.
    The Blades, who look lethargic to that point after beating Pats 4-3 in overtime at the SaskTel Centre on Saturday night, came to life on Sunday after the Warriors took their two-goal edge.
Josh Paterson scored twice in the Blades attempted comeback.
    While Moose Jaw continued to have a decent advantage as far as shots on goal were concerned, the Blades were stringing a number of good shifts together and spending lengthy stretches of time in the Moose Jaw zone.
    The host side’s pressure finally resulted in Paterson’s second goal of the contest and an equalizer from left-winger Eric Florchuk early in the third to force a 3-3 tie.
    That set the stage for Burke’s winner and Halbgewachs’ empty-net goal down the stretch.
    “I kind of went to the net and just wacked it there,” said Burke about his winning tally. “It was maybe a little bit of luck to get in there, but I am happy with the goal and happy with the win.”
    Maier turned away 31 of 35 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades.
The Warriors celebrate their victory over the Blades.
    Saskatoon sits in the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a four point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (18-20-7-2). The Raiders have a game in hand on the Blades.
    The Blades are four points behind the Pats (24-20-5) for the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand.
    Brody Willms stopped 16 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Warriors.
    During the rough patches, Halbgewachs was pleased to see his side never got flustered.
    “Throughout the game, we were just kind of even keel,” said Halbgewachs. “We weren’t really too hot. We weren’t too low.
    “We just kind of rolled through the game. I think we could have played a lot better, but obviously, we got enough chances to win the game. That is the way the game went tonight.”
    The Blades return to action Wednesday, when they travel to Regina to face the Pats. The Warriors are off until this coming Friday, when they travel to Lethbridge to take on the Hurricanes.

Fundraiser underway to have Lazaruk sing national anthem

Blades play-by-play voice Les Lazaruk is participating in a fundraiser.
    A fundraiser is underway to get Les Lazaruk to sing the national anthem before a Saskatoon Blades home game.
    Lazaruk became the Blades play-by-play radio voice at the start of the 1994-95 WHL campaign and he has called 1,794 of their games. If $1,500 is raised, Lazaruk will sing the national anthem before a Blades home game. As of Sunday night, $425 has been raised.
    Lazaruk agreed to this fundraiser as long as the money went to a charity of his choice. He has decided the funds raised will be donated to the Saskatchewan Red Cross to support Pink Day, which is set for February 28.
    Every $20 that is raised will provide a pink shirt to a local child and get them into the Red Cross Pink Day program supporting anti-bullying.
    Those that want to donate to the campaign to get Lazaruk to sing the national anthem can do so by clicking here.

Parker lifts Stars to OT victory with milestone goal

Mackenna Parker achieved another impressive SFMAAAHL milestone.
    Captain Mackenna Parker hit another impressive milestone with the Saskatoon Stars.
    On Sunday at the Agriplace Arena, Parker had two goals - including the winner 22 seconds into overtime - and an assist to lift the Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Notre Dame Hounds. With those two tallies, the skilled centre has scored 74 regular season goals in her career with the Stars to move into a tie with Alyssa Wiebe for second on the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s all-time career goals list.
    Wiebe, who is a Saskatoon product, piled up her 74 career goals along with 68 assists for 142 points in 55 career regular season games playing for the Hounds in the SFMAAAHL’s first two seasons of existence from 2006 to 2008. Parker, who is in her fourth season with the Stars, piled up her 74 goals to go along with 72 assists for 146 points in 99 career regular season games.
    Earlier this season, Parker passed Wiebe to sit alone as the second all-time regular season leading scorer in the SFMAAAHL.
    In Sunday’s game, Parker drew an assist on Anna Leschyshyn’s goal 60 seconds into the contest to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. Parker netted her first of the night at the 2:07 mark of the second period to give the Stars a 2-0 lead.
Mackenna Parker leads the SFMAAAHL in scoring with 48 points.
    The Hounds pulled even at 2-2 before the second period ended with short-handed goals coming from the sticks of Portia Eldaun and Lyddi Robart.
    That set the stage for Parker, who played for Canada at the under-18 women’s worlds earlier this month in Dmitrov, Russia, to score her dramatic overtime winner. In 18 regular season games this season with the Stars, the 17-year-old has career highs in goals (25) and assists (23) and leads the SFMAAAHL in scoring with her 48 points.
    Jordan Ivanco turned away 13 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Stars (19-3-1). Kaitlyn Ross turned away 42 shots to take the setback in goal for the Hounds (14-6-1).
    The Stars have collected 55 points in the SFMAAAHL standings coming off 16 regulation victories, three overtime wins and an overtime loss to sit one point back of the Prince Albert Northern Bears (19-3) for first place. The Bears have 56 points in the standings coming from 18 regulation wins and an overtime win. 
    The SFMAAAHL awards three standings points for regulation victories, two points for extra time wins and one point for extra time losses.
    The Bears have a game in hand on the Stars.
    The Stars, who have won five straight contests, return to action on February 8, when they host the Battlefords Sharks at 7:15 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.

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