Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Blades drop wild one in Calgary

Braylon Shmyr scored twice for the Blades on Tuesday.
    It arguably hadn’t been this easy to score since Country Thunder last summer in Craven, Sask.
    On Tuesday in Calgary, the host Hitmen outgunned the Saskatoon Blades 6-5 in a wild-west type WHL regular season affair before 4,868 spectators at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The contest included a missed penalty shot by Hitmen centre Tristen Nielsen and a disallowed goal from Blades centre Josh Paterson for kicking the puck into the goal inside the crease.
    Outside of the scoring, Blades overage captain Evan Fiala bested Hitmen overage centre Conner Chaulk in a second period tilt.
    The setback concluded a three-game road trip for the Blades, who won once over that stretch.
    The two sides traded goals in the first period with star overage winger Braylon Shmyr scoring for the Blades to give the visitors a 1-0 edge, and sophomore left-winger Riley Stotts replying for the Hitmen.
    The second period got really wild. At the 3:28 mark, rookie 17-year-old left-winger Brandon Machado netted his first career WHL regular season goal to give the Blades a 2-1 edge. Just 40 seconds after that tally, Jakob Stukel potted the equalizer for the Hitmen to tie things up at 2-2.
    The Hitmen were awarded a penalty shot at the 7:48 mark, when Blades 16-year-old forward Tristen Robins, who was called up from the Rink Hockey Academy Prep team in Winnipeg, Man., was called for hooking Nielsen down.
Brandon Machado scored his first goal for the Blades.
    Blades rookie netminder Nolan Maier, who turned 17 earlier this month, got a piece of Nielsen’s shot and the puck just went wide of the Saskatoon goal.
    Nielsen scored at the 11:26 mark of the frame to give the Hitmen a 3-2 edge, but Shmyr potted his second of the night for the Blades at the 15:49 mark to force a 3-3 tie. The Hitmen jumped ahead 4-3 at the 17:38 mark of the second, when import defenceman Vladislav Yeryomenko scored on a five-on-three power play.
    Early in the third Paterson thought he scored the equalizer for the Blades, but his goal was waved off after a video review that concluded he kicked the puck into the net inside of the crease of the Calgary goal.
    Hunter Campbell, who is a 16-year-old rookie right-winger, scored for the Hitmen at the 9:20 mark of the third and Jake Kryski added another marker for the host side 42 seconds later to give Calgary a 6-3 lead.
    The Blades attempted to roar back as centre Chase Wouters scored at the 13:21 mark and winger Max Gerlach fired home his 20th goal of the campaign at the 16:53 mark of the third to cut the Hitmen lead to 6-5. The visitors weren’t able to find the equalizer in the final 3:07 of the frame.
    Maier turned away 23 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades (22-21-2-1). Nick Schneider stopped 22 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Hitmen (14-25-5-1).
Josh Paterson lost a goal after a video review.
    The Blades cashed in on three-of-five power-play chances, while the Hitmen were one-for-four with the man advantage.
    Saskatoon has lost four of its last five games but still holds a seven point lead on the Prince Albert Raiders (16-19-6-2) for the second wildcard berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The Raiders have three games in hand on the Blades.
    The Blades return to action when they host the Regina Pats on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. This marks the first time the Blades have met the Pats, who are hosting this year’s Memorial Cup in May, since the Regina side was made over in the days leading up to the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10.

Stars’ Leschyshyn hits 100-point plateau

Anna Leschyshyn scored her 100th career SFMAAAHL point on Sunday.
    Anna Leschyshyn hit a major milestone with a big offensive outing for the Saskatoon Stars.
    On Sunday at the Agriplace Arena, Leschyshyn had two goals and two assists to pace the Stars to a 12-1 victory over the Weyburn Richardson Pioneer Gold Wings. With that performance, Leschyshyn became the 17th player in the history of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League to crack the 100-point plateau in regular season play.
    In 80 career regular season games with the Stars, Leschyshyn has piled up 50 goals and 50 assists for 100 points.
    The 16-year-old forward, who has verbally committed to play for the Syracuse University Orange Women’s hockey team for the start of the 2019-20 campaign, is one of three players on the Stars current roster who have scored at least 100 points in their regular season career.
    Grace Shirley has 104 points coming on 60 goals and 44 assists in 75 regular season games. Captain Mackenna Parker had 143 points coming on 72 goals and 71 assists in 97 career regular season games. Parker is the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL.
    Both Shirley and Parker helped Canada win a bronze medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 Women’s World championship, which wrapped up Saturday in Dmitrov, Russia.
    In Sunday’s win over the Gold Wings, 14-year-old rookie forward Makena Kushniruk had two goals and three assists for the Stars, while veteran forward Kianna Dietz, who turned 18 earlier this month, had two goals and two assists.
    Joelle Fiala had a pair of goals for the Stars, while Jordyn Holmes, Kaitlin Jockims, Jayda Sachs and Jordyn Gerlitz all had singles. Holmes, who has committed to join the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team next season, appeared in her 100th career regular season game for the Stars on Sunday.
    Jayden Lindholm had the lone reply for the Gold Wings.
    Jordan Ivanco made 12 stops to pick up the win in goal for the Stars (17-3-1). Amara Lewendon turned away 41 shots going the distance in goal for the Gold Wings (0-19-1).
    Leschyshyn’s father, Curtis, played defence for 16 seasons in the NHL from 1988 to 2004, and her brother, Jake, is a star centre for the WHL’s Regina Pats.
    The Stars return to action on Saturday, when they host the Notre Dame Hounds at 7:45 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.

Wildcats’ Lind on verge of 100-point mark

Taylor Lind in action with the Wildcats last season.
    Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats superstar centre Taylor Lind is set to record her 100th career point in only her second season in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League.
    In just 48 career regular season games, Lind, who turned 16 earlier this month, has piled up 60 goals and 39 assists for 99 career regular season points. The Shaunavon, Sask., product is only the ninth player to score at least 60 career goals in her SFMAAAHL career, and she is trying to become the 18th player to hit the 100-point plateau.
    She turned heads last season winning the SFMAAAHL scoring title piling up 36 goals and 22 assists appearing in all 28 of the Wildcats regular season games.
    Besides climbing the SFMAAAHL’s all-time scoring list, Lind is closing in on becoming the Wildcats all-time leading scorer, and she is looking to pass former teammate Chloe Smith for that distinction. Smith, who now plays for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, is the Wildcats all-time leading scorer piling up 42 goals and 62 assists in 110 regular season game played from 2013 to 2017.
    Lind has committed to play for the Lindenwood University Lions women’s hockey team, who play out of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I ranks, at the start of the 2019-20 campaign. Lindenwood University is located in St. Charles, Missouri.
    Lind comes from a strong hockey family. Older sister, Tenelle, is in her 17-year-old season playing defence for the Wildcats and older brother, Kole, is a 19-year-old star right-winger for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets.
    The Wildcats (10-7-3) return to action on Wednesday, when they travel to Wilcox, Sask., to face the Notre Dame Hounds (13-5).

Canada West women’s hockey goalies combine for 36 shutouts

Jessica Vance has four shutouts for the Huskies this season.
    If you needed extra proof it is the season of the goalie in women’s hockey in the Canada West Conference, all you have to do is look at the goalie statistics.
    In the 80 combined regular season games played to date by the eight teams on the circuit, 36 of them have been shutouts. The University of Saskatchewan Huskies (12-7-1) are the team with the most shutouts at seven. All three of the Huskies goalies this season have picked up shutouts with Jessica Vance leading the way with four, Chloe Marshall has two blanks, and Jasey Book has one shutout.
    Kelsey Roberts of the University of Calgary Dinos has the most individual shutouts on the circuit with five, and her team is seventh in the conference and outside of the playoff picture with a 6-12-2 record.
    This season every team in the Canada West Conference does have strong goaltending, so it will be interesting to see if the shutout totals keep growing over the remaining 32 regular season game left on the schedule.
    In another interesting twist, the voters for the U Sports Top 10 rankings have given the Canada West teams respect for their goaltending play. In this week’s rankings, the defending U Sports champion University of Alberta Pandas (13-4-3) are rated first, the University of Manitoba Bisons (14-5-1) are rated second and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (14-4-2) are rated third.
    All eight of the teams in Canada West return to action on Friday.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 13 January 2018

Roach writing memorable farewell tour with Huskies

Josh Roach leads Canada West in scoring with 10 goals and 20 assists.
    Josh Roach is going all in to try and make his swan song his most memorable campaign with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.
    On personal front, the 25-year-old ensured statistically his fifth-and-final season with the Dogs would be his most productive offensively picking up a pair of assists in a 4-1 U Sports regular season victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons on Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink. With those helpers, Roach has career highs in goals (10), assists (20) and points (30), and he leads the Canada West Conference in scoring with a three-point edge over Luke Philp of the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Josh Roach had two assists for the Huskies on Saturday.
    To go along with the points, Roach has posted a plus-16 rating in the plus-minus department, which is also a career high. He still has eight regular season games to go to build on those totals.
    “Obviously, it is nice,” said Roach, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 190 pounds. “You start the season, and you set personal goals for yourself.
    “To reach them with a month left in the season is obviously something pretty special.”
    Roach is building off a solid 2016-17 campaign where he recorded eight goals and 18 assists in 24 regular season games. For most of the past two campaigns, he has been part of a character forward unit that has developed into a dynamic scoring force with centre Logan McVeigh and left-winger Michael Sofillas.
    “Me and my linemates have been clicking,” said Roach, who is a Huskies assistant captain. “We’ve played the last few years out there, so we are comfortable out there.
Josh Roach has played in three University Cup tournaments.
    “We can feed off of each other and know where each other are. Playing with consistent guys who think the same way as you definitely helps.”
    During his time with the Huskies, the local product has gone through what seems like a lifetime of experiences. In three of his first four seasons, Roach and the Huskies appeared in the U Sports national championship tournament – the University Cup – in 2014, 2016 and 2017. The Huskies fell in the tournament’s title game in 2014 and 2017.
    Amongst those appearances at nationals was an emotional Canada West championship win at the Rutherford Rink in early March of 2016, which marked the high point in a campaign where the Dogs were playing to honour the memory of the late Cody Smuk. Smuk was the team’s all-heart, glue guy type gritty forward, who played from 2010 to 2014 and passed away from cancer in June of 2015.
Josh Roach is a plus-16 so far this season.
    Roach was one of Smuk’s former teammates, and during the on ice Canada West title celebrations in 2016, Roach and Huskies captain Kendall McFaull helped bring Smuk’s family on to the ice for the team picture with the trophy and championship banner.
    Roach said that day is still his most memorable moment with the Huskies, and the education student can’t believe how quickly his time with the team is passing by.
    “Looking back on it, it doesn’t seem like that,” said Roach. “Everybody says when you come in that enjoy it, because it goes by fast.
    “You don’t expect it when you first start, but it is crazy looking back now.”
    The skilled winger said his four seasons in the junior A ranks from 2009 to 2013 with the Humboldt Broncos and then the Flin Flon Bombers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League helped prepare him to play at the Canadian university level. He was an offensive defenceman during his hockey career until being moved up to forward due to his scoring touch in his first campaign with the Huskies.
    From 2009 to 2012, Roach was a standout with the Broncos, and he helped them win a league championship and advance to the semifinal of the Royal Bank Cup, which is the national championship tournament for the junior A level.
Left-winger Michael Sofillas is one of Roach’s key linemates.
    During his time in Humboldt, Roach played under then Broncos head coach and general manager Dean Brockman, who is now the head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, and that experience proved to be very valuable.
    “Having a players’ coach like Dean (Brockman) throughout my junior career obviously was something a lot of guys don’t get to experience,” said Roach. “He definitely helped me along in my career. I have a lot to thank for him.”
    Against the Bisons on Saturday night, Roach picked up helpers on the Huskies second and third goals. The Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on singles from left-winger Collin Shirley and Sofillas.
    Defenceman Blake Heinrich scored for the Bisons at the 10:10 mark of the third period to cut the Huskies lead to 2-1.
Centre Logan McVeigh is Roach’s other key linemate.
    U of S sealed victory with a power-play goal from offensive defenceman Jesse Forsberg with 1:39 remaining in the third period and an empty-net tally from right-winger Parker Thomas with 45 seconds to play in the third. The win allowed the Huskies to officially lock up a berth in the Canada West playoffs.
    Jordon Cooke turned away 24 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies, who are rated fourth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. Byron Spriggs turned away 39-of-42 shots to take the setback in goal for the Bisons.
    Roach said that victory over the Bisons was an up and down game for his team.
    “I thought we had our moments when we played well,” said Roach. “We were pretty sloppy in our own end.
    “We definitely didn’t play to our strengths. Fortunately, we were able to come away with the ‘W.’”
Josh Roach has been part of many Huskies victory celebrations like this one.
    The win allowed the Huskies to improve to 16-3-1 and move into a tie for first in Canada West with the Golden Bears, who are also 16-3-1. The Golden Bears are rated second in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    The Bisons fell to 11-7-2 and sit nine points behind the Huskies and Golden Bears in the Canada West standings.
    Roach is looking forward to the sprint to the finish.
    “Obviously, we want to finish strong,” said Roach. “If we can do our job and set ourselves up pretty good going into the post-season, I think we will be good.
    “We just have to play our game and just keep at it.”
    The Huskies return to action on Friday, when they host the University of Calgary Dinos (6-11-3) at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Early Bisons goal does in Huskies women’s hockey team

Jessica Vance stopped 19 shots for the Huskies on Saturday.
    The U of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team ensured an early goal would prove costly to the visiting U of Saskatchewan Huskies.
    On Saturday at the Wayne Fleming Arena in Winnipeg, Man., fourth-year forward Nicole Carswell scored her first goal of the season at the 2:41 mark of the first period, and that tally proved to be enough to give the Bisons a 1-0 victory in a U Sports regular season clash over the Huskies. Bisons netminder Lauren Taraschuk turned away 26 shots to pick up her third shutout of the season and bring an end to the Huskies four-game winning streak.
    Jessica Vance turned away 19 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies after coming out victorious in her five previous straight starts.
    The Bisons, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, improved to 14-5-1 to sit second in the Canada West Conference one standings point behind the first place University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (14-4-2).
    The Huskies fell to 12-7-1 to sit fourth in Canada West and five standings points back of the Thunderbirds.
    U of S returns to action on Friday with a road encounter in Calgary against the U of Calgary Dinos (6-12-2).

Gerlach delivers OT win to Blades

Max Gerlach scored the overtime winner for the Blades on Saturday night.
    Max Gerlach showed off the type of excitement he can bring to the Saskatoon Blades in dramatic fashion.
    On Saturday night at the Centrium in Red Deer, the 19-year-old centre netted two goals and an assist to deliver the Blades to a dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 WHL regular season overtime victory over the host Rebels before 4,301 spectators. Gerlach was acquired by the Blades in a deal with the Medicine Hat Tigers that came before the WHL’s trade deadline on Wednesday.
    The Rebels jumped ahead 2-0 on a first period goal by Grayson Pawlenchuk and a second period tally from Mason McCarty.
    Before the second period ended, Gerlach potted his first goal as a member of the Blades to cut the Rebels edge to 2-1.
    With 1:43 to play in the third period, Gerlach teamed with Blades captain Evan Fiala to set up right-winger Josh Paterson for his 21st goal of the season to tie things up at 2-2.
    At the 1:21 mark of overtime, Gerlach laser beamed his second goal of the contest to the top left corner of the Red Deer net to win the game for the Blades.
    Rookie Nolan Maier turned away 23 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Blades, who improved to 22-19-2-1 to hold the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a seven point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (16-19-6-2). The Raiders have one game in hand on the Blades.
    Rookie Ethan Anders turned away 35 shots to take the setback in goal for the Rebels, who fell to 10-23-8-3.
    The Blades return to action on Sunday, when they travel to Cranbrook, B.C., to take on the Kootenay Ice (18-22-3).

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 12 January 2018

Huskies win, everyone pitches in

Carson Stadnyk, right, looks to try a wraparound for the Huskies.
    It seemed like everyone was getting in on the action for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.
    On Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, six different player scored for the Huskies as they dumped the visiting University of Manitoba Bisons 6-2 in a U Sports regular season contest before 393 frigid spectators.
    The contest provided an interesting clash as the Huskies came in rated fourth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings and had dropped a 4-2 decision last Saturday in Lethbridge to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Logan McVeigh had three assists for the Huskies.
    The Bisons were rated ninth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings and were coming in high on confidence having won their last two outings by sweeping the University of Alberta Golden Bears in a two-game series on Jan. 5 and 6 in Winnipeg and having won four straight overall. The Golden Bears are rated second in the U Sports Top 10 rankings.
    U of S didn’t take the Bisons lightly jumping out of the gates with a fast start. Just 51 seconds into Friday’s clash, fourth-year right-winger Parker Thomas knocked home his fifth goal of the season at the left side of the Bisons net to give the Huskies a 1-0 edge.
    The hosts went ahead 2-0 with 1:29 to play in the first when sophomore left-winger Carson Stadnyk netted his fourth of the campaign. The Huskies outshot the Bisons 16-7 over the opening 20 minutes.
Josh Roach leads Canada West in scoring with 10 goals and 18 assists.
    The Bisons found their legs in the second period coming with a big push back. Sophomore centre Remi Laurencelle scored 63 seconds into the second on the power play for the Bisons to cut the Huskies edge to 2-1.
    At the 8:11 mark of the second, the Bisons cashed in on a three-on-one opportunity down close near the Huskies goal. Bisons third-year defenceman Adam Henry pinched down to the left side of the Huskies goal and converted a tick-tack-toe passing play from forwards Zach Franko and Michael St. Croix to tie things up at 2-2.
    Just as the Bisons seemed to have all the momentum, the Huskies recaptured it when gritty fifth-year centre John Lawrence wired home his sixth of the season from the left slot to give the hosts a 3-2 edge with 9:05 to play in the second.
Michael Sofillas had a goal and an assist for the Huskies.
    Centre Jordan Tkatch and right-winger Josh Roach netted singles at the 2:58 and 10:21 marks respectively of the third period to put the Huskies up 5-2.
    With 66 seconds to play in the third, the Huskies rounded out the scoring when right-winger Levi Cable and centre Logan McVeigh teamed up to spring left-winger Michael Sofillas on a breakaway towards an empty net, and he potted the puck easily into the vacated cage.
    Taran Kozun turned away 27 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies, who sit second in the Canada West Conference with a 15-3-1 record. Byron Spriggs turned away 34-of-39 shots taking the setback in goal for the Bisons, who sit third in Canada West with an 11-6-2 mark.
Netminder Taran Kozun begins to celebrate a win with two teammates.
    Roach, Sofillas and Stadnyk all had an assist each to go along with their respective goals. Roach continues to lead Canada West in scoring piling up 10 goals and 18 assists in 19 regular season games.
    McVeigh finished with three assists on the night to give him 18 helpers on the campaign to match his career high.
    The Kenaston, Sask., product was a plus-three in the plus-minus department.
Offensive defenceman Jesse Forsberg had a stellar night collecting three assists and posting a plus-four rating in the plus-minus department.
    The two teams go at it again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rutherford.

Vance returns to haunt Bisons

Jessica Vance picked up a special win in Winnipeg.
    Jessica Vance posted arguably one of her sweetest victories in her U Sports career on Friday night in Winnipeg, Man.
    The sophomore netminder with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team turned away 22 shots to back her squad to a 3-1 regular season victory over the host U of Manitoba Bisons, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. The Bisons were the Prince Albert, Sask., product’s first team, but she found herself buried on U of M’s goaltending depth chart.
    After dressing for one game as a backup early last season for the Bisons, Vance elected to leave the U of M side and joined the Huskies to play closer to home.
    Her teammates provided good offensive support in Friday’s clash before 400 spectators at the Wayne Fleming Arena. Just 2:38 into the opening frame, sophomore defender Kayla Kirwan netted her third goal of the season with checking winger Danielle Nogier drawing an assist.
    After a scoreless second period, the Huskies went ahead 2-0 at the 12:02 mark of the third, when third-year winger Rachel Lundberg netted her first goal of the campaign with rookie center Chloe Smith drawing an assist.
    Bisons fourth-year forward Lauryn Keen scored just over two-and-a-half minutes later to cut the Huskies edge to 2-1.
Kayla Kirwan scored for the Huskies on Friday night.
    Huskies sophomore left-winger Emily Upgang sealed the victory for the visitors scoring into an empty net with 72 seconds remaining in the third.
    Fifth-year netminder Rachel Dyck turned away 16-of-18 shots to take the setback in goal for the Bisons (13-5-1).
    To show how much the goalies are ruling the Canada West Conference in women’s hockey, Keen topped the conference in scoring last season with nine goals and 25 assists appearing in all 28 of her squad’s regular season games. Keen has five goals and four assists in 17 regular season games so far in the current campaign.
    Vance continued her stellar season winning her fifth straight start. She now has a 7-2 record, a 1.00 goals against average, a .958 save percentage and four shutouts on the campaign.
    With Vance in net, the Huskies have won their last four straight games to improve to 12-6-1.
    The two teams face each other again on Saturday in Winnipeg.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Blades come out winners in a bonkers WHL trade deadline day

Max Gerlach (#9) battles for the puck for the Blades.
    A former standout veteran WHL executive once told me anybody in the league can be traded depending on what you want to give up.
    That played out to be true on Wednesday’s WHL trade deadline day, where 17 deals were made on that day alone before the deadline of 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time. That doesn’t include all the massive amount of moves that were made in the 10 days leading up to trade deadline day.
    When you step back and look at what was given up to get standouts that might be rentals for a maximum of five months, some of the WHL general managers and executives were out of their minds. Way too many deals were made in the fashion of an armchair general manager running a fantasy sports NHL team.
Netminder Tyler Brown (#31) helps out on the Blades bench.
    On the Saskatoon Blades front, credit has to be given to them for taking advantage of some good opportunities when they came about. Some of their good fortune was used to get a couple of good players they might not have originally thought they could pick up.
    Blades general manager Colin Priestner, his scouts and executive staff on the hockey side of things made the right hockey moves when it came to popular veterans Libor Hajek and Cameron Hebig when the Regina Pats camp calling. The Pats were stocking up their roster to be a solid host side when they host the Memorial Cup tournament from May 17 to 27. The Blades took advantage of a team in need.
    On Monday, Saskatoon sent Hajek, who is a 19-year-old import Czech defenceman and has a signed NHL entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, to Regina in exchange for 19-year-old defenceman Dawson Davidson, 16-year-old forward prospect Tristen Robins and a first round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Dawson Davidson jets up ice for the Blades.
    On Wednesday morning, the Blades and the Pats combined for another blockbuster. The Blades sent overage star centre and local product Hebig and 19-year-old goaltender Ryan Kubic to the Pats in exchange for overage star netminder Tyler Brown, 17-year-old right-winger Bryan Lockner, a first and a second round selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, a third round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft and a third round selection in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft.
    The Blades proceeded to deal Lockner, a first round selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and a second round selection in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft to the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for 19-year-old star centre Max Gerlach.
    Before deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon, the Blades made one more deal acquiring centre Eric Florchuk, who turned 18 on Wednesday, from the Victoria Royals for a first round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft and a fourth round selection in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft that was originally obtained from the Brandon Wheat Kings in an earlier deal. 
Bryan Lockner (#28) was dealt to the Tigers by the Blades.
    Florchuk was originally selected by the Royals in the first round and 13th overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft.
    After the dust settled, the Blades managed to help themselves in the present as the arrivals of Brown, Gerlach and Davidson make up for the departures of Kubic, Hebig and Hajek. As a bonus, Brown is a big upgrade over Kubic, and Gerlach has the potential to return next season as an overager, while Hebig, who has an NHL entry-level contract signed with the Edmonton Oilers, will exhaust his major junior eligibility.
    Saskatoon now has one of the best goaltending tandems in the league with Brown being pair up with rookie sensation Nolan Maier, who turned 17 on Wednesday.
Max Gerlach zips into the offensive zone for the Blades.
    The Blades also helped themselves in the near future with the additions of Florchuk, who could potentially play the next three seasons in the WHL, and Robins, who appeared in one game with the Pats this season and could potentially play the next four campaigns in the WHL. Florchuk was in transit to join the Blades for the rest of the current campaign on Wednesday, while Robins currently plays for the Rink Hockey Academy prep team in Winnipeg, Man.
    On the WHL Bantam Draft front, the Blades came away with one less first round pick, one less fourth round selection, and they added two third round selections. The movement on the draft picks front won’t cause the Blades any pain, when it comes to building in the future.
Jaegar White, left, and Max Gerlach were teammates at Wednesday’s start.
    Overall, the Blades have to come away from this season’s action at the trade deadline feeling good about themselves. Their grade is an ‘A’ for what they accomplished.
    It should be noted they were able to do what they did on the trade front, because they didn’t want to trade Hajek or Hebig. Being in that position in a genuine state allowed the outrageous offers to materialize. 
    At the other end of the spectrum, the Pats might regret the fact they let Brown get away. They weren’t able to make a deal with another netminder, so they have to go through the rest of the season with Kubic, Max Paddock and Jacob Wasserman as their goals. Paddock and Wasserman are both in their 17-year-old rookie seasons.
    Only six players remain on the Pats roster who were full-time members of their squad that advanced to the WHL championship last season. They include forwards Sam Steel, Jake Leschyshyn, Nick Henry, Robbie Holmes and defencemen Josh Mahura and Liam Schioler. Regina is in for a challenging future in regards to playing the rest of the current campaign and a majorly challenging future when next season rolls around.
Rookie sensation Nolan Maier is now part of stellar goalie tandem. 
    The Blades will be a major contender to earn their first playoff berth since 2013 this season. Their prospects are also bright for future seasons.
    On Wednesday night with Gerlach and Davidson on the ice and Brown dressed as the backup goalie, the Blades dropped a 3-2 decision to the Tigers before 2,709 spectators at the SaskTel Centre.
Chase Wouters had a goal and an assist for the Blades, while Braylon Shmyr had a single. Gerlach picked up an assist in the setback.
    Gary Haden, Lockner and David Quenneville replied with singles for the Tigers.
    Maier made 43 stops to take the setback in goal for the Blades (21-19-2-1). Jordan Hollett turned away 31 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Tigers (23-16-3). Hollett was with the Pats last season and was dealt to the Tigers shortly after Regina lost out in the WHL championship series last May.
The Blades hope to celebrate a number of goals with their new additions.
    The Blades hold the second wildcard berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, and they have a seven point cushion in the standings over the Prince Albert Raiders (15-18-6-2). The Raiders have two game in hand on the Blades.
    Saskatoon is a point behind Regina in the standings for the first Eastern Conference wildcard berth after the Pats record moved to 21-19-4 after a 4-3 loss in overtime at home to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday night. The Blades have a game in hand on the Pats.
    The Blades return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Red Deer to face the Rebels.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Huskies’ Shirley gains new confidence with first goal

Abby Shirley jets up the ice for the Huskies.
    The old saying that good things can happen if you put the puck on goal paid off for Abby Shirley.
    The 18-year-old rookie right-winger with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team netted her first career U Sports regular season goal on a play that looked rather unassuming. Early in the third period of Saturday’s clash against the visiting University of Lethbridge Pronghorns at the ancient Rutherford Rink, Shirley fired a shot from a bad angle along the left boards in the offensive zone, and the puck found its way past netminder Alicia Anderson.
    The goal gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead and held up as the game winner in a 3-1 victory.
    “I was actually going to go for a line change, but then the puck game right in front of me,” said Shirley. “I was like I might as well get it on net. It slipped in somehow.
    “It was a good way to get my first one I guess.”
    Shirley admitted to being startled when she saw the red light go on behind the Pronghorns goal.
    “I actually didn’t even know it went in,” said Shirley. “I don’t know what was going through my mind, and then I just threw my hands up in the air.
    “It is just a feeling I guess.”
    Shirley, who stands 5-foot-5, has seen a bit of everything in her first campaign with the Huskies. The Delisle, Sask., product has been in and out of the Huskies lineup appearing in 13 of the team’s 18 regular season games to date collecting one goal, two assists and a plus-four rating in the plus-minus department. Those types of experiences are often common for rookies at the U Sports level.
    When she has played, Shirley has mainly been a defensive forward, but she has had her opportunity to play all sorts of different roles. One of her assignments that isn’t common for a rookie forward has been playing the point on the power play.
    “I was quite nervous actually,” said Shirley about the power play duty. “Then, I got into the groove a bit with lots of practice, and it felt pretty good.”
    Huskies head coach Steve Kook said Shirley’s confidence has improved as the season has gone on, and that was noticeable in Saturday’s win over the Pronghorns.
Abby Shirley reacts to scoring her first goal with the Huskies.
    “I didn’t see any hesitation in her game, so that is a little bit of maturity on her part,” said Kook. “That is what is helping her game a little bit, and that is what is making me feel a little bit more comfortable to put her in those situations (like playing the power play).
    “As a rookie, you worry about making so many mistakes. It just seems like she is just playing hockey right now and not thinking so much. That is what has allowed her ability to come out.”
    Kook said Shirley has some natural talents she can rely on as her career with the Huskies progresses.
    “First year is pretty good here,” said Kook. “We will see how she handles getting a little bit more playing time in the second and third year.
    “Her natural ability is to be able to shoot the puck even though she is just pint sized. Her natural ability is to see open ice, and that is why we have her on the top end on our power play.”
    Shirley came to the Huskies after a solid career with the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team. She played three seasons for the Stars from 2014 to 2017 collecting 31 goals and 32 assists in 77 career regular season games. The speedy winger played a key part in helping the Stars win Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championships and appear in the Esso Cup national championship tournament in 2015 and 2016.
    Last season with the Stars, she had a breakout campaign netting 14 goals and 18 assists in 25 regular season games. Shirley quickly noticed all the players at the university level were stronger and bigger, so that created an obvious adjustment.
    “It is a lot different,” said Shirley. “You don’t have as much time.
    “It is a lot more just pucks to the net and shots other than just like having time with it and trying to make nice plays. It is just really like quick plays.”
    Shirley said one of her easier adjustments was fitting in with her teammates, when she got over some initial moments of being star struck. She went through times of just being in awe of star fifth-year captain Kaitlin Willoughby.
Abby Shirley (#27) was all smiles after scoring for the Huskies.
    “I love this group of girls,” said Shirley. “There are lots of girls I look up to like Willo (Kaitlin Willoughby) of course.
    “She is such a good offensive player. Her hands are unbelievable, and I look up to her for sure.
“We’re like a family. I’m really close with everyone, and I just love them.”
    While she knows she has been more of a defensive forward so far this season, Shirley would like to have a few other goal celebrations as the campaign progresses.
    “It feels really good actually just knowing that like you are helping out the team,” she said.
    The Huskies (11-6-1) return to action on Friday, when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the University of Manitoba Bisons (13-4-1).

North Stars captain commits to Huskies men’s team

    On Tuesday, the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team Battlefords North Stars captain Layne Young has committed to play for the green and white starting in the 2018-19 campaign.
    Young, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 200 pounds, has been a standout for the Stars since joining the junior A club on a full-time basis at the start of the 2014-15 campaign. In 145 regular season career games with the Stars, Young has 73 goals and 138 assists.
    The 20-year-old leads the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in scoring this season with 22 goals and 43 assists in 33 appearances. The Frenchman Butte, Sask., product helped the Stars with the SJHL championship last season.
    “We are thrilled to have Layne join our program,” said Huskies head coach Dave Adolph in a release. “He understands that we place a significant value on elite junior A players from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
    “They all are extremely dedicated to getting better, and Layne knows he will have to earn his way here. He is hardworking with a boat load of skill and drive.”
    Young will enter the College of Agriculture to study in Ag-Business.
    “I saw a lot of positives joining the Huskies,” said Young in a release. “The University of Saskatchewan has a great agriculture program as well as a new rink that will help make the Huskies continue to be a top program in Canada.”
    Young refers to the brand new Merlis Belsher Place that is being constructed at the U of S and is scheduled to open for Young’s rookie campaign.
    The Huskies (14-3-1), who are rated fourth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, return to action on Friday, when they host the U of Manitoba Bisons (11-5-2), who are rated ninth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Sunday, 7 January 2018

Blades winning streak falls due to hectic schedule

Saskatoon goes down gutty playing third game in 48 hours

Chase Wouters and the Blades were in tough on Sunday.
    The WHL schedule maker might have gained an assist in bringing the Saskatoon Blades winning streak to an end.
    On Sunday, the Blades played their third game inside of 48 hours over a three day span, when they traveled to Brandon to take on the Wheat Kings for a 4 p.m. engagement. Saskatoon had a seven game winning streak intact going into Brandon.
    After downing the Kootenay Ice 4-2 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon on Saturday night, the Blades stepped off the ice at around 9:20 p.m., and proceeded to eat, load up the bus and head out to Brandon. They arrived in Brandon at about 5 a.m. on Sunday and rested up as much as they could for a contest that was less than 11 hours away.
    The Wheat Kings came into the game having Saturday off after defeating the visiting Swift Current Broncos 3-2 in overtime on Friday night at Westman Place.
    Going into Brandon to win against the Wheat Kings is difficult at the best of times, but it is almost near impossible under the circumstances the Blades were facing.
    As has been the case all season, the Blades brought all that they could on that night, and the found themselves locked in a 3-3 tie after winger Chase Wouters scored his second of the night at the 11:32 mark of the third. All of a sudden, a Wheat Kings victory was by no means a given.
    Still, the expected Brandon victory in that scenario came to pass. Ty Lewis, who is Brandon’s 19-year-old star winger, scored his second goal of the night with 1:56 to play in the third to give the Wheat Kings a 4-3 lead. Centre Stelio Mattheos scored his 29th goal of the season into an empty net 47 seconds later to seal a 5-3 victory for the host side before 3,051 spectators at Westman Place.
    The Wheat Kings improved to 27-12-0-1 with the win, while the Blades fell to 21-18-2-1 as their seven game winning streak came to an end. Both teams are currently holding playoff positions.
Ryan Kubic made 25 saves in goal for the Blades.
    Brandon took a 3-1 lead in the first period off of Lewis’s first goal of the contest and singles from the sticks of Connor Gutenberg and Tanner Kaspick. Star overage winger Braylon Shmyr had the lone reply for Saskatoon in the opening 20 minutes.
    While the Blades were down, they didn’t pack it in. Wouters scored his first of the night in the second period to cut the Wheat Kings lead to 3-2. Brandon only held an 18-15 edge in the shots on goal department over the first 40 minutes despite being more rested than Saskatoon.
    Fatigue finally caught up to the Blades in the third period. Wouters managed to tie the contest in the third, but the Wheat Kings carried play in the frame holding a 12-3 edge in shots on goal.
    The Blades needed one more positive bounce somewhere to escape with victory, but it never came. Ryan Kubic turned away 25-of-29 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades. Logan Thompson stopped 15 shots to pick up the win in the Wheat Kings net.
    Defensive defenceman Jackson Caller had assists on all three Saskatoon goals.
    All WHL teams face hectic parts in their schedules, but hopefully situations like the Blades faced this past weekend become less of a norm next season, when the regular season schedule shrinks from 72 games to 68 contests for each club.
    While four fewer games might not seem like a big decrease, it will create more situations were teams play on a Saturday night and get to be off until Wednesday. Playing three games in less than 48 hours increases the chances a player could be injured in the third game just due to fatigue. If you can lessen the chances of doing that, it is always a good thing.
Jackson Caller had three assists for the Blades on Sunday.
    In the current day of the WHL, players seem to be more connected with their families thanks to social media. When teams play on Saturday and proceed to be off until Wednesday, a large number of teams make Saturday a non-curfew night. Players in the current day often spend those nights going out for dinner at a nice restaurant with their families and having a quality visit.
    When the 68-game regular season schedule comes into effect, it should provide a few more chances to play on Saturday and be off until Wednesday.
    You won’t be able to loosen up all the hectic parts of the WHL schedule, but the 68 game regular season schedule should ensure there are less moments where teams play three times in less than 48 hours. That small move should do wonders for competitive balance.
    The Blades return to action on Wednesday, when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Pretty or gritty - Huskies need to keep finding ways to win

Abby Shirley (#27) celebrates scoring for the Huskies.
    It doesn’t matter if it is pretty, gutty or both, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team has to keep finding ways to win.
    On Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Huskies won their third straight downing the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 3-1 playing both pretty and gutty. This season, goals have come at a premium more than ever in U Sports’ Canada West Conference for women’s hockey, and it seems the first team to score will win the game via a shutout.
    The Huskies are going to have to duplicate their effort from Saturday for the rest of the campaign as the 2017-18 season hits the home stretch with the playoffs approaching. The win over the Pronghorns featured a lot of positives.
    The biggest positive was the fact the Huskies came from behind to win the game. At the 8:42 mark of the second, Pronghorns centre Kyra Greig scored a gritty goal in close to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Jessica Vance has been stellar in goal for the Huskies.
    The Pronghorns have played a number of gritty games this season and are battling to get into a playoff position. The Huskies had controlled the majority of the play to that point in time, and you had to wonder if the visitors were going to steal a win.
    In the opening 20 minutes, the Huskies outshot the Pronghorns 14-6, and the host side had a lengthy list of quality scoring chances. Pronghorns netminder Alicia Anderson stood on her head to ensure the hosts weren’t able to get ahead.
    Shortly before Greig’s goal in the second, Huskies defender Madison Colbow unloaded a point blast that hit Anderson and slowly trickled just wide of the Pronghorn’s net.
    With the 3:36 to play in the second, the Huskies tied the contest in a pretty fashion. Huskies feisty forward Brooklyn Haubrich broke into the offensive zone on a two-on-one rush with star captain Kaitlin Willoughby.
    Haubrich fed a nice pass across the front of the goal to Willoughby, who roofed the equalizer past Anderson to force a 1-1 tie.
Brooklyn Haubrich set up a beauty goal for the Huskies.
    At the 3:53 mark of the third, the Huskies went ahead 2-1 in gutty fashion when a bad angle shot by rookie right-winger Abby Shirley from the left boards of the offensive zone found its way past Anderson.
    From that point, the Pronghorns came with a huge push back playing desperate and keeping the Huskies pinned in their own zone.
    Huskies sophomore netminder Jessica Vance slammed the door making 18 saves in total to ensure the slim edge held up. Inside of the final two minutes of the third, Vance had to slide across her crease to deny Pronghorns defender Mattie Apperson, who pinched down to the right post of the Huskies net for a golden scoring chance.
    Following that stop, Willoughby iced the contest with an empty-net goal with 37 seconds to play. With her two goals, Willoughby moved to within a point of catching Danny Stone for second on the Huskies all-time career regular season scoring list.
The Pronghorns react to a goal by Huskies captain Kaitlin Willoughby.
    Willoughby now has 48 goals and 57 assists for 105 career regular season points. Stone, who played for the Huskies from 2008 to 2013, had 57 goals and 49 assists for 106 career regular season points. Both are grads from the Prince Albert Northern Bears female midget AAA team.
    On Saturday night, Willoughby played one of her best games of the season and likely should have finished with a monster night in the points department.
    However, the 2017-18 campaign is the season of the goalie in the Canada West Conference and passing Stone will have to wait.
Kaitlin Willoughby, right, scored twice for the Huskies on Saturday night.
    Anderson turned away 26-of-28 shots to take the setback in goal for the Pronghorns, who fell to 5-11-2 to sit last in the eight team Canada West and five points back of the U of Calgary Dinos for the conference’s final playoff berth.
    The Huskies improved to 11-6-1 to sit third overall in Canada West, with seven of those 11 victories coming by shutout. The top four positions in the Canada West standings are separated by just six points, so they can change on a game by game basis.
    The Dogs will get back at it again this coming Friday and Saturday, when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the U of Manitoba Bisons, who top Canada West with a 13-4-1 record.
    The green and white are capable of defeating every team in the conference, so the upcoming contests with the Bisons provide another couple of opportunities to find ways to pull out wins.

Dogs win streak ends in Lethbridge

Logan McVeigh had a goal for the Huskies on Saturday night.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team fell just short of making a comeback to keep their six game winning streak alive.
    On Saturday night in Lethbridge, the host U of Lethbridge Pronghorns built a 3-0 edge and held on to a 4-2 victory in a U Sports regular season match at the Nicholas Sheran Arena. The Pronghorns victory brought an end to the Huskies winning streak.
    Dalton Sward gave the Pronghorns a 1-0 lead in the first period. Ryon Moser and Ryan Chynoweth each netted singles in the second period to extend the Pronghorns advantage to 3-0.
    The Huskies attempted to rally in the third. Michael Sofillas scored just past the midway point of the frame to cut the Pronghorns lead to 3-1. Logan McVeigh scored for the Dogs with 1:15 to play in the third to further trim the Pronghorns advantage to 3-2.
    Connor Sanvido scored into an empty net inside of the final minute of the third to seal U of L’s victory.
    Jordon Cooke turned away 23 of 26 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. Garret Hughson stopped 34 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Pronghorns.
    The Huskies fell to 14-3-1, but they still sit second overall in the Canada West Conference two points behind the 15-2-1 U of Alberta Golden Bears. The Golden Bears were in Winnipeg and dropped a 5-4 overtime decision and a 3-1 setback on Friday and Saturday respectively to the U of Manitoba Bisons.
    The Pronghorns improved to 8-9-1 to sit in a three-way tie for fourth overall in Canada West with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and the Mount Royal University Cougars, who are both 8-9-1.
    The Huskies return to action this coming Friday, when they host the Bisons (11-5-2) at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.

Hometown heroes power Blades to seventh straight win

Gage Ramsay (#20) and Cameron Hebig, centre, powered the Blades.
    Gage Ramsay and Cameron Hebig gave their families and friends a Saturday night to remember at the SaskTel Centre.
    The two Saskatoon products combined on three goals to help their hometown Blades slip past the Kootenay Ice 4-2 in a WHL regular season clash before 3,241 spectators. The victory was the Blades seventh in a row and 10th in their last 11 games.
    Ramsay, who is a 19-year-old winger, netted the Blades first two goals at the 3:07 and 12:46 marks of the first period, and Hebig picked up assists on both of those tallies.
    Saskatoon exited the first period with a 3-0 lead, when 18-year-old right-winger Josh Paterson picked up his 20th goal of the season with 2:47 to play in the frame.
    Hebig, who is the Blades star overage centre, netting his 30th goal of the season at the 8:33 mark of the third to give Saskatoon a 4-0 lead, and Ramsay drew an assist on that marker.
Keenan Taphorn and Brett Davis netted singles late in the third for the Ice.
    Netminder Nolan Maier, who is a 16-year-old rookie, won his 10th straight start in goal for the Blades making 27 saves. Bailey Brkin took the setback starting in goal for the Ice turning away 14-of-17 shots and was pulled after the first period. Duncan McGovern turned away 13-of-15 shots playing the rest of the way in relief for Kootenay.
    The Blades improved to 21-17-2-1 to hold the first wildcard playoff position in the WHL’s Eastern Conference two points ahead of the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats (20-19-3). The Prince Albert Raiders (15-17-6-2) are trying to catch the one of either the Blades or the Pats for a wildcard berth. The Raiders trail the Blades and Pats by seven and five points respectively in the standings.
    Prince Albert has two games in hand on Regina and one game in hand on Saskatoon.
    The Ice fell to 18-21-3 to sit second in the WHL’s Central Division.
    The Blades return to action on Sunday, when the travel to Brandon to face the Wheat Kings.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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