Friday, 16 March 2018


Normally, I'm against using internet acronyms while writing here on HBIC, but I think it's important that we highlight what went on yesterday at the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship in London, Ontario. In case you missed it, there were two games that happened yesterday while we awaited the opening game for the Manitoba Bisons - happening today at 3pm CT on all UMFM apps, websites, and radio frequencies - and one of those games involved our colleagues from Canada West in the Saskatchewan Huskies. The opening day of the tournament for Canada West proved exciting, so let's go over what happened while we watched from our broadcast perch in the sky.

First off, let me say right now that despite our ever-present rivalry with Saskatchewan, TJ, Jason from The Manitoban, and myself are pulling for the Huskies to win their half of the bracket so that we might have an all-Canada West gold medal final. The Huskies might be the seventh-seed, but I'm sure head coach Steve Kook is going to drive home the fact that his team has been disrespected all season when it comes to rankings, so I expect Saskatchewan not to care about where they're ranked or who is ahead of them.

In saying that, the Huskies met the Huskies in the first game of the tournament. No, that's not a misprint - Saskatchewan met the AUS champion Saint Mary's Huskies at 4pm ET yesterday as the two Huskies-named teams opened the tournament. The game started off a little slowly as both teams found their ways on the Thompson Arena ice while trying to solve the other's defences. It would be the Saskatchewan Huskies who struck first, and it was a beauty by Kaitlin Willoughby. I'll let the video do the talking for this one.
Can I just admit here and now that I am a fan of Kaitlin Willoughby? She's just so good! That goal, while looking fairly routine on the backhand, was a thing of beauty. Not only did she pull the puck around the stick-check of the defender to put the defender on her heels, but she caught Saint Mary's goaltender Rebecca Clarke moving and zipped the backhander up and under the bar whole moving away from the far post. That takes strength, skill, and the right amount of moxie to hit that shot where she did, and that's why Willoughby has been one of the best over the Canada West career.

Saskatchewan came out of the first intermission with the 1-0 lead intact, but it didn't last as Saint Mary's re-established a good down-low game to put the western Huskies early on. That allowed Caitlin Pejkovic to find position in front of the net where she deflected a point shot from Beatrice Harrietha past Jessica Vance just 1:44 into the period, and we were knotted up at 1-1.

The eastern Huskies continued to press, and they were rewarded once more when they caught Saskatchewan a little flat-footed at the offensive blue line. Laura Polak broke out of the Saint Mary's zone after blocking what appeared to be a pass from the point, and Breanna Lanceleve raced down the left wing to make it a two-on-one. Polak held the puck long enough until a passing lane to Lanceleve opened up, and she fed the Saint Mary's captain who buried it past Vance at 10:03 to give the AUS champions their first lead of the game.

"You look up and down our bench — they got two unanswered in that second period and our bench was pretty flat, they were chasing their players in our defensive zone," Steve Kook told reporters.

It appeared that the momentum was all on the Saint Mary's side, but a rather unexpected goal from a near-impossible angle changed the entire period. Abby Shirley found room past Clarke over her shoulder with 2:18 remaining in the second period, and these two teams would be tied 2-2 going into the second intermission in a game where Saint Mary's held solid possession numbers, but were even in shots with Saskatchewan at 26-26.

The third period was a tighter-checking affair than the previous two periods as neither team appeared to want to make a mistake that would cost them, but it would be a penalty that would prove costly as Saint Mary's Nicole Blanche was sent off for tripping at 10:03. Saskatchewan set up their power-play at the 11-minute mark, and they finally got a shot through to Clarke that was stopped. Abby Shirley picked up the rebound and found a wide-open Kennedy Harris in front of Clarke, and Harris ripped a shot through Clarke that put Saskatchewan up 3-2 with the power-play marker at 11:38.

Saint Mary's began to play with a lot more desperation as they needed a goal to try and drive this game to overtime, but it was Vance and the Saskatchewan defence that stood tall as they turned aside wave after wave of Saint Mary's attacks. Things got very interesting with 11 seconds left in the game as Saskatchewan's Rachel Lundberg took a bodychecking penalty, giving Saint Mary's an offensive zone start with six attackers on the ice, but Saskatchewan did what they do well in getting the puck to the boards, pinning it there, and eventually clearing the puck to earn the victory and the upset over the second-ranked Saint Mary's Huskies in a 3-2 win! Jessica Vance made 29 saves in the win to help Saskatchewan advance while Rebecca Clarke stopped 35 shots in the loss.

In the 7pm ET game, Western was all over Montreal in a 4-0 win, so Saskatchewan will advance to play the host Western Mustangs at 4pm on Saturday in one of the semifinal games. Saint Mary's and Montreal will move to the consolation side where they will meet at 10am ET on Saturday.

The good news is that Saskatchewan will play for a medal of some colour as they can finish no lower than fourth-place at this tournament, and that's a huge mark for a team that went unranked all season long. I don't care what anyone says, but I felt that Saskatchewan should have been ranked for the majority of the second-half of the season as they continually downed teams such as Alberta and UBC who were ranked in the top-five all season long.

Congratulations to the Saskatchewan Huskies on their victory, and one-half of the Canada West threats has made it to the medal round. The Manitoba Bisons will play today at 4pm ET/3pm CT against the Queen's Gaels, and that broadcast be heard live on 101.5 FM,, the UMFM Second Stream, and on the UMFM app! If you want to watch the game, head down to the University of Manitoba where the game will be viewed live at The Hub, and we'll shout-out to everyone listening and watching back in Winnipeg!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: