Monday 28 February 2022

A Long Time Coming

In a move today that seems long overdue, the IIHF finally came to its senses in handing down a stiff punishment to Russia and its ally, Belarus, after the former invaded Ukraine with the latter pledging its allegiance to the invading forces. I mentioned last week that something like this had to happen as politics and sports can and do intersect thanks to sports being a microcosm of society, but the biggest question mark was always whether the IIHF had the teeth and the fortitude to come down heavily on one of the sports' premiere nations when it comes to medals and results. The IIHF answered the call today with the ruling they made, and it's about time they held Russia accountable for its actions.

We need to frame this properly because this should have happened long ago once the depth and extent of the state-sponsored doping was revealed following the 2014 Sochi Olympiad. The IOC was overseeing those situations, though, and they ruled that not all Russian athletes were involved, allowing the clean Russian athletes to continue to participate in Olympiads under the Russian Olympic Committee guise.

The reality is that the Russians should have been suspended as a nation from future competitions since they participated as a nation under their flag, not as individual athletes. The IOC, who has only given Russia stern looks and slaps on the wrists, allowed them to continue to compete despite the bans imposed, and that was followed by Russia's celebration as the doping bans were overturned for 28 athletes who competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"This, of course, cannot but give us joy," Vladimir Putin said on February 1, 2018. "It confirms our position on the fact that the vast majority of our athletes are clean."

Except they weren't. They still got caught. Again and again and again. If this had been in one sport, you could understand that the Russians may have a doping problem in that sport while justifying the inclusion of other athletes, but this doping happened in virtually every winter sport featured on the international stage. That's not a coincidence.

Based on how poorly the governing bodies for sport had held Russia accountable for its abhorrent behaviour in the sports world, should we have been expecting a tougher decision for any of them when it came to the political landscape on the planet?

FIFA, soccer's governing body, ruled on Sunday that Russia could continue to compete in FIFA-backed events under the name of its federation - the Football Union of Russia - while playing without its flag and anthem at neutral venues. This immediately drew fire from Poland who objected to the decision and maintained their stance in not playing against Russia at any point as the team next scheduled to play the Russians while potential future opponents Sweden and Czechia both reiterated that they will not play Russia either. Again, Russia somehow eluded real punishment for their actions.

However, FIFA announced on Monday that they had reconsidered their position following the complaints of the member nations above, and, along with UEFA, announced that Russia had been expelled from the 2022 World Cup and its teams suspended from all international football competitions "until further notice". Rarely do I cheer for the likes of Poland, Sweden, and Czechia, but they forced FIFA and UEFA to be accountable when it comes to issuing proper punishments for abhorrent actions on the world stage and they deserve some kudos for making that happen.

In seeing FIFA and UEFA come to their senses over the mess caused by Russia, the hockey world waited on the IIHF to do the right thing as well, and we finally got the announcement earlier today. I recommend clicking the image below to read the IIHF's statement.

Starting from this day, not only are all Russian teams banned from international competition, but teams from Belarus are banned as well for supporting Russia's invasion into Ukraine. That, folks, is the kind of response that the hockey world has been seeking for some time, and with FIFA's and UEFA's decisions to ban Russia, we're finally seeing Russia get what has been coming to it for so long in the sports world - real punishment for inexcusable behaviour.

I need to tack a caveat on this as well because I know that some people are going to start the what-about-isms when it comes to Russian players in the NHL, Russians playing elsewhere outside of the KHL, and foreign-born players playing in the KHL. To that, I say that each team has a right to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of those players. At no time do I feel that individual players should lose their jobs unless a team has the necessary evidence to terminate the contract of those individual players, and those players deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations without feeling like their safety is in jeopardy at any time.

However, if a player has been vocal with public comments about the political situation in Russia, Belarus, or Ukraine, I do feel that those comments can and should be questioned based upon the evolving situation in Europe depending on team rules. Each team's public relations department is responsible for setting the expectations at press conferences when it comes to what can and cannot be asked, so it will be up to that team and those players who have spoken publicly in the past to deal with those individual situations. And they should be forced to deal with their statements in light of what has happened on the world stage.

What is clear is that, for the first time in long, long time, the IIHF has shown its teeth and done the right thing in preventing Russia and its ally, Belarus, from using the international hockey stage as a prop to unite the people of those countries while they commit atrocities against other peoples and other countries. As we know, Vladimir Putin routinely celebrated Russia's hockey legacy and achievements whenever possible, and the IIHF made it impossible with this ruling for him to celebrate anything. As it should be.

I'm of the thought at this point that even if this invasion ends in the coming days, Russia should still be punished to the fullest extent of the IIHF's ruling. This is a chance to make an example out of this situation where any future tyrant-dictator-warlord who believes that no harm will come to his country's national prominence on any international sports stage will have to think twice before imposing his desires on others.

The line in the sand has been drawn, and the IIHF deserves some applause for taking a stand. It was a long time coming, but the major governing sports organizations finally did right in handing down tough punishments to a country that has long needed to be punished. Kudos to the IIHF, and here's hoping that Ukraine's people stay safe in this very scary time for their country.

Until next time, keep the people of Ukraine in your thoughts!

Sunday 27 February 2022

The Rundown - Quarterfinals

The weekend finally arrived. Three teams were already hard at work in preparation for next season. Two teams were watching from afar with a specific interest as to who prevailed. Four teams were engaged in battle as the Canada West quarterfinal series began in Edmonton and Winnipeg. Berths in the semifinal series were on the line as Regina, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba looked to continue their seasons while two of these teams would move to the sidelines if they came up short in the best-of-three series. There were potentially six games on the horizon for this weekend, so let's recap what happened this week on The Rundown!

The third-seeded Alberta Pandas played host to the sixth-seeded Regina Cougars this weekend as the quarterfinal series got underway in Edmonton. Alberta was 2-0 against Regina this season, but Regina came into the series having won three of four games against Manitoba and UBC. Despite the separation in the standings, this might be a more even series as we peel back the layers. Arden Kliewer was in net for the Cougars to start this series while Halle Oswald got the start for the Pandas.

Both teams came out hungry as there were chances at both ends in the early going. Alberta would get whistled for a penalty midway through the frame, and that would be the break that Regina needed as Lilla Carpenter-Boesch spotted a streaking Olivia Leggett across the ice, hit her with a perfect feed, and Leggett fired it home before Oswald could get across for the power-play marker at 11:06 to put Regina up 1-0! The remainder of the period would see these two teams remain equal as the Cougars took the 1-0 lead into the break with the shots even at 9-9!

The secodn period was similar to the first in that neither side was willing to let up in the defensive zone while trying to generate chances in the offensive zone. Both netminders were outstanding in rejecting the oppoisiton's shots once again, and that 1-0 lead for the Cougars would hold through 40 minutes. At the second break, the one-goal lead was inact despite Alberta taking an 18-16 edge in shots.

Early into the third period, Danica Namaka tied the game when he shot eluded the glove of Kliewer as she moved, and we had a 1-1 game at 1:32. 1:19 later, though, Oswald mishandled Raea Gilroy's shot, and the rebound she gave up was swatted into the net by Jenna Merk as the Cougars reclaimed their one-goal lead!

Alberta wasn't going to go away quietly, though, and they would strike again just past the midway point of the period. Madison Willan deflected an Abby Krzyzaniak shot from the point that Kliewer stopped, but the rebound popped out to Payton Laumbach who buried it at 11:57, and this game was tied up at 2-2! The teams resumed their attacks as the time ticked down, and it would Alberta would found a needed boost when Megan Wilson walked out of the corner and roofed a shot high over Kliewer's shoulder under the bar with 2:12 to play to make it a 3-2 lead for Alberta!

Despite pulling Kliewer for the extra attacker and having a few chances at the end, Oswald would not be beaten in the final two minutes as the Alberta Pandas earned the Game One 3-2 victory over the Regina Cougars! Halle Oswald made 24 saves for the win while Arden Kliewer stopped 26 shots in the loss. Alberta leads the 3-vs-6 quarterfinal series 1-0!

Highlights are below, but I don't know what happened to Alberta's feed. The video is choppy and there isn't any audio, so hopefully they have a better highlight package on Saturday.

After an exciting Game-One Alberta victory where Regina gave Alberta everything they could handle, Game Two went Saturday night as Alberta looked to close out the series while Regina looked to extend their season into Sunday. Regina's Arden Kliewer and Alberta's Halle Oswald stood 200-feet apart again in this second game of the series!

The chess match that we saw one night earlier carried into Saturday as both teams had chances, but the defences and goaltenders were equal to the task at either end. It wouldn't be until the end of the period when Jordyn Blais went to send a pass across to her defensive partner in her own zone that Payton Laumbach read, and she picked off the pass and sniped a shot past Kliewer at 18:53 to give Alberta the 1-0 lead! That score would hold into the intermission with Regina holding a 7-5 edge in shots.

Before we go on, I'm not sure how the officials score things in Alberta, but how on earth were there two assists on Laumbach's goal when she picked off a Regina pass? Someone needs to explain this to me because there's no way that scoring play is accurate.

The second period felt like the first period as both teams were locking down the defensive zone once again. Alberta did get a chance on the power-play where they had chances, but the power-play Regina received was mostly Alberta denying them any looks on Oswald. With no goals scored in this frame, the 1-0 Alberta lead would remain intact with Alberta taking a 13-9 advantage in shot into the third period.

The defensive battled went on throughout the final frame as the Pandas protected their one-goal lead. In a period in which there were just five shots recorded by the scorekeepers, Regina couldn't seem to find a way to get pucks on Oswald. With 55 seconds left, Kliewer went to the bench as Regina needed a goal to extend their season, but Taylor Anker would find the open cage with 21 seconds on a bank shot off the glass to ice this game as the Alberta Pandas downed the Regina Cougars 2-0! Halle Oswald recorded the shutout by making all 12 shots on this night while Arden Kliewer stopped 13 of 14 shots she faced. With the victory, Alberta defeated Regina 2-0 in the series!

Highlights are below, but Alberta still has no audio and still has choppy video. And watch for the assists on Laumbach's goal.

The fourth-seeded Manitoba Bisons played host to the fifth-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies as this quarterfinal series got underway in Winnipeg. Manitoba was 4-0 this season against Saskatchewan, but Saskatchewan's only losses in the second-half of the season came to Manitoba as they were 6-2 in their final eight games. Would Manitoba's winning streak continue against the Huskies or could Saskatchewan spoil Manitoba's weekend and season? Camryn Drever was given the task of stopping the Bisons while Erin Fargey was in the Bisons net to start this series!

This game started out fast as both sides were trying to establish pace and presence in the offensive zone. The back and forth continued until the midway point of the period when Abby Shirley parked herself in front of Fargey and tipped an Emily Holmes shot past the Bisons netminder at 11:25 to give the Huskies the 1-0 lead! That lead would only last a few minutes, though, as Manitoba repsonded on the power-play when Camryn Gillis' point shot was tipped by Vanessa Klimpke in the slot to dent twine behind Drever at 15:40, and this game was squared up at 1-1! That score would hold into the break with Saskatchewan up 11-5 in shots!

The second period was more of the same as Saskatchewan found ways to get shots through on Fargey. Abby Shirley took advantage of that when she picked up a loose puck at the Bisons' blue line with the Herd's defence collapsing, and she used the extra space to get a shot off that zipped past Fargey to make it a 2-1 game for the Huskies at 5:25 on her second goal of the game! Despite the goal, the torrid pace of the period would continue as both teams looked to light the lamps further, but Shirley's goal would be the only one in the period as the horn sounded. At the second intermission, Saskatchewan led 2-1 and held an 18-8 edge in shots.

The Bisons seemed to have regrouped during the break as they came out with fire in their skates as they peppered Drever with shots. It would turn out to be beneficial when Julia Bird ripped a shot through Drever's five-hole to the back of the net, and we were tied up at 2-2 at 9:52! The frantic pace would continue until six minutes later when Kennedy Brown poked the puck past a Bisons defender at center and broke in on a two-on-one before she sent a laser over Fargey's right shoulder to go bar-down for the 3-2 Huskies lead at the 16:00 mark!

The Bisons, needing a goal, pulled Fargey for the extra attacker late in the game, but Abby Shirley would end the threat when she scored on the empty net for a hat trick and the 4-2 lead with 38 seconds to play, and the Huskies skated to the 4-2 win over the Bisons in Game One! Camryn Drever stopped 18 shots for the win while Erin Fargey was on the wrong side of a 25-save effort. Saskatchewan leads the 4-vs-5 quarterfinal series 1-0!

Highlights of this game are below!

One hoped that the Friday-night uptempo hockey between these two teams carried into Saturday where Manitoba's back was against the wall needing a win after Saskatchewan's victory one night earlier. A second victory would end Manitoba's season while a Bisons win would keep the series and season going. Camryn Drever was back in the Huskies' net while Kimmy Davidson was protecting the Manitoba cage!

The Huskies knew they were 60 minutes from moving on, and they played the first period like a team on a mission. Manitoba had chances, but the Huskies seemed to be hungrier, and they'd be rewarded for their work late in the opening frame. Sophie Lalor's shot found room past Davidson to open the scoring at 17:47, and the Huskies took the Lalor goal into the break as they led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 16-8 in shots.

The Huskies brought the fire out of the break once again, and they'd be rewarded off a crazy scramble around the goal as Brooklyn Stevely scored her first Canada West goal when she found the loose puck and went high glove-side over the pandemonium after several shots were stopped and all sorts of humanity littered the crease area at 4:52 to make it 2-0 Huskies! The Bisons pushed back as they found themselves in a hole, but were slowed up by penalties as they tried to slow the Saskatchewan counterattack. The power-play would be unsuccessful, but the Huskies would score moments after a 5-on-3 advantage expired. Sophie Lalor spotted Kennedy Brown lurking quietly in the slot behind a Bisons defender, and Brown one-timed the puck past Davidson off the Lalor feed at 11:45 to make it a three-goal lead for the Huskies! The teams would trade chances once more for the final eight mnutes of the middle frame, but Saskatchewan held a three-goal lead and a 29-12 advantage in shots after 40 minutes.

The third period saw Saskatchewan switch more into defend-the-lead mode as they look to preserve their three-goal advantage. They clogged up the neutral zone, stood tall across their own blue line, and frustrated the Bisons for most of the period as the Bisons had shots, but rebounds and second chances were few and far between for the Herd. When the final horn sounded, the Saksatchewan Huskies had downed the Manitoba Bisons by that 3-0 score! Camryn Drever recorded her first playoff shutout as she stopped all 21 shots in the win while Kimmy Davidson made 35 stops on night where she may have deserved better. With the win, Saskatchewan defeated Manitoba in the series 2-0!

Highlights are... missing? And we just had a conversation in the pressbox about how Canada West wants more highlights posted from teams. I suspect the Bisons will eventually post these highlights, but it seems they're AWOL at this moment. I know I'd appreciate them as I'm sure the Huskies fans would too, right?

These aren't really "standings" per se, but here's the playoff picture after this weekend with game times for next weekend's contests!
Mount Royal will host Saskatchewan at Flames Community Arena in Calgary for their best-of-three semifinal series. As posted, Friday's game will be at 7pm MT while Saturday is at 6pm MT. Sunday, if necessary, will also go at 6pm MT.

UBC will host Alberta at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver for their best-of-three semifinal series. As seen above, all three games will take place at 3pm PT as UBC has the pleasure of hosting two home semifinal series with the UBC Thunderbirds men's squad hosting the Mount Royal Cougars. It appears the men will get the primetime games this season, so make adjustments for earlier games if you want to watch the women play.

The winners of the semifinal series will play for the Catherwood Cup and the Canada West banner while being the two designated teams who will travel to Charlottetown, PEI to be Canada West's representatives at the U SPORTS National Women's Hockey Championship!

The Last Word

We started with nine teams. We reduced the field to six teams. We're now down to four teams as these four squads have risen to the occasion in these playoffs. Things get a little tougher now as the top-two teams in Canada West enter the picture, but out of adversity comes opportunity. That opportunity is the chance to play for a National Championship!

There's no denying that these matchups are intriguing. Mount Royal battled Saskatchewan on December 3 and 4 to a pair of 1-0 wins in Calgary, so I'm expecting another low-scoring series between these two squads. Both teams have solid netminding, clutch scoring, veteran leadership, and a very good defensive structure. I wouldn't expect this to turn into a track meet where next goal wins, so look for these games to be tightly-checking affairs.

UBC hosted Alberta on November 19 and 20, downing the Pandas by 3-1 and 4-0 scores, respectively. As we know, UBC likes to score goals and will play physically against teams, and Alberta really doesn't seem built for that kind of game. If Alberta is going to win this game, they need to be relentless on the forecheck and pressure UBC all over the ice. For UBC, they'll need break through the Alberta defensive line and pepper the Pandas netminders with shots while creating chaos with their speed. This series seems like it will feature more goals.

I'm excited to see what these semifinals series bring in terms of excitement, and with both the Canada West Final and a trip to Nationals on the line I expect all four teams to leave it all on the ice in what should be very entertaining hockey games! Make sure you tune in via Canada West TV to catch all the action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 26 February 2022

More Intermission Features

Over the last two months, I've been working behind the scenes to produce more intermission features that are run during Bisons women's hockey broadcasts. I'm starting to figure out this video editing thing with all the practice I've bee getting, and things are getting better. Granted, it's not quite Hockey Night in Canada quality yet, but it's better than the alternative of just staring at the center-ice logo while we chat over top of that static image. For those who listen to the games on the UMFM streaming option, you don't get the video componentit of the segments, so I'll post them here so you can see them if you were interested in the features we ran.

Our Friday night feature was all about the graduates who finished up their final seasons in Canada West women's hockey either due to the completion of their degrees or due to them playing out their final seasons of eligibility. The exodus of talent leaving the university ranks is significant as five former U SPORTS National Champions are playing their final games this season while a number of Canada West award-winners are on their ways out. 33 players will look to new opportunities next season, so we felt we needed to pay tribute to these exceptional women who wowed us with their talents, skills, and abilities for so long! Yes, I did mention that 31 women were moving on, but apparently I missed counting two players in my totalling of the count. That's what I get for not counting twice. The good news, though, is that all 33 women were included in the video and all of the women had some stats and facts listed about their careers.

To all 33 graduates, it has been an honour to call games, to have witnessed your greatness in person, and to have met some of you as both a fan and broadcaster of this game. I wish you nothing but the best in wherever your path leads next, and I hope that whatever those next endeavours are will be as successful as you all were on the ice. Best of luck, ladies, and don't be strangers!

Saturday's intermission feature was all about having U SPORTS hockey collide with Black History Month. As you may be aware, the U SPORTS Men's Hockey National Championship is set to take place at Acadia University in Halifax, Nova Scotia while the U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship is set to be played at UPEI in Charlottetown, PEI. What you may not know is that Canada's hockey history has a very interesting story to tell from the Maritimes as this is where the Coloured Hockey League played its games!

30 years before the NHL was even a thing, hockey was being played in the Maritimes by Black men who had come to the east coast cities to work. Through their churches, these Black men would play hockey against other churches in the area, and from this organization grew the Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes. By the time the league hit the turn of the century in 1900, twelve teams had been organized for play.

It's an important part of Canada's hockey history, and it's an era in history that should be told. Because of the U SPORTS National Hockey Championships' locations this year, we felt it would be appropriate to give everyone watching a quick introduction to the Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes as part of Canada West's ongoing effort in promoting Black History Month. I want to give shout-outs and stick-taps to George Stroumboulopoulos, the AHL's Toronto Marlies, and The Canadian Press for their videos that we pieced together in this clip as they all did a great job in bringing the Coloured Hockey League to the forefront with these efforts. As you know, I'm a big fan of hockey history, so putting this piece together certainly brought a smile to my face!

If you're heading to the east coast to watch your teams, I'd normally direct you to find a way to get to Windsor, Nova Scotia where The Birthplace of Hockey Museum is situated, but the museum is closed until June 2022. They have all sorts of information about the Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes there along with a pile of artifacts and information about hockey's infancy in Canada in that region. With the museum closed, you'll have to do more research on the interwebs if you want more details, but perhaps it's a reason to go back to the east coast once the museum opens?

Being that it was potentially our last broadcasts of the season, we felt it necessary to bring forth an important piece of Canadian hockey history that ties in Black History Month and the U SPORTS National Championships, and we needed to honour the women who have made the last number of years of Canada West women's hockey so much fun to watch and call!

Comments, questions, hate mail, and anything in between those options can be dropped in the comment section below, but I hope you found these pieces information and interesting! We're a few weeks away from crowning the 2022 U SPORTS National Champions, so keep your eyes on what's happening out in Canada West to see who will represent the conference in Halifax and Charlottetown!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 25 February 2022

People Are Watching

As a women's hockey broadcaster, I've come to terms with the challenges faced by the women's game when it comes to being on network television and across radio airwaves. Every time I hear someone making the argument that no one would watch women on TV or turn to a different radio station if the games were on the radio, I shake my head because I know this simply isn't true. The hardest part, at times, is simply finding the games on TV or radio, and that challenge needs to be overcome because women's hockey isn't a niche sport like some make it out to be. If the NHL is the gold standard for hockey TV ratings, we're going to have a quick chat about those numbers.

The Beijing Olympics, overall, weren't the ratings darling that a number of networks had hoped, but there were a few bright spots among the late-night broadcasts. One of those highlights was the US-Canada gold-medal game that was shown on CBC and NBC. According to CBC's numbers, the game "drew a peak TV audience of 2.7 million, making it the most-watched event of the Beijing Olympics, despite an 11 p.m. ET start time" while NBC reported that it saw "2.89 million viewers on NBCSN, and 3.7 million across all platforms". If it's not clear, people were tuning into a largely-ignored Olympics to watch women's hockey.

A lot of that has to due with the highly-publicized rivalry these two nations and these two teams have, but the key is the amount of publicity that this rivalry gets. People know the names of the players who are the stars of the team, and those are the players who people want to see. The likes of Poulin, Jenner, Nurse, and Spooner are known for their scoring and play while players like Knight, Duggan, Coyne-Schofield, and Kessel are the names that resonate for the Americans. Knowing who they are and their stories leading into the gold-medal game make it easier to tune in because there's a connection to these players.

It should be noted, though, that the gold-medal game drew more viewers on NBC than any NHL game this season, making it the second-most watched hockey game in the US since 2019. The only game to draw more was Game 5 of the Canadiens-Lightning Stanley Cup Final, and that game only had 200,000 more viewers. For all the Connor McDavid games, all the Sidney Crosby games, and all the Nathan McKinnon games that people get psyched for, none of them engaged fans as much as the Canadian and American women did.

I can already hear people saying, "But Teebz, this was Canada and the US, not Colorado versus Arizona!" and that's completely fair. I get that the bigger rivalries will draw more fans simply because it appeals to more people through the competitive nature of the game. The same women's players, though, would be playing against each other more often if there was a professional league for them, and you'd be able to see these players more often with a TV option for them. If you could watch these players play against each other more often, would you tune in less? That seems unlikely, so I'm willing to say that the numbers won't be as high as a quadrennial battle of the best, but the numbers should remain strong.

Maybe you're a hometown supporter where you cheer for the local team only. A number of fans certainly tune in religiously to their local team's broadcasts because it's easy to support the local team, but that's the beauty of an expanded, financially-thriving NHL who has had a hundred years to get to that point. In its infancy, though, there weren't many local fans in places like Los Angeles, Tampa, Carolina, or Nashville when it came to supporting their NHL teams, so there can't be a false equivalency made between where the NHL currently is and where women's hockey currently stands. It needs time and support to grow, so a professional women's hockey league to have a chance needs fans who are willing to support the game outside their city's, province's, and state's borders.

Based on the numbers coming out of the Olympics, now seems to be the best time to really ramp up the chatter about a professional women's hockey league. We know there are people watching, we know people are seeking to watch the game, and it would make sense for the networks to give women's hockey a serious look when it comes to the ratings it generates. This isn't just one fan's view; rather, it seems to be what the world is saying when it comes to watching hihg-level women's hocey at 11pm ET on a weeknight.

The PWHPA has an event this weekend in Ontario. There are Canada West playoffs happening in western Canada. The OUA, RSEQ, and AUS are finishing up their regular seasons. The NCAA is finishing up their season with regional playoffs as they prepare for another National Championship bracket. The PHF is working through their regular season. The SDHL has a couple of weeks left in their season before they begin the playoffs. Do you know what the common thread is among all of these conferences and leagues?

It's you. You should be watching. You should be attending. You should be keeping an eye on who is playing for Canada and the US and who may be on the radar. You should talking about the players you see in the same breath as McDavid, Crosby, and MacKinnon. These are the ladies that are establishing a path to professional hockey for women across the planet, and they need your support to continue to follow their dreams.

People are watching. It's undeniable. Are you one of them? Because if you're not, you're missing out on some incredible hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 24 February 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 492

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with one of our favorite shows as we get set with a preview of the Canada West playoffs! Four series will be played out across men's and women's hockey this weekend, and Teebz, Jenna, and Jason look at the stats, the storylines, and the intrigue captured by each of these series! Honestly, there could be a lot of great hockey seen in Edmonton, Calgary, Sasaktoon, and Winnipeg, so make sure you listen in on how you can catch the action or, better yet, get down to one of those rinks and support the teams!

Tonight, Teebz, Jenna, and Jason dig into the four playoff series that will be seen. They start with the men's side of the coin as they look at Mount Royal hosting Regina and follow it with Saskatchewan hosting Calgary. The second-half of the show sees them break down the women's hockey series where Alberta hosts Regina and Manitoba welcomes Saskatchewan to town. All of the relevant stats, players, and news are discussed regarding the two teams who will play in each series while the hosts point out things to keep an eye on in each series. There's some fun chatter as they close the show off, but it's playoff time in Canada West - the best time of the year! It's the only radio show looking at all the Canada West action, so make sure you're listening at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via!

Where's the best place can you hear tonight's show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, so if you want to stream the show I'd recommend Radio Garden to do that as it works nicely with Safari. If you're more of an app person, we recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or Google Play Store. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz, Jenna, and Jason talk stats, scoring, goaltending, home-ice advantage, who may win, why those teams may win, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: February 24, 2022: Episode 492

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 23 February 2022


For everyone who wants to keep politics out of hockey, the developing attack on Ukraine by Russian forces will plunge sports directly into the political arena and vice versa. I've said it before on this blog that sports is a microcosm of society, so we need to treat sports like a smaller, specialized version of the world. In saying that, it's fairly well-known that Russia's performances on the international stage are something that Vladimir Putin takes pride in, especially when it comes to winning against other hockey nations like Canada, the US, and Sweden, so it might be time to impose "sanctions" on something he holds so near and dear to his heart.

Domestically, the KHL will likely see non-Russian teams protest quietly, but it sounds like there is pressure on Finnish team Jokerit to step away from the KHL as Finland throws its support behind Ukraine. Jokerit is in a bit of a strange situation, though, as Russian billionaires own the team while a lot of the team's sponsors are Finnish-based companies. We'll see what comes in the next few days as this pressure on Jokerit mounts to do the right thing, but they're in a particularly tough spot thanks to their Russian ownership.

Beyond Jokerit, the Dinamo Minsk team is based in Minsk, Belarus where it seems Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is more fond of Russia than his neighbours to the south. Dinamo Riga plays out of Riga, Latvia, and the Latvians seem to support Ukraine from their initial comments today. The Kunlun Red Star play out of Beijing, China, and it would seem that Putin and China's Xi Jinping are colleagues if not allies. Barys Nur-Sultan are based in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, and they seem to be worrying about their own independence as Russia invades Ukraine. Needless to say, this invasion has a number of KHL teams in tough spots when it comes to playing in the Russian league.

While there isn't a lot that can be done to assist these teams in making difficult decisions, there is a governing hockey body who can carve the heart out of Russia: the IIHF. With all of the international tournaments run by the IIHF, Russia almost has an automatic invitation to all of them due to their usual competitive nature, and this is where hockey federations from across the globe should aim their anger.

We know the IIHF is a mostly-cowardly organization that would never suspend Russia from its tournaments thanks to the money spent by Russia to stay in the IIHF's good books. They offer to host tournaments where they spend lavish amounts of money, they have former IIHF President Rene Fasel working for them as a consultant, and they have been permitted to participate at international events despite there being suspensions for Russian athletes over doping. For all of the goodwill that Russia has bought, it might be time to call them on their own self-serving needs.

The 2026 Olympics in Italy? Sorry, Russia.
World Championships for both the men and women? Nope.
KHL teams at the Spengler Cup? Nein, non, and no.
Anyone playing at the Channel One Cup? Nyet.

Russia's absence from all IIHF tournaments would be a clear message from the sports world that Russia's aggression towards Ukraine not only won't be tolerated, but will serve as a reminder to anyone else who may have the same idea when it comes to invading a sovereign and independent country. If the world cuts off a country through international sanctions, the hockey world should follow thanks to it being a microcosm of that larger world.

If the IIHF is truly looking out for the good of the game in all its member countries, this is a necessary step. Isolating Russia from all major international events and denying them entry into the biggest tournaments may seem like a harsh step to take, but it's not like the IIHF is bombing their capital city and putting the lives of civilians in harm's way. After all, it's just hockey where politics shouldn't live or be talked about or enter the scene, right?

Let's be honest: sports and politics are intertwined in the DNA of Russians. The old Red Army teams that competed internationally were hockey legends thanks to military funding. The KHL's Admiral Vladivostok takes its name from the historical naval base that exists in Vladivostok that once had the Red Banner Pacific Fleet stationed there. Yekaterinburg, home to the KHL's Avtomobilist team, was the headquarters of the Ural military units during World War II while the city produced armoured vehicles. Traktor Chelyabinsk was named for the tractor plants that occupied the city that produced diesel engines for tanks, resulting the industrial section of the city to be called "Tank City".

Hockey was an outlet for the men working in all these factories across the Soviet Union at that time, and all of it was funded by the Soviet Union's regime. Saying that politics and hockey aren't related in Russia is like saying bacon and eggs aren't related at breakfast - it's simply and wholly false on every level.

If Russia's hockey success grew out of its military, the best thing to do in terms of sending a clear message to the country is to remove the sports component from Russia. By preventing the national teams of Russia from competing in IIHF tournaments, the world is making it clear that sanctions are not only economic, but it also involves the morale of the country and its citizens. It's hard to celebrate and to have national pride for a hockey team that isn't allowed to compete for any major hockey trophies.

It's time for the world to send a message to Russia through the sports world: your rather terrible behaviour has consequences. It's time for a "time out" when it comes to partcipating in competitions, and that isolation in the hockey world will go on for as long as it's needed. That's the price Russia should pay for being a terrible world citizen.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Better Long Overdue Than Never?

The IIHF came out with an announcement today that legitimately feels like it's long overdue. Maybe I'm holding the IIHF to too high a standard here, but you'd think that they'd make a disciplinary ruling a lot sooner than five months after an incident happened, but why rush the process, right? If you'll excuse my sarcasm, the IIHF's ruling today was necessary, but insanely late. If this was a library, they'd have bought not only the book, but the reprint and the movie with the late fees they accumulated.

Back on September 26, 2021, you may recall that Ukrainian hockey player Andri Denyskin of HC Kremenchuk in the Ukrainian Hockey League made a clearly racist gesture towards Jalen Smereck, an African-American hockey player, who was playing with HC Donbass in the league. The Ukrainian League was quick to issue a 13-game suspension and a fine that amounted to about $2400 in Canadian funds on Denyskin for his disgusting incident, and the IIHF was made aware of Denyskin's idiotic gesture and were quick to denounce his actions in the game.

If a 13-game break and a $2400 fine seem a little light for being racist on the ice towards another player, you're not alone. The hockey community wanted harsher sanctions issued against Denyskin and, possibly, the UHL for the proverbial slap on the wrist that Denyskin received. IIHF President Luc Tardif spoke out about the IIHF felt about the incident.

"The IIHF condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of Andri Denyskin," Tardif said in a statement. "There is no place for such a blatantly racist and unsportsmanlike gesture in our sport and in society. We will ensure that all necessary ethics violation investigations occur to ensure that this behaviour is sanctioned appropriately."

Since then, there hasn't been a peep from the IIHF on the incident, leaving a number of people, including Jalen Smereck, questioning the IIHF's overseeing of the game. Rightfully so, if it looked like nothing was being done for the last five months, I don't blame anyone for questioning the IIHF's commitment to making this game a better place for all, especially people of colour. This was a highly-publicized incident that needed a further look from hockey's international governing body.

It should be noted that the IIHF has no authority to change the suspension or fine levied by the league on Denyskin, so the IIHF was going to have to be a little creative in its punishment if it was going to implement more sanctions on the player. Surprisingly, they came forward with those sanctions today - five months after condemning the incident! - as the punishment issued may force players to use their heads before doing something stupid in the future.

The IIHF Disciplinary Board issued a one-year suspension to Ukraine men's national team player Andri Denyskin, banning the player from any international competition sanctioned by the IIHF for that time. That suspension extends to exhibition games, friendly games, or games of a similar nature with another IIHF Member National Association, and it will certainly keep him from playing for Ukraine at the 2022 IIHF World Championship Division-I, Group B tournament happening in Katowice, Poland from April 25 to May 1.

A one-year ban from international competition can be detrimental to a developing country's players, but it's not like Denyskin isn't playing domestically. I know the IIHF issued this penalty thinking that they're being fair, but I'm not sure I agree with this decision when Denyskin's actions probably should have him excluded from further participation at the international level. However, I'm not the IIHF.

The IIHF did offer the following reasoning for the length of time it took to come to this decision in their statement today, writing,
"The length of time taken for the Board to come to a decision in the Denyskin case was due in large part to the fact that, as required by the new IIHF Council term, a new IIIHF Ethics Board and Disciplinary Board had to be appointed following the IIHF Council elections that took place during the 2021 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress in September."
I'll grant the IIHF these appointments, but it's not like Luc Tardif doesn't carry a big stick when it comes to handing out punishment. I don't know what the rules are regarding what he can and cannot do, but I can't see the IIHF President not having the power to suspend a player for an incident he already publicly condemned. If the IIHF is working "by the letter of the law", though, I suppose they got it right despite the long delay.

The good news is that Denyskin finally got the punishment he deserved, albeit still not being enough in my view. His suspension would, in theory, suspend him from international competition until February 22, 2023 if the suspension kicks in from the ruling issued today, and it should be noted that there was no mention of retroactively backdating the suspension to September 2021.

The bad news is that Denyskin will potentially be able to play in international competitions again starting in February 2023. While I get that he apologized to Smereck, the fact is that he immediately chose a racist gesture to confront Smereck, and that should count for something when it comes to how Denyskin may react in the future. I'm not here to sink a guy's career by any means, but I do think that his racist gesture should cost him the ability to compete on the international stage in the future. We'll see what happens as it may turn out that Ukraine doesn't include him on future teams in IIHF events, but play and his ability to stay out of trouble will go a long way in determining that.

What is very clear is that racism has no place in this game or, in a bigger sense, in life. The IIHF made a strong ruling today in suspending Andri Denyskin for one calendar year, and they established a precedent for future incidents of racism seen in the game. That might be the biggest takeway from today's ruling - there is now an established punishment for racist gestures.

If we never see another racist gesture in hockey, we're better off and the five-month wait might be easier to justify. That, in the end, is the hope I hold on to so that we don't have anything like happen in this game again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 21 February 2022

Have Cup, Will Travel?

There's something about seeing a large trophy sitting on a table that draws people to it. It seems that there will be a number of opportunities to see one of these large trophies out and about over the next two months as the ECHL announced that the Kelly Cup, its championship trophy, will tour through eight ECHL cities where fans can get close to the prestigious trophy before the ECHL starts its postseason. If you wanted to see a trophy that has a ton of history behind it and hear a pile of facts about who has won it, this is your chance to get close to one of North America's most storied trophies!

The Kelly Cup Tour will begin on February 25 in Duluth, Georgia where the Gladiators play. The Kelly Cup will travel 7814 miles over the following two months as it makes appearances in all sorts of places in those eight ECHL cities that the league identified as landing spots. Among them, they include:
  • February 25 at Gas South Arena in Duluth, Georgia.
  • March 5 at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
  • March 11 at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
  • March 18 at Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida.
  • March 25 at The Monument in Rapid City, South Dakota.
  • April 1 at Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • April 9 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.
  • April 16 at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine.
In terms of facts and history, there's a lot to learn about the Kelly Cup if you're not following the ECHL closely. For example, were you aware that the Kelly Cup was held hostage by a team? In one of the weirder things I've ever seen, the Colorado Eagles, who now play in the AHL, kept the Kelly Cup after winning it in 2018 and seemed to refuse to return it to the ECHL after making the jump to the AHL. After a public battle over the Kelly Cup began, the Eagles quietly returned the trophy to the ECHL and everyone went on with life, but I don't recall any other team in the history of the game holding onto a trophy belonging to another league.

From the ECHL, current Ariona Coyotes forward "Jay Beagle is the only person to win a Kelly Cup, Calder Cup and Stanley Cup championship during his career. In addition to winning the Kelly Cup with Idaho in 2007, Beagle won the Calder Cup with Hershey in 2009 and 2010 and the Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018" which is all sorts of awesome.

The ECHL also published that Scott Burt, Jared Bednar, Riley Gill, Louis Mass, Matt Register and Patrick Wellar are the only individuals to have their name engraved on the Kelly Cup three times. If his name jumps out to you, Jared Bednar is the most recognizable as he is the current head coach of the Colorado Avalanche! Bednar won as a player with South Carolina in 1997 and 2001 before winning as the head coach of the Stingrays for in 2009, but he also has a Calder Cup championship on his coaching resume when he led the Lake Erie Monsters to the AHL championship in 2016! Could he add an NHL championship to his resume this season as well?

While this little Kelly Cup Tour is a nice thing for the ECHL to be doing, I would have loved to have seen the trophy drop by Trois-Rivières this year as the Lions are having an outstanding season the ECHL's North Division as they sit in third-place, just three points back of first-place Newfoundland as the battle for playoff spots within the standings continues. The Lions are 24th out of 27 teams in terms of per-game attendance, so they could use a draw to their rink for games to help the team establish a bit of a better foothold in the community.

That won't happen, though, as the Kelly Cup isn't coming north of the border for this fan experience, so the Canadian squads will have to go out and earn the Kelly Cup's appearance the old-fashioned way, it seems. Newfoundland has done it before, so it's not like that's an impossible task!

If you're near any of those eight cities mentioned above, get out and see the Kelly Cup. According to the ECHL, there are all sorts of opportunities to see the trophy as it will make "appearances at games, schools, sponsors, radio and television stations and other community events" throughout the 50 days that it spends on the road. I'll be more surprised if you don't run into the Kelly Cup if it's going to be that busy, so keep your eyes peeled as the Kelly Cup Tour begins in a few days!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 20 February 2022

The Rundown - Week 14

The final weekend of the regular season was upon us this weekend as six teams played six games to determine the final standings in the Canada West Conference. All six teams either were in the playoffs or had a shot at making the playoffs, so these games held importance for eight of nine teams in Canada West. Because it's the final weekend of the season as well, it was bittersweet in that this will be the last weekend of regular season games for a number of graduating players, so I'll clear some space on this article to list each team's group of honoured seniors. Before we do that and set up the playoff bracket, we have games to recap so let's get to it here on The Rundown!

FRIDAY: The Mount Royal Cougars were one point from claiming home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs as the first-place team in Canada West. They welcomed a MacEwan Griffins team to Flames Community Arena for the weekend where the Griffins had one goal: win. The Griffins had to win both games while getting help elsewhere in order to have a shot at the playoffs. In knowing that, these games had real meaning to both teams! Brianna Sank was in the Griffins' net while Kaitlyn Ross started for the Cougars!

This game began with good goaltending on both sides as the Cougars and Griffins went toe-to-toe in the early going. The north-south play was exciting to watch from both sides in a game that meant a lot to both. A penalty later in the period gave MacEwan an advantage, and they'd make good on the chance when Aryn Chambers' shot beat Ross for her third of the season at 15:45, and the power-play goal had MacEwan up 1-0! That score would hold into the break, and we'd go to the second period with Mount Royal holding a 16-9 count in shots.

Before the water on the ice had completely frozen, Mount Royal erased the deficit when Aliya Jomha's quick strike 11 seconds into the period tied the game as she notched her seventh goal of the season! Mount Royal's speed and skill was on display in this frame, though, as they peppered Sank all period long. They'd take the lead at 8:25 when Anna Purschke scored her fourth goal of the season to put Mount Royal up 2-1, but Sank was good while under siege for the rest of the period. At the second break, that 2-1 score saw the Cougars still up while they had a 35-14 edge in shots!

Mount Royal would continue to push for insurance of their one-goal lead in the third period, and they'd find some at 8:28 when Breanne Trotter scored her third goal of the season to make it 3-1. 1:07 later while on the power-play, Emma Bergesen's point shot found room through the crowd to find twine for her second goal of the campaign, and it was a 4-1 game in favour of Mount Royal. The Griffins would continue to press, but the Cougars played solid defence for the final ten minutes of the game to wrap up a 4-1 win over the Griffins! Kaitlyn Ross earned her fifth win of the season with a 20-save performance while Brianna Sank made 42 saves in the loss.

I've gotta hand it to Mount Royal - they're consistent. No highlights all season long, and it continued into this week. They only have the best team in the conference playing at their school who is currently ranked as the second-best team in the nation, so you'd think they'd be pumped to have highlight packages of their team, right? Right?

SATURDAY: With the win on Friday, Mount Royal was officially the top squad in Canada West and guaranteed they'd play at home for the entire playoffs no matter who they met. With the loss on Friday, the Griffins could not overcome the difference in points needed to make the playoffs. In knowing both teams' situations, this game was all about celebrating the senior players for both teams as they play their final regular-season Canada West games. Senior netminder Natalie Bender got the start for the Griffins in her final Canada West game while senior netminder Zoe De Beauville was in the blue paint for the Cougars for her final Canada West game as well!

MacEwan jumped out of the gates in trying to spoil Mount Royal's night for their seniors when Joie Simon fed Amanda Murray for a one-timer, and Murray's blast found twine behind De Beauville just 46 seconds into the game as Murray had her second tally of the season and MacEwan held the 1-0 lead! That goal seemed to light a fire in the Cougars as they brought the heat all the period long, and they'd be rewarded late in the frame when Courtney Kollman used a turnover in the neutral zone to skate in alone on Bender where she went forehand-backhand-forehand to deke around Bender before depositing the puck in the net for her eighth goal of the season as Mount Royal tied the game at 1-1! That score would carry into the break after Mount Royal outshot MacEwan 17-9 in the first period.

Two minutes into the middle frame, Kollman set up Tianna Ko with the one-timer, but her initial stop was stopped. Ko didn't quit, though, and her second attempt worked as she pushed the puck past Bender and across the goal line for her tenth goal of the season at the 2:00 mark as Mount Royal grabbed the 2-1 lead! The back-and-forth would continue as the period progressed, but MacEwan would be forced to kill off three-straight penalties which slowed their offensive attack. The good news was they didn't surrender any further goals, and we'd head to the third period with the 2-1 score intact and Mount Royal leading 32-16 in shots.

The third period was all about maintaining that one-goal lead for the Cougars as Mount Royal locked down their defensive zone quite well. MacEwan still had a few chances, but Mount Royal was quick to thwart second chances in helping out their netminder. Mount Royal still had their chances, but the Griffins were also doing well to keep their defensive zone tidy. The final horn would sound on a period where no goals were scored, though, and the Mount Royal Cougars secured a 2-1 win over the MacEwan Griffins! Zoe De Beauville picked up her 11th win of the season on a 19-save night while Natalie Bender made 40 stops in her final game.

You would think Mount Royal would post one goal - any goal - from this weekend. With Tianna Ko scoring her final regular-season goal or Anna Purschke scoring her last regular-season goal or Zoe De Beauville making one last kick-save... anything would have been better than zero highlights of these extraordinary players. Since that wasn't done, I'll let Jackie Chiles handle this one.

FRIDAY: The original Battle of Alberta took place in Calgary on this weekend as the Alberta Pandas visited the Calgary Dinos. The Dinos needed at least two points while getting some help from other teams to make the playoffs while the Pandas needed at least three points to overtake Manitoba for third-place in the conference thanks to the tie-breaking formula that Canada West was using. With the storylines clear, Halle Oswald was in between the pipes for the Pandas while Gabriella Durante was tasked to stop pucks for the Dinos!

The two teams were back-and-forth in the early going of this game. Oswald was good on all the shots she faced in the opening frame as she settled into this game while Durante made a couple of nice saves in the opening frame as well. Neither goaltender was in favour of allowing goals, so we'd head to the second period tied 0-0 despite Calgary outshooting Alberta 9-4 in the frame.

The second period was much of the same as the teams traded chances, but Halle Oswald was locked in as she made an incredible glove save off a turnover to rob Rachel Paul of what looked like a sure goal five minutes into the period. That save seemed to up the intensity between these two teams as more and more shots found their way to the goalkeepers, but neither woman guarding the net were allowing any to pass. We'd move to the third period with the score still locked at 0-0 and with Calgary up 22-15 in shots.

Early in the third period, Natlie Kieser found herself all alone as the Dinos chased the puck a little, and she was able to corral the rebound off a Madison Willan shot and put it by Durante for her ninth goal of the season at 2:45 for the 1-0 Alberta lead! Moments later, Kelsey Tangjerd was hauled down on a breakaway to earn a penalty shot, but her backhand on a rolling puck went over the crossbar as the Dinos avoided a two-goal deficit.

That may have awakened the Dinos because they'd cause all sorts of chaos in front of Oswald minutes later before Annaliese Meier found the back of the net in the scrum with a backhander for her second goal of the season at 4:51, and we were level at 1-1 again! 2:20 later, though, Megan Wilson spotted Stephanie Fischer driving the net on the right side hard, and her pass was redirected by Fischer into the open cage before Durante could react for Fischer's first goal of the season at 7:11 as Alberta reclaimed their one-goal lead! The seesaw battle would continue, but Alberta would ice the game with 19 seconds to play when Kiara Machry hit the open net from center ice after the Dinos opted for the extra attacker, and the Pandas would win this game 3-1 over the Dinos! Halle Oswald earned her seventh win of the season with 26-save effort while Gabriella Durante made 25 stops in the loss.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: With Calgary scoreboard-watching one night earlier, the Pandas had done half the job necessary to earn third-place in the Canada West standings. They still needed at least one point to move ahead of Manitoba, though, so this game was vitally important when it came to playoff seeding for at least two teams. Halle Oswald was back in the Pandas' net for the second-straight night while senior netminder Dayna Owen faced her former team for the final time in the regular season!

Both teams were playing uptempo hockey in the first period of this game, but the goaltenders weren't really interested in helping anyone growing their statistical totals. Both netminders were perfect on all the shots they faced in the opening frame, so we'd move to the second period with the score tied at 0-0 and with Calgary holding a 9-7 edge in shots.

The second period was more of the same, but the teams seemed to settle into a little more of a defensive shell compared to the first period as the shots were there, but weren't getting through to the goaltenders. Regardless, both teams continued to keep each other off the scoresheet as the 0-0 stalemate moved into the third period with Calgary up 15-13 in shots.

The only goal in this game came just before the midpoint of the third period when Stephanie Fischer scored her second goal of the season at 8:34 to put the Alberta Pandas up 1-0, and that was all the offence that Halle Oswald needed on this night as she backstopped the Pandas to a 1-0 win over the Calgary Dinos! Halle Oswald earned her eighth win and second shutout after making 27 saves while Dayna Owen made 18 stops in her last Canada West appearance!

Highlights are... missing? This is the first time I recall Calgary missing out on a highlight package. I'm not sure what happened here, but the Dinos nearly went the whole season without missing a game. I'll keep an eye out in case it gets posted later than normal, though.

FRIDAY: Regina made the trek out to the west coast to play the UBC Thunderbirds in a series that had all sorts of implications on the standings. If Regina earned three points, they'd be in the playoffs. If UBC earned two points, they'd earn the second-place finish in the conference as they held the tie-breaker over Alberta who could possibly finish tied with the Thunderbirds. Again, the storylines were clear: both teams needed wins! Arden Kliewer was in the blue paint for Regina while Elise Hugens was in the UBC net!

As they always seem to do when at home, the Thunderbirds came out and established a solid offensive presence in this game. The Cougars, though, were able to resist the offensive flurry thrown their way while getting a handful of shots of their own. With neither Kliewer nor Hugens surrendering a goal, we'd move into the second period tied 0-0 with UBC holding a 13-4 edge in shots.

That presence continued in the second period, but it was Regina who cracked the goose egg first when Jordan Kulbida stripped a defender of the puck at the blue line, walked in, and fired a low shot that got under and through Hugens' wickets for her fifth goal of the season at 4:39 as Regina took the improbable 1-0 lead! A few penalties led to UBC playing most of the period in the Regina zone, but for as far as the Cougars' defence bent it simply did not break! The Cougars took that 1-0 lead into the third period despite being outshot 28-6 by the Thunderbirds!

UBC would erase the deficit early in this period as Mackenize Kordic opted to keep on a two-on-one, deked Kliewer, and dragged the puck past her pad and into the net for her ninth goal of season just 1:00 into the period, and we were squared up at 1-1! The tilted ice would continue to lean towards the Regina end, but three-straight penalties to UBC slowed the attack slightly. It would be the third penalty that would cost them, though, as Jordan Kulbida's one-timer from the point eluded Hugens and found the net behind her for Kulbida's eighth tally at 14:09, and the Cougars were back in front by a 2-1 count!

The last five minutes were "kitchen sink" time as UBC threw everything they had at the Cougars, but it wasn't to be on this night as the Cougars locked down the 2-1 win over the Thunderbirds! Arden Kliewer made 40 stops to earn her seventh win of the season while Elise Hugens suffered the loss on a nine-save night.

Thanks to playing on the west coast, the Cougars also returned to the locker room to find that the Pandas had defeated the Dinos, so the combination of Regina's win and Calgary's loss meant that Regina had clinched the sixth and final playoff spot! Highlights of this playoff-clinching game are below!

SATURDAY: With Regina locking up a playoff spot on Friday, the Cougars couldn't move any further up the standings on Saturday as they were locked into sixth-place. UBC, though, still needed to win a game to lock up second-place in the conference. Knowing that this was their last chance, would we see the Thunderbirds solve the Cougars? Natalie Williamson was in the Regina net while Elise Hugens was back in between the pipes for UBC!

UBC seemed to play a little more defensively in the first period as they were quick to get back to shut down Regina chances. Offensively, the T-Birds still looked dangerous, and they made opportunities count. Grace Elliott's one-timer from the high slot got through Williamson for her fourth goal of the season at 9:26, and UBC grabbed the 1-0 lead. 2:44 later, it would become a 2-0 game when Karine Sandilands went high through traffic on Williamson for her second goal of the season. The Thunderbirds would continue to press until the horn, but the 2-0 lead would hold as the teams went to the break and UBC holding a 9-2 edge in shots.

The second period resembled the first period, only with more shots on net from both sides. Regina needed to be as opportune as they were one night earlier, but they simply couldn't find any holes through Hugens. Late in the period, Joelle Fiala tore down the right wing as a two-on-one developed, and she opted to keep as she sent a laser past the glove of Williamson inside the post for her fourth of the season at 14:49, and UBC increased their lead to 3-0. They took that lead into the second intermission while holding a 21-6 advantage in shots.

Ireland Perrott would capitalize off a turnover early in the third period as she picked up a loose puck on the right side, deked into the middle, and sent a high shot glove-side on Williamson for her ninth goal of the season at 1:49 for the 4-0 lead. On the power-play a few minutes later, Ashley McFadden deflected a Hannah Koroll shot down and past Williamson for her seventh goal at 4:59 to make it 5-0. Rylind MacKinnon would pot a rebound on the doorstep off a Mackenzie Kordic shot for her tenth goal of the season at 8:18, and the T-Birds held a 6-0 lead.

Lilla Carpenter-Boesch's shot from the high slot on the power-play with 5:10 to play hit a body before landing in the net behind Hugens as her tenth of the season made it 6-1, but the Cougars wouldn't get any closer as the Thunderbirds skated to the 6-1 win. Elise Hugens picked up her 11th win of the season with a nine-save night while Natalie Williamson made 28 stops in the loss.

Highlights of this game are below!
School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
Mount Royal
34 61 22
28 72 35
28 45 30
vs REG
26 53 37
vs SAS
24 44 27
18 38 54
14 45 61
12 23 56
Trinity Western
4 24 83
**teams in yellow and italics have clinched a playoff spot**
**teams in red have been eliminated from postseason participation**

The Playoff Scene

Here's how the Canada West playoff alignment looks.
With Alberta hosting Regina, that best-of-three series will take place in Edmonton at Clare Drake Arena from February 25-27. Game times for those games show as Friday, February 25 at 7pm MT, Saturday, February 26 at 7pm MT, and Sunday, February 27 at 2pm MT if necessary. All games will be available via Canada West TV.

Manitoba will host Saskatchewan in Winnipeg at Wayne Fleming Arena from February 25-27. Game times for those games show as Friday, February 25 at 7pm CT, Saturday, February 26 at 7pm CT, and Sunday, February 27 at 2pm CT if necessary. All games will be available via Canada West TV, UMFM's Second Stream, and the HuskieFan app!

For the semifinals, the lower-seeded team that advances gets to travel to Calgary to play the awaiting Mount Royal Cougars while the higher-seeded team that advances will travel to Vancouver to meet the awaiting UBC Thunderbirds. Those series will take place from March 4-6, and we'll discuss that further next weekend!

The Graduates

There are a pile of players who closed out this regular season as their last regular-season games at this level. They deserve to be mentioned after playing so well for so long, so I'm going to do that here before they make their way onto bigger things! Here are the list of players from each team who are moving on from Canada West women's hockey. These 33 women represented their teams proudly while showing off their skills on the ice. We were thrilled, entertained, and wowed by those talents, and they're going to be immensely successful in whatever endeavour they tackle next. It's always hard seeing great players leave this game, but they're going to make their teammates, coaches, programs, fans, friends, family, and parents proud in their coming adventures!

Best of luck, ladies, and thanks for great memories! Of course, if you're preparing for the playoffs, make those games count by leaving it all on the ice!

You Gotta Pay Extra

I don't have any control or influence over the Canada West TV offerings made available by YareTV, so I'm going to warn you here and now that if you paid for the regular-season sport pass before the season started, the playoffs are NOT included in that package.

I have no idea why that is or why Canada West and YareTV are nickel-and-diming everyone when it comes to the playoffs, but that's outside of my control and the school-you-follow's control. I would suggest mentioning this to that administration because it's not like it costs more to have the equipment setup and streaming than it did during the regular season.

The good news is if you're a fan of the Bisons or Huskies, there are free radio options available for you to listen to the games that I've conveniently linked above. The bad news is that there is no free streaming video service, so you'll have to ante up with Canada West TV if you want to watch the games. The added bad news is that if you're an Alberta or Regina fan, it would seem you're very limited in the offerings to watch or listen for free.

You've got a few days to decide what avenue you want or need to take to see or hear your team hit the ice!

The Last Word

Records go out the window. Streaks start over. Stats are reset. It's the Canada West women's hockey playoffs where the six-best teams from the four western provinces look to add their names to the lore of Canada West hockey. One banner awaits the winner from the next three weekends of hockey while the two finalists will move on to Prince Edward Island to show the rest of Canada how hockey is played out west.

If you're not excited for the next month of hockey, check your pulse. This is where goals become the stuff of hockey legend, players transform into hockey heroes, and teams become unforgettable hockey champions. This is Canada West women's hockey playoffs, and we start on Friday night!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!