U-Sask Huskies down UBC T-birds, but big prize still out there

in Other News, playoffs

 

 

March 1, 2020

“It was pretty surreal how crazy the fans were tonight to give us energy and push us through today.”

by Darren Zary, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

They put up a sign at Merlis Belsher Place saying “Sold Out.”

The banner, a few hours later, would declare its hockey residents “Canada West men’s hockey champions.”

With MBP-namesake Merlis Belsher himself around to help hand out gold medals, the host University of Saskatchewan Huskies captured an 11th conference title Saturday in front of 2,667 fans — a record for the rink — thanks to a 3-1 victory and two-game sweep over the visiting University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

Although both teams advance to the upcoming University Cup national championship tournament in Halifax, N.S., winning a first Canada West title in their new home had special meaning for the Hockey Dogs.

“We’ve had two pretty special years here,” said U of S coach Dave Adolph, whose team posted a 22-4-2 record this season and 25-3-0 record last season in the Canada West. “Last year was a bit of a Cinderella, in terms of the move, but we’ve played pretty well here since our first game. I guess we were pretty fortunate that UBC had some success last week (in the Canada West semifinal) against Alberta, but, yes, it’s a pretty special win at home.”

 

Graduating Huskies fifth-year forward Levi Cable tallied twice in Saturday’s series clincher while playing his final game at MBP.

“This,” said the Hudson Bay product, “was the loudest I’ve heard this place.”

It was standing room only — even for a giant pyramid of empty beer cups in the U of S students section behind the UBC net for the third period.

“It was a lot of fun to play in front of,” added Cable. “I’m glad my last game here was in front of these guys … I’m glad we’ve got another one (U Cup) coming up, but this one was a stop on the way — I’m glad we got it.”

Carson Stadnyk, who opened the scoring at 7:33 of the first period, had the other goal for Saskatchewan, which last won a conference title in 2016 with Cable, Kohl Bauml, Andrew Johnson and Logan McVeigh as rookies.

Jake Kryski was credited for the lone goal Saturday for the T-Birds after U of S defenceman Sam Ruopp accidentally deflected Kryski’s shot past Huskies goalie Taran Kozun.

“They (Huskies) are a veteran group that knows how to win games,” said UBC coach Sven Butchenson, whose team was playing in its first Canada West men’s hockey final since 1978. “We came here to win a championship and we fell short. We faced a real hot team. Hopefully we saved our best for nationals.”

For the Hockey Dogs, who have now won 15 straight games, getting the Canada West over in two straight was a relief.

“It’s always nice to get it done in two,” said Cable. “You go another game and you risk injury and you risk losing it, too. It was nice getting it done here.”

Kozun had 17 saves for Saskatchewan, which outshot UBC 29-18.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m playing cards against my grandma, or playing hockey out here, I’ve always want to win,” said Kozun, the Canada West player of the year and top goalie. “If I don’t win, I’m not happy.”

Saskatchewan went 2-for-9 on the power play. UBC was 1-for-3.

The Huskies hung on to take Game 1 with a 3-2 victory and never trailed in Game 2.

“We were mentally ready to play today,” said Kozun. “We were making sure it was our night, and everybody bought into the same system, and we weren’t going to let down the guys beside you.

“It was pretty surreal how crazy the fans were tonight to give us energy and push us through today.”

Saskatchewan and UBC will join the host Acadia Axemen, New Brunswick Varsity Reds and Ottawa Gee-Gees along with either the Saint Mary’s Huskies or Moncton Aigles Bleus, as well as either the Guelph Gryphons or Western Mustangs.

As Canada West champs, Saskatchewan will be seeded either No. 1 or No. 2.

“That nationals is a big bear,” said Adolph. “We’ve been working at it already for a week. We’re going to take Monday off. We’re going to have a team supper Monday night. We haven’t had a chance to give our fifth-year awards yet and we’ll do that Monday night. We’ll go Wednesday through Sunday this week and then we’ll fly out on the Monday.”