Three Huskies programs entered the weekend looking to bring banners back to the University of Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, each of the three teams fell short and must now turn their attention to the upcoming national championships.
On the court, the Huskies women dropped the Canada West Championship game in Regina to the Cougars. Regina dominated the contest from the very beginning and took down their provincial rivals 75-55 in front of a crowd of 1,814 people at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport.
The Huskies suffered a loss before the championship game even tipped off. Starting point guard and anchor of the offence Libby Epoch was ruled out for the contest — forcing the Huskies to adjust their starting five for the first time all season, in the biggest game of the year.
Epoch’s absence pushed Kelsey Lalor into her first starting position in her Huskies career, and the presence of their point guard was sorely missed, as the Huskies were out assisted 16-3.
Star shooting guard Sabine Dukate had an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance, as she struggled to get into the flow of the game from the get-go. Dukate, who was the Huskies sharpshooter all season long, fired 4-18 from the field and 1-8 from three-point range in the championship game.
While the loss ended the Huskies’ hopes of a third straight Canada West Championship, the team still has an opportunity to take a run at the upcoming national championships in Regina — which will begin on March 8. The Huskies enter the tournament as the sixth seed and will face the Atlantic University Sport champions the Acadia Axewomen in their first-round matchup.
Meanwhile, on the ice, the results were disappointing for both Huskies hockey programs. The men’s and women’s teams hit the road for their championship series, and each was swept two games to none.
The men, who were fresh off a dramatic series victory over the Calgary Dinos, struggled to carry that momentum over to their championship appearance. The Huskies entered the week as the number-three team in the nation and travelled to Edmonton to take on the second-ranked Alberta Golden Bears. The Bears proved that they are one of the country’s best for a reason, dominating in games one and two.
The Huskies played the series without their star goaltender Jordon Cooke, as well as leading goal-scorer Josh Roach, but good news appears to be on the way regarding Roach. Roach took warm-ups in game two of the series, and it’s possible that he was held out for precautionary measures with the upcoming national championship in mind.
The Golden Bears and the Huskies have already earned entries to the U Sports University Cup, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two programs meet on their way to the national championship. The Huskies will travel to Fredericton, N.B., on March 15 to take the ice at the University of New Brunswick, where they will be seeking revenge after last season’s loss in the national championship.
On the women’s hockey team, the Huskies were on the wrong side of a heartbreaking game-one loss, falling 1-0 in overtime to the Manitoba Bisons in the first game of the Canada West Championship. Manitoba’s Caitlin Fyten notched the game-winning goal with only 8.6 seconds remaining in the first overtime period.
In game two, the overtime victory built momentum for Manitoba, as they dominated the Dogs from the puck drop, taking down Saskatchewan 5-2 and taking the conference championship on their home ice.
Although the Huskies entered the series as the underdogs, with Manitoba as the number-one-ranked team in the nation after a 22-6 regular season record, the Dogs put in an honorable effort.
A semifinal-series victory against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds at Rutherford Rink was enough to book the Huskies tickets to London, Ont., for the U Sports championships beginning on March 15, so they can seek redemption after a disappointing end to their Canada West campaign.
Photo: Chantal Zdan / Supplied