His squad’s 10-3 stomping of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Feb. 25 at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon not only swept the ’Horns out of the best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series, but also silenced a team that had caused the Dogs trouble all season long.
The ’Horns finished the regular season in second-last place after winning only seven games and sporting three overtime losses in their 28 matches. Two of those wins and two of those overtime losses came against Saskatchewan.
Lethbridge earned six of their season-total 17 points in meetings with the Huskies, which is more points than they earned against any other Canada West team.
Saskatchewan captain Kyle Ross said his squad wasn’t fretting about the statistics going into the series, though.
“We wanted to change our focus and stop paying too much attention to who we were playing and start focusing a little more on what we have to do to be successful,” said the fifth-year forward. “We did a good job of doing that. We focused on how we have to play and we came out and executed. It resulted in two wins.”
Ross opened the scoring for the Huskies just 36 seconds into the game. He one-timed a shot from just outside the Lethbridge crease after receiving a pass from teammate Derek Hulak, who was set up behind the net.
Eight minutes later, the Huskies’ Brett Ward patiently held on to the puck, forcing two Lethbridge shot blockers to slide out of position. He fed a pass across to Craig McCallum, who faked the shot before feeding the puck to the wide-open Matthew Spafford.
Spafford buried it and the floodgates opened. The Huskies added two more goals within five minutes of Spafford’s marker and, with only one second left in the opening frame, Ross tallied Saskatchewan’s fifth goal of the period.“We put ourselves in a position where we had to play in the first round by losing four in a row,” said Adolph of his squad’s four-game losing streak in early February that eliminated their chances of a first-round playoff bye.
For him, the game not only silenced the relentless Pronghorns, but also was a sign that the Huskies were back to the top form they had shown in the first half of the season.
“Our intensity in the first two periods today was indicative of how much our guys want to get to the next round. We were on every puck. We never lost a battle. That’s how you have to play in this league,” said Adolph. “That’s the way we play. It’s back.”
The Huskies top line of Ross, Hulak and Kyle Bortis led the charge, tallying five goals and ten assists as a whole. Spafford and Ward each added one goal and one assist to Saskatchewan’s total while McCallum, who was forced to leave the game early after taking a check to the head, put up two assists.
It is unknown whether McCallum will play this upcoming weekend against the Alberta Golden Bears.
The Pronghorns’ Taylor Gal, who put up Lethbridge’s first goal midway through the second period, and Dustin Moore, who scored twice in the third, each recorded three points on the night.
Saskatchewan netminder Ryan Holfeld stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced while ’Horns goaltender Scott Bowles was pulled early in the second frame after letting in six Huskies’ goals.
Rookie Dylan Tait stopped six of eight shots in relief of the Lethbridge netminder but did not start the third period as the fifth-year Bowles was put back in to start the final frame of his CIS-hockey career.
Bowles recorded 20 saves on the 28 total shots he faced.
In the first game of the series on Feb. 24, three first period goals from the Huskies’ Andrew Bailey, Bortis and McCallum jumped Saskatchewan to a 3-0 lead.
Strong goaltending from the Huskies David Reekie, who stopped 29 of the 31 Lethbridge shots, secured the Dogs’ 4-2 victory.
Bowles stopped 27 of 31 shots in the game.
The Huskies men’s hockey team will be in Edmonton Mar. 2, 3 and, if needed, 4 to take on the Alberta Golden Bears in the Canada West semi-final.
Photos: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf