Brennan Bosch’s overtime heroics March 4 in the third game of a best-of-three semifinal series helped Saskatchewan knock the four-time defending Canada West champion University of Alberta Golden Bears out of playoffs.
The Huskie forward’s powerplay goal only two minutes into the extra frame not only pushed his squad to a 4-3 win, but also encapsulated the recent surge from Saskatchewan’s second and third lines.
All season, most of the Huskies’ goals have been scored by the squad’s top three forwards and Canada West scoring leaders Kyle Ross, Kyle Bortis and Derek Hulak. While the trio currently lead the conference’s playoff scoring race with 9, 8 and 7 points, respectively, the Huskies also have nine other players notched into the top 25 scorers, including Bosch.
More and more weight is lifted off the top line as the Dogs continue to increase their secondary scoring in these playoffs.
In the Huskies’ 4-3 win, for instance, Bosch’s overtime winner was his second goal of the game. Matthew Delahey buried Saskatchewan’s other two.
The Dogs’ top line only recorded one assist in the win when Ross notched the helper on Delahey’s first goal.
“When you have a team playing the way that we have, where guys are contributing… through killing penalties or through offence, it’s huge,” said Bortis, who scored a pair of goals including the overtime winner in the Huskies’ 3-2 victory in game two of the series.
“When everyone contributes in that way, it takes a lot of stress off of everyone. It’s a lot easier to play that way.”
Huskies head coach Dave Adolph was particularly pleased to see fourth-year player Chris Durand, a leader on the team, finally start to produce in the post-season.
Durand picked up one goal and two assists and was the only Huskies’ star in their opening game 7-3 loss to the Bears.
“Chris Durand has been knocked hard by me and by others about not being able to perform in the playoffs but he’s in the best shape of his life and it showed this weekend against Alberta. He was good,” said Adolph.
When the Huskies host the University of Calgary Dinos in the Canada West final March 9,10 and, if needed, 11 at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon, receiving continued leadership and scoring from their second and third lines will be vital for Saskatchewan as opponents start to key in on the squad’s top three forwards.
“Definitely Ross, Bortis and Hulak are getting a lot more attention because of how good they are,” said Bosch. “It’s so important in the playoffs to get some secondary scoring and to get that secondary push. We had that in Alberta and we’re going to need that against Calgary for sure.”
Calgary has beaten Saskatchewan in all four of the teams’ meetings this season despite finishing one spot lower than the Huskies in the standings. Most recently, the Dinos swept the Dogs in Saskatoon on Feb. 3 and 4.
Huskies head coach Dave Adolph believes that the Saskatchewan squad that shows up this weekend will be the same one that has been dominating the playoffs and not the one that handed Calgary two wins last month.
“We weren’t very good against Calgary when we played them here,” said Adolph. “The guys were a little disjointed but I think we’re back.”
“We played some good hockey this week,” added Bortis. “I think we just have to keep playing the way we have. I don’t think we have to worry about them having beaten us four times, but more about what we do as a team.”
In order to continuing winning, Saskatchewan will need to fire a lot of shots at Calgary goaltender Dustin Butler as the Dinos’ large defenders often do a great job of limiting high-quality scoring chances.
“They’re the deepest, biggest team in the league and they play the game with a great deal of purpose in terms of allowing Butler to see pucks. It’s hard to score. It’s hard to get shots on Butler and I think that’s going to be our challenge all week,” said Adolph.[box type=”info”]The Canada West final kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 9 at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon.[/box]
Photo: Julianna Damer/The Gateway