A flurry of goals powered the University of Saskatchewan Huskies past the Mount Royal Cougars in consecutive games, earning them a 9-3 record as they head into the winter break.
After starting the season 7-0, the Huskies entered their slate of games against the Cougars on a three-game losing streak, having lost a close 2-1 bout to the Calgary Dinos before dropping both games against the first-seeded UBC Thunderbirds.
It didn’t take long for the Dogs to get going against the Cougars in game one. Second-year forward Jared Dmytriw and third-year defenceman Gordie Ballhorn both struck in the opening six minutes of the game to give the Huskies an early 2-0 lead.
Ballhorn has been one of the Huskies’ top defencemen in terms of offensive production, with five goals and five assists through the first twelve games of the season.
In a postgame interview with the Sheaf, Ballhorn stated that “getting up in the play” was one of the main reasons for his offensive success.
“[Head coach Mike Babcock] has been really big on us joining the rush and being up there to eliminate any gaps going backwards. And you get rewarded offensively for doing so, so it’s been nice,” Ballhorn said.
The Huskies added to their lead with two more goals in the second period, and solidified the 7-2 victory with two powerplay goals and a fifth five-on-five goal in the third period.
First-year forward Zane Franklin was one of ten players to record a point in the win, and he cited the team’s depth as a reason for the dynamic offence that features multiple contributors from all four lines.
“That’s honestly where our team is so competitive. There is not a clear-cut number one line. Our powerplay was clicking today, and all four lines were contributing,” Franklin said.
Franklin has been on fire in his first year with the Huskies, as he recorded his 12th point in 11 games with the assist in game one against the Cougars.
“It’s been awesome… you can’t do it without the team. Besides the slip up in those last couple games, the team’s been rolling… Another assist is nice, so I’ll just try to keep adding them up,” Franklin said regarding his season so far.
Franklin remained true to his word, as he recorded three more assists in the Huskies’ second game against the Cougars, a 7-4 victory on Dec. 4. However, unlike their first game, this victory was far from smooth sailing.
The Cougars outscored the Huskies 4-2 in the first two frames and looked to be in control at the second intermission. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the third period proved to be their kryptonite.
Third-year Huskies defenceman Shane Collins’ goal almost 12 minutes into the third period instilled some hope of a comeback into Huskie fans at Merlis Belsher Place. And the Huskies delivered, with three goals in a span of less than three minutes turning the tide of the game from a 3-4 deficit to a 6-4 lead. An empty-net goal by fourth-year forward Carter Folk put the stamp on the comeback win.
Despite their early deficit, the Huskies remained vigilant. In a postgame interview with the Sheaf, Franklin stated that the team would translate their momentum from game one into game two by maintaining a high level of energy and remaining prepared.
Following Franklin’s suggestion, the Huskies maintained their composure despite trailing for most of the game and converted their chances late.
“When it comes to those puck battles, and battles in general, it has nothing to do with the other team. That’s just everything we can control, and when we control [those battles] like we did today, I think we are a really hard team to beat,” Franklin said.
Entering the weekend, the Huskies were fourth in Canada West, only one point above the fifth-seeded Cougars. However, the two wins have allowed the Huskies to rise to third, now with a five-point cushion between them and the fifth-place Cougars.
“[It felt] really good, especially this time of the year, that they’re right behind us in the standings. So every game is important here to separate us and get us towards the top where we want to be,” Ballhorn said regarding the importance of the Huskies’ wins this past weekend.
The Huskies will now head into winter break, returning to action in 2022 with an away and home game against the Regina Cougars on Jan. 14 and 15.
Uday Chhina | Sports and Health Editor
Photos: Nicholas Saretzky | Contributing Photojournalist