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Home ice advantage secured by U Sask. Huskies hockey teams ahead of conference playoffs

Click to play video: 'U Sask. Huskies hockey teams enjoying home ice advantage for opening round of playoffs'
U Sask. Huskies hockey teams enjoying home ice advantage for opening round of playoffs
WATCH: For both University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's and women's hockey teams, they'll be skating into familiar territory at home to open Canada West playoffs – Feb 15, 2024

On the eve of Canada West playoffs, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team is ready to skate into battle.

It’s something they’ve done extensively over the past two weeks, thanks to make-up games and a tightly-packed schedule.

“We played like six games in nine days or something like that,” said leading scorer Chantz Petruic. “We’re a little bit worn down from that, but this week we’re fine-tuning some things and we’ll be ready to go for the weekend.”

The Huskies secured the fourth seed in the Canada West post-season, finishing with a 20-6-1-1 record, and will match up in the opening round of playoffs this upcoming weekend against the University of Alberta Golden Bears in a best-of-three series.

They’re an opponent who have dominated Canada West play over the last decade, but finished an uncharacteristic fifth in the conference standings.

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Through four regular season games, the Huskies and Golden Bears split the results down the middle each with a 2-2 record.

Click to play video: 'Celebrating achievements at the Huskie Women of Influence Breakfast'
Celebrating achievements at the Huskie Women of Influence Breakfast

“We’ve had success against Alberta and I think that we should have won all four against them this year,” said Petruic. “In a three-game series, I think we’re going to come out on top.”

After beginning the season with franchise-record nine game win streak, the Huskies struggled in November and December, losing five of their final seven games before the holiday break.

However, the ‘Dogs’ came charging into the new year with a five-game winning streak and were able to secure home ice advantage in the process.

Head coach Brandin Cote said that stretch before the holidays helped kick their season back into gear after such a hot start.

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“Getting through it with the amount of points that we did I think was important for us,” said Cote. “To battle through some adversity and come out with some success. I think we’re going to take all of that and all those lessons to the playoffs.”

Petruic and Vince Loschiavo led the way offensively for the Huskies this year, finishing with 37 and 31 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Roddy Ross and Jordan Kooy split the crease with save percentages that both ranked top-three in Canada West.

After travelling to Calgary for their playoff games last season, Petruic is eager to play post-season hockey at Merlis Belsher Place beginning this weekend.

“You just feel a little bit better at home I think,” said Petruic. “We’re excited to play in front of our crowd, I know it’s going to be pretty much a sold out rink. We’re looking forward to that and we can’t wait to get going Friday.”

Games 1 and 2 between the Huskies and Golden Bears are set for 7:00 pm on Friday and Saturday in Saskatoon, with a Game 3 taking place at 6:00 pm Sunday if necessary.

Big month ahead

Like the men’s team, the Huskies’ women’s squad was also able to lock down the conference’s fourth seed and will play host to the University of Calgary Dinos in their best-of-three quarter-final series.

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The Huskies are coming off a two-game sweep on the road against the University of Manitoba Bisons to finish the regular season with a 19-7-1-1 record, which guaranteed a home playoff date for the local squad.

Huskies fifth-year goaltender Camryn Drever was able to make some history on Saturday night in Winnipeg, as her 15th victory of the year broke the program record of 14 split between Jessica Vance and Vanessa Fredericks.

“There’s been a lot of phenomenal goaltenders in Huskie hockey history,” said Drever. “For me to be up there as one of them and write history is a pretty awesome feeling.”

Drever put together the most dominant season of her collegiate career this year, leading all Canada West goaltenders with a sparkling .954 save percentage while posting a 1.33 goals-against average and five shutouts in the process.

Huskies women’s team head coach Steve Kook said it was not a surprise to see Drever knock down the record.

“Her work ethic is just a good example for the rest of the younger kids,” said Kook. “I think she’s proud of her accolades and she should be, but I think at the end of the day having a program and having a banner up on the wall here is something that’s more important to her.”

Unlike their opponents this month, the Huskies won’t have to worry about qualifying for the U Sports National Championship as they will host the tournament at Merlis Belsher Place in March and already have their spot locked up.

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That doesn’t mean their foot is coming off the pedal anytime soon, however, as they’re still wanting to raise a Canada West banner at the end of the season.

“We especially as fifth-years have talked a lot about how we want to go out with a Canada West banner and on top of that, hopefully a national banner,” said Drever. “So I think it’s really important to focus on that Canada West championship first before we get to nationals.”

In their lone series of year back in November, the Huskies and Dinos each captured one victory.

For Kook, he’s using what he hopes will be a deep conference playoff run to get the Huskies up to a level where they can contend for a national title on home ice.

“We want to make sure that we’re climbing up the rankings before we get to the national championship,” said Kook. “That lays the groundwork for those four days and the type of competition we’re going to face right off the bat.”

“At the end of the day, our focus has always been on a Canada West banner and I think our conference helps us to get ready for the national championships.”

The Huskies and Dinos will open their quarter-final series at 3:00 pm on Friday with Game 2 going the following day, while a winner-take-all Game 3 would be held Sunday at 2:00 pm.

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