Revamped blue line biggest change for Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey in 2018-19

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WATCH ABOVE: The Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team is moving into a new arena this season but the biggest change for this year's squad is on the blue line. – Sep 27, 2018

When Gordie Ballhorn was looking for a place to play university hockey after his junior career ended he had a couple of options.

The Wetaskiwin, Alta., native could stay close to home and join the defending national champion University of Alberta Golden Bears but instead he chose to move one province to the east and play for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.

“Coming in here and being able to play some pretty big minutes as a first-year was something that a lot of schools couldn’t offer. I mean coming into a program that’s got this kind of prestige and name around it, I couldn’t really pass that opportunity up,” Ballhorn said.

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Opportunity is the key word for the former Kelowna Rockets defenceman. Four rearguards from last year’s Huskies team have moved on, making room on the blue line for Ballhorn and fellow rookies Shane Collins and Evan Fiala.

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“We’re pretty close, all the first year guys. We’ve been hanging out lots and having some fun so yeah it’s been kinda cool to go through this whole new experience with them,” Ballhorn said.

Huskies head coach Dave Adolph, entering his 26th season behind the bench, is impressed with what the new recruits bring to the ice.

“In terms of leadership I think we’ve found it in (former Saskatoon Blades captain) Evan Fiala, in puck moving ability and skating ability I think we’ve found it in Gordie Ballhorn and work ethic and shutdown guy, Gordie Ballhorn (too). Shane Collins is sneaky good,” Adolph said.

Anchoring the group is fifth-year veteran Jesse Forsberg, who will also serve as the Huskies captain this season.

The 2017 Canada West Most Outstanding Defenceman brings a more fiery personality to the role than his predecessor, Kendall McFaull, who wore the “C” for four seasons.

“I play pretty hard and pretty passionate. I’m a vocal guy so I like to lead by example and step up when the game’s on the line so I’m just gonna continue doing that,” Forsberg said.

“He’s real competitive, he cares about everybody, looks after everybody and we made sure that we surrounded Jesse with a couple of guys who will be the voice of reason so it’s just a matter of how you piece (the leadership group) together,” Adolph added.

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The revamped blue line will be tested right out of the gate as the Huskies open the season in Alberta against the arch-rival Golden Bears.

The returning players are still stinging after being beaten by the Bears in both the Canada West final and the national semifinals last season but for the rookies it’s a clean slate.

“I haven’t experienced that rivalry yet but by the sounds of it, it’s a pretty big one so I’m pretty excited to kinda get there and I’ll play in front of some family and friends so that’ll be cool as well,” Ballhorn said.

The Huskies and Golden Bears open the season Sept. 29 at Clare Drake Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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