The Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team went into the national championships with the mindset to win; instead, their season ended early following a 3-2 loss to the OUA’s Western Mustangs in the opening quarterfinal match-up of the U Sports championship tournament.
The Mustangs scored three goals in three different ways on Thursday en route to their victory: on the powerplay, once shorthanded, and once while playing five-a-side hockey.
Western’s veteran goaltender, Lucas Peresinni, was the difference-maker in the game for the OUA bronze medalists, turning aside 26-of-28 shots he faced.
The Mustangs opened the scoring at the 17:09 mark of the first period while on the powerplay.
Huskies netminder Taran Kozun stopped Cordell James from point-blank range at the left hash mark before clearing the puck out of the crease.
The puck was then misfired and shot wide by Sean Montgomery, however, it careened off of the end boards, right onto WHL alumni Reed Morrison’s stick for the tap in and a 1-0 lead.
The Dogs knotted things up just over five minutes into the second period.
Fifth-year senior Logan McVeigh drove the net hard and was stopped. Tanner Lishchynsky’s attempt on the rebound was also turned aside, however, Carson Stadnyk was johnny-on-the-spot to shovel in his team-leading sixth point of the playoffs to tie the game up at one.
Late in the second, while on the powerplay, a breakdown at Saskatchewan’s offensive blueline lad to a two-on-one for Western.
James finished the perfect pass from Anthony Stefano, beating a laterally sliding Kozun, five-hole, the shorthanded goal gave the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
Then just 44 seconds later Western made it 3-1.
Ethan Szypula carried the puck down the right-wing as all three forwards entered the zone before he spotted the trailer, Stephen Desrocher, in the high slot.
Szypula hit Desrocher with a cross-zone pass from the middle of the right circle, while Desrocher walked in from the high slot ripping a shot past a screened Kozun. The Mustangs took the 3-1 lead into the intermission.
The Huskies made things interesting late, with an empty-net goal. Collin Shirley centred a perfect backhand, no-look pass to Sam Ruopp in the slot getting the Huskies to within one.
Saskatchewan finished the game zero for six on the powerplay, while Western converted on one of their two opportunities with the man advantage.
The Mustangs move on to the semifinals where they will face the winner of today’s second quarterfinal between St. Mary’s and Guelph.