Huskies in classic battle for first place

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Nicole Betker

It just wouldn’t be Canada West second half men’s hockey if the Universities of Saskatchewan and Alberta weren’t battling for first place in the conference.

Since 1998, the Golden Bears and Huskies have battled back-and-forth for the top spot in the standings with Alberta taking first place in the standings over Saskatchewan in all but two of those years – 1998 and 2000. The two rivals have met in the Canada West final eight of the last 10 seasons.

The historic rivalry will continue Friday and Saturday at Credit Union Centre. The weekend series will be the 454th and 455th games between the Golden Bears and Huskies since the series began during the 1910-11 season with a 16-0 Alberta victory in Saskatoon on February 27, 1911.

“This isn’t about Alberta or about the historic rivalry,” said Huskie head coach Dave Adolph. “This is about us and controlling our own game plan and not concerning ourselves with what Alberta or any other team is doing.”

Alberta and Saskatchewan split the first meeting between the teams in Edmonton in 2011-12 with a 2-1 overtime victory for the Bears and a 5-4 shootout win for the Huskies. Lifetime the Golden Bears are 299-133-24 (including non-conference, conference and playoff meetings) against the Huskies. In Canada West hockey play, the teams have met 346 times with Alberta leading the series 227-99-20.

Tied at the top of the standings, the No. 4 Golden Bears and the No. 5 Huskies enter with a 13-3-2 record. Saskatchewan started the second half of the season collecting four of six points available in a weekend series with the Lethbridge Pronghorns that included completing a third period of a game suspended since October. Alberta swept the Calgary Dinos in a home-and-home series.

As a team the Huskies have scored a league-high 72 goals with 30 of those coming from Canada West leading scorers Derek Hulak, Kyle Bortis and Kyle Ross. The three sit one through three in the league scoring race. Hulak leads the conference with six goals and an impressive 25 helpers. Bortis has tallied 14 goals and 16 assists, while Ross has added 10 goals and 11 assists.

Alberta has also had strong offence in the season led by Sean Ringrose with nine goals and 11 assists and rookie Jordan Hickmott with eight goals and 12 assists. The two sit fifth and six in conference scoring. Rookie Levko Koper has also chipped in on the 59 Golden Bear goals this season with seven goals and nine assists.

Ryan Holfeld and David Reekie have equaled time in net for the Huskies each starting in nine games. Holfeld has posted a .928 save percentage and a 2.16 goals against average with seven wins, while Reekie’s save percentage is .908 and goalst against average is 2.73 in six wins.

Real Cyr has played in 11 games for the Golden Bears tallying a 9-2 record with a .942 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average. Backup Kurtis Mucha has played in seven games for the Bears.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday. Friday’s game will be webcast on canadawest.tv, while Saturday’s game can be heard live on www.the929bullrocks.com.

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